Candidly, I feel a little sheepish that I chose to write about this topic. It feels inconsequential and fake — why should anyone care about receiving awards or recognition? Isn’t doing good work enough? And the very idea that there could be strategy to submitting entries can be off-putting. Merit should be paramount.
At the same time, as someone who is often asked to review cover letters, letters of recommendations, scholarship applications and essays, and awards submissions — and as a person who is often asked to make decisions based on what I read, I would submit to you that being intentional is the first step in setting yourself apart.
Because, honestly, based on what I read, most of the time, most people don’t care, or don’t care enough about their submissions. It begs the question of why submit in the first place, but I digress. My point is that if you are willing to take a little bit of time to be intentional about awards submissions, success is more likely.
Obviously, this topic is not limited to in-house counsel or even lawyers (although I find that lawyers as a group tend to have a lot of award opportunities).
Public Service Announcement: if you are outside counsel and haven’t thought about how nominating your client (or colleagues) and winning could deepen your relationships, you are missing out.
My first tip with submitting competitive nominations for awards submissions is to start early and approach it with a project management mindset. Review the requirements. Get a feel for how heavy of a lift they may be. Calendar the submission deadline and set a reminder. Calendar a block of time to collate and put all the pieces together before the deadline. Calendar some time to dedicate to the submission itself. If the submission requires letters of recommendations, reach out to sources early and calendar reminders to follow up with them.
Consider The Sources
My second tip is to strategically consider who the award nominator should be. This comes down to your why as well as your credibility and influence. Should the nominator be you? If your why is to further a relationship with a client, then yes, it should. If you don’t need or want the “credit,” should it be someone with more influence? Someone who is well known within that community or who has a stronger brand? Should the award nomination come from an individual or should the submission be on behalf of an organization? Ask yourself these same questions with respect to who should submit letters of recommendations (if required).
Show and Tell
My last and most important tip is to remember to show and tell — not just tell. Too many submissions are conclusory statements followed by more conclusory statements. Recall from law school writing class how conclusory statements are not very persuasive.
As a trial lawyer, I was taught to tell the fact-finder what I wanted them to take away, show it to them, and explain that I just showed them and why it is important. The same approach is helpful with award submissions.
For example, if the prompt is to share how your nominee exemplifies leadership — then don’t simply tell me that the nominee is a great leader, that they have been recognized previously as a great leader, and that everyone they know admires them and agrees that they are a great leader. It doesn’t answer the question.
Rather, tell me that they are a great leader, and then take the time to show me with a specific example or story that will demonstrate how your nominee exercised their leadership skills. Follow up with an example of the impact their leadership had. And if you want to show me how much other people agree, then you can have them cosubmit the award or cosign a recommendation letter.
Hopefully, these tips are helpful and if nothing else, here’s to hoping that I get better submissions to read.
Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.