DEAR HARRIETTE: I am 40 years old, and I recently became a lawyer in New York City. I am walking on cloud nine because of this major accomplishment, but I have one problem. I am terribly shy and soft-spoken, and if I want to survive in the field of law, I need to toughen up just a little. What are some ways I can privately improve my interpersonal skills? -- Private Practice, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR PRIVATE PRACTICE: Congratulations on your accomplishment. Becoming a lawyer is huge, and you should be proud. One way to hone your presentation skills is through public speaking training. If your schedule permits it, you should consider Toastmasters, an international company that supports people in their quest to become comfortable and effective speakers.
Know, too, that practice is going to help you tremendously. The more you have the opportunity to do the work, the more comfortable you will become. Finally, when you feel confident that you know your material, it makes it easier for you to stand up in front of others and deliver it. I was taught that when you think of your work as service, it makes it much easier to let the butterflies go and stand in your own power. From the perspective of a servant of the law or your client, it may be easier for you to let go of any fears and find your voice.