Professional service firms are full of bright, hard-working ambitious people. All your peers who are working at the same level as you are all ambitious to get promoted. How can you get yourself noticed amongst all this talent? Here are 4 pieces of advice to really think about, and act on if you want to be noticed as “one to watch” early on in your career.
1. Be a delight to work with
At the early stage in your career, your challenge is to get onto the right teams and projects and be championed by the key influencers in your firm. If you want your partners and managers to notice of you, then go in with the attitude that you will be known as a delight to work with. For example,
- take the initiative (where appropriate)
- be positive/optimistic/enthusiastic
- put the needs of the team/firm above your own
- take an interest in the commercial aspects of the work you are given, not just the small part of the project in front of your desk,
- remain positive and upbeat regardless of what bad stuff is currently happening,
- demonstrate in your actions and words how committed you are to the firm and its vision,
- bring your work in under budget, and
- communicate in a timely and appropriate manner to your peers, team leader and other colleagues.
Think about the reputation you want to build for yourself. Being seen as
- ‘easy to work with’,
- ‘a safe and reliable pair of hands who always delivers’,
- ‘great with clients and delivers excellent client service’
- deliver great work with a minimum of errors
Will all help you to stand out from your peers.
2. Seek out mentors in the firm to help you guide your career
Seek out mentors to help you answer the questions you don’t feel you can ask openly. The advice they share with you about how they got noticed for the right reasons will be invaluable.
Aim to build a fan base of partners, not just one ‘all-powerful’ mentor. At the end of the day the more partners who know you and think well of you, the better. You can do this in a number of ways. For example, build up a buddy network of peers who you call on to help for technical queries. Then make sure (if feasibly possible) that when you have a query that you physically go over and see them. This will get you noticed outside of your own department & ‘bubble’.
3. Continually ask for feedback from people you work with
No-one is the perfect article, whether they are 20 or 50. Your firm knows that and will expect you to be self-aware and be working on plugging the gaps in your skillset. What more you could have done to make their life easier on the case or assignment? Ask the team you have around you, what more you could have done to be a better team member? Then act on the feedback to get better and stronger. Keep asking for feedback and get the self-awareness to know:
1) What are your strengths, which you should aim to exploit to move your career forward?
2) What are your weaknesses? Which ones do you need to fix if you are going to move your career forward? Which ones can you create strategies building on your strengths to minimise?
4. Take an interest in the commercial side of the clients you work with and how your firm runs
The partners in your firm (unless they are ‘salaried’ rather than equity) will own a slice of the firm. They will want to make sure that their future successors are a good fit for business ownership. This means that you, regardless of how much ‘ticking and bashing’ that you are doing, must take an interest in the commercial side of what you are doing. For example,
- How are budgets set on the job?
- What profit margin does your firm hope to make on an audit assignment?
- What are the implications to this profit margin if you can’t recharge your time when you over-run?
- How does your client actually make money?
- What are the key drivers for your client to make or lose money?
Chapter 9 “How your firm makes money” in ‘How to make partner and still have a life‘ will be an invaluable help to you to truly understand how your firm runs, and why it runs this way.
5. Learn how to network with a purpose
You won’t be expected to win work for the firm (yet), but this is the time to learn how to network with a purpose. Get to know the people who are working at your level (don’t aim for the board room level!), because they will be the decision-makers in 5-8 years time. Treat everyone as an important client. If decision-makers see you making contacts that could lead to business in the future, that will be vital for your reputation.
Get a reputation as ‘Partnership Potential’
When you get the tag of ‘Partnership Potential’ you will find that the partners in your firm will heavily invest in rapidly progressing your career. Chapter 5, “how to become partnership potential’ of How to make partner and still have a life will give you the whole chapter and verse on exactly what you need to do to show that you are a great person to promote rapidly.
To see what you need to do to be seen as partnership potential take our free partnership potential self assessment from our career kitbag (email required)