We deliver a lot of workshops on how to drive your career forward, particularly for the high potential senior managers in the UK200 group. In this blog post, I am carrying on the themes that tend to come out of these events.

At the beginning of the day, I ask many of the delegates what they hope to get out of the workshop. The general responses are usually:

  • Learn from others
  • Not sure
  • To immerse myself

In other words, I’m guessing similar to most senior managers in professional service firms, there always seems to be a lack of focus for the participants on their careers. Interestingly, by the end of the day, however, this tends to change for most of the participants…

The question that we always ask following this event is, “If you are in charge of your career, how do you go about putting yourself in the driving seat to move it forward?”

1. Do your own career planning

career planning on a napkinIf you don’t know what you want from your career, then it gets difficult, in fact impossible, to make good career decisions. If you don’t have your own career map, you will then make career decisions on what others want from you – i.e. your firm, and maybe your friends and family. Ultimately, you need to do your own career planning when you want to do it – not when you are told to do it by your firm.

I remember coming back to work after my first maternity leave. I attended a values-based leadership course, where I was told that having a career vision of being the best I could be in my current role, was not good enough. This was a classic case of someone else dictating what should be happening with my career and when. Of course, ‘being the best I could be in my current role’, is not a great long-term career vision. However, at that point in time, it was a good focus for me.

Note to Progress to Partner members: You can find out more about effective goal setting in the Mindset part of Progress to Partner. In particular the on-demand course “How to truly commit to moving your career forward” course.

2. Pay for some of your own development

Those lawyers, accountants and consultants who take on personal responsibility for their own careers will often fund some of their own development. Why should you expect your firm to pay for all your development? If you are serious about your career and what you need from it, then you will be prepared to pay for that development. By all means, ask your firm if it will pay towards your development, but if necessary, pay for it yourself. Interestingly two of my coaching clients have recently reported a step-change in their career after utilising my services.

3. Squeeze the last inch of value out of any development you get given

a boy squeezing a medicine ballTraining and development are no longer a right if you are employed in professional services. If you are given the opportunity to attend a workshop, work out in advance exactly what you want to get out of the workshop. Also, line up people who will be able to help you put into practice what you have learnt after the workshop – this is key if you want to drive your career!

4. Know what you want from your life inside and outside of work

How many of you have goals for your life inside and outside of work? I would hazard a guess that most of you have goals inside of work – but probably not goals outside of work. If you are going to have the whole package – i.e. a life outside of work, you need to work out what having a life means. Only then can you productively work towards having a life outside of work.

5. Ask the questions

a question mark to represent knowing why you chose these career resolutionsHave you asked your partners what you need to do to drive your career in your firm? Do you know what you will need to demonstrate in your business and personal case to get accepted into the partnership? How much capital will you be required to put into your firm to get a seat at the partnership table? Do ask the questions. The more knowledge you have, the better career decisions you can take.

Read: New partner buy-in: Everything you need to know

6. Work with a coach

Everyone inside or outside of your work has an agenda for you. Your firm wants one thing. Your friends and family also have an agenda for you. These work and home life agendas may or may not be what you want. That’s why working with a coach is so beneficial for professionals wanting to move forward in their careers. A coach will give you a sounding board and keep you accountable for YOUR goals. If you look at any successful person in your practice, I bet you that they have used or are using a coach to help them achieve their goals.

7. Grow your own rainy day funds

a plant growing in a pot of money to represent showing your potential for growthVery often we can get trapped in an unsuitable role or firm because we can’t afford to leave. Therefore aim to build up a rainy day pot of savings which will pay your bills for 6-12 months. Having this money stashed away may be the difference between breaking free from career hell and career heaven.

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You are in charge of your career

If you want to drive your career forward, don’t rely on your firm. Reflect, ask yourself the hard questions and start planning where you want to be in X amount of time. Once you’ve done this, all you have to do then is invest in the efforts that will get you there. Whether that’s taking advantage of the training opportunities you have at your firm or paying for your own development and business coach, the rewards of any action are worth it if they move you just that little bit closer to your goal.

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Drive your career your way!

how to truly commit to moving your career forwardTo see the whole recording and complete the “how to truly commit to moving your career forward” self-study course, along with my 30 other career-enhancing videos, join Progress to Partner for just $1 for a 7-day trial. You’ll also get access to my self-study courses including The Go-To Expert, Creating A Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner, How To Be On Your A-Game Every Day and over 15 years of training and resources supporting people’s career progression in practice bundled into a single location.

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