Whether you started the New Year with resolutions or specific goals or you just have clear intentions for where you want to go and what you want to do, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you call them, it only matters that you make good on these intentions, especially if they are to move your career forward. And even if you’ve hit a bump in the road or lost the energy due to lockdown, you can still pick up and make good on 2021.
It’s felt as if time has stood still this past year, so it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling stuck or like we’ve lost our mojo. The important thing is that we don’t let this consume us. If you want to make 2021 your year, if you want to move your career forward and get back on track, here is what you need to be focusing on over the course of the year.
You’ve got to have a PLAN if you’re going to make it to Partner.
Having a ‘Plan’ is one of the 12 key indicators for making Partner. Are you ready for partnership? Measure yourself against the criteria and discover what you need to work on by taking our Partnership Readiness Assessment!
12 ways to move your career forward
1. Get your mojo back
You can’t move your career forward effectively if you’re feeling run down or stuck, so the first thing you need to do is get your mojo back!
Identify why you may have lost your career mojo in the first place. Are you bored, stressed, waiting for things to happen or worried that you may lose your job? Do you feel like you are struggling to acquire the new skills that you need to get to the next level? Are you sleep-deprived, suffering from an illness or are you feeling depressed?
Only when you know exactly what is causing you to feel so depleted and/or unengaged can you rectify it, so take some time to really reflect. Take stock of how you are feeling generally and write down any specific thoughts or tasks that are energising you or draining you as and when they arise. This will help you to get some insight into what you need to change to get your mojo back.
2. Rediscover your ambition
You need ambition to be able to achieve your career (and wider life) goals, so review your current ambition and see if it is lacking.
Are you unsure about what you want out of your career? Maybe you are bored in your current role? Do you feel like you are working for the wrong firm or you are in the wrong profession? Are you unsure how to move forward or are you stuck in your comfort zone?
If you want to move your career forward, ask yourself the following and actually take action with the results that you find:
- Do you know where you want your career to be in 3-5 years?
- Are you excited bu the thought of the work ahead in your role?
- Is this firm a good fit for you and the firm?
- Do you like being a lawyer/accountant/consultant/surveyor?
- What do you perceive you will have to give up to progress your career at this firm? Are you prepared to do this?
- How strong is your profile with senior members of your firm?
- Do you know what you need to do to get to the next stage in your career at your firm?
- How many people know about what you want and need to help you progress your career?
- For how long have you been in this current role with similar responsibilities? (If it’s 2+ years, then you have a potential problem).
Need help with this? Download our free Career Action Plan template and full instructions on how to use it to move your career forward. (email required)
3. Start managing your career
Moving your career forward means stepping away from the day job and making time for the tasks that will move you forward.(See our countless articles on Business Development!).
What we mean by this is this hard truth: working hard and performing well isn’t going to lead to that promotion or you making Partner. It’s a really hard fact to wrap your head around, especially since we all have goals and KPI’s to hit, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Focusing on doing your daily tasks will only ensure that you do your job well. If you focus some of your time on doing the tasks that are expected of you in the role above you, well that shows your partners that you’re more than capable of moving up the ladder.
This self-limiting belief is quite hard to get over, but you have to (and quickly), if you want to move your career forward.(Find out How to create a daily business development habit even if you are not a natural business developer).
Note to Progress to Partner members: Completing the on-demand course “How to truly commit to moving your career forward” is a great foundation to use to progress your career.
4. Create a career plan
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else. How scary a thought is that?
It’s very easy to let time slip by, but if you want to make partner, you need to know where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. That’s why the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”
Here are four steps to help you choose your track and plan what you need to do to keep moving forward:
- Take the Partnership Readiness Assessment – in just 15 minutes, you can identify what areas you need to focus on to make that step up to partner.
- Choose your one big focus – what will you focus on for the next 90 days that will drive your career forward the most?
- Find the time to do it – prioritise your development, diarise the time, and start with small, consistent actions.
- Review your progress every month – review what you have learnt with your coach and decide on what you need to focus on next.
Putting a plan in place helps you to stay focused and make decisions based on your goals. In essence, it keeps you moving forward to where you want to go and ensures that you get there as quickly as possible!
Need help with this? Download our free Career Action Plan template and full instructions on how to use it to move your career forward. (email required)
5. Use office politics to your advantage
Many professionals shy away from office politics as they ‘hate the rat race,’ but unfortunately, it’s necessary to play the game. The fact is, decisions about who gets made up to partner, who gets promoted, who gets access to sparse resources, and who gets the ‘better’ work are not just made on merit.
Once you understand and accept this, you need to think about how you can use office politics to your advantage. For example, how are decisions made in the firm and who makes them? Is there an informal power network where perhaps people without much authority have quite a lot of influence?
If you delve deep into office politics, you can then develop strong relationships with key decision-makers and influencers; you can build a powerful internal network where people champion you for advancement. We call this becoming a ‘Member of ‘The Club.”
6. Choose the right career mentor
One of the best ways to move your career forward is to surround yourself with the ultimate support team. This team will be different for everyone, but an effective one is likely to include; a mentor, a sponsoring partner, an external coach, family, friends inside of work, and a supportive ‘life’ partner.(Read The 5 people you need in your corner if you want to make it to partner)
Focusing on choosing the right mentor can really impact how effective you are in moving your career forward. Why? Because they are very experienced and have been through a lot of the same challenges you are going through right now. For this reason, they are the perfect sounding board and their objective guidance and feedback is gold.
So what do we mean by choosing the right one? Well, if the career path you have chosen is in a certain niche or you are looking to develop your weaker areas (e.g. building relationships), it makes sense to choose a mentor that is in this niche, has experience of it or who has these specific skills.
As well as skillset and experience, also make sure to choose a mentor that you like and who enjoys working with you. Your mentor can help you significantly increase your profile in the partnership so they must want to help you progress.
7. Adopt the right mindset
Mindset is a pesky thing. It could be potentially hindering you from moving your career forward without you even knowing it! If you want to get that promotion and move up the ladder or you want to fast-track yourself to partner, you absolutely have to have the right mindset. (Find out how to tell if your mindset is helping or hindering your career progression)
The ‘right’ mindset is a growth mindset. One that believes that traits and skills are not fixed, they can be developed. If you want to get that promotion or transition from senior employee to partner, you need to start thinking like your next role. What mindsets do you need? Which skills and behaviours do you need to develop?
Your mindset drives what you focus on, what you focus on drives your actions, your behaviours, the activities you do, and those drive the outcomes you get. Here are some mindset shifts that you need to make to move your career forward:
- Business development is part of my day job.
- How I spend and use my time is within my control.
- Making partner is not just another promotion, it is where I grow a business that will increase the profits of the firm.
- My own mental and physical health is more important than hitting work targets
- It is my responsibility to drive my own development and career.
Note to Progress to Partner members: You can find out more about how to shift your Mindset in Progress to Partner. In particular, the on-demand course “How to truly commit to moving your career forward” course.
8. Know your value
We have asked many lawyers, accountants, and consultants, “what is your value proposition?” and what we get back is usually their job description. Now, of course, the work you do is valuable. When we talk about value proposition, however, we are referring to how you deliver the work.
Others in the firm who have the same position or responsibilities as you will do the work differently and deliver slightly different results, and this is how you need to think about it. What do you do (differently) that helps the firm achieve its overall goal? How have you specifically contributed to the success of a project/situation?
Knowing what value you bring to your firm, your clients, and even your colleagues is essential if you want to move your career forward. It particularly helps you when you are promoting yourself.
9. Build and leverage relationships
By now you should know who you need to know and build relationships with, and you should know the importance of building a supportive internal network. Working in the corporate world, let alone progressing through the partnership track, is extremely difficult, so you will need people you can count on to help you move your career forward.
To check you are doing what you should when it comes to networking, ask yourself:
- How developed is my internal network?
- Do I consistently keep in touch with my connections?
- Who are the key players? Could I be doing more to build and leverage these relationships?
- How can I help my connections help me? Have I communicated my goals and what opportunities I’m looking for? Am I motivating them or incentivising them enough?
If you build and leverage your relationships well, you’ll essentially have a sales team at your fingertips. As you continue to develop and maintain relationships, opportunities will emerge, they will champion your cause, and you will become more visible as you move your career forward.
10. Don’t sabotage your own career
You might be thinking, “Why would I sabotage my own career?” and that’s a good question. What we mean by this is, don’t develop habits that hinder your own development. For example, always deferring to others, not knowing how to say no, working a certain way because that’s how it’s done but not how you work best, and not prioritising your own self-care.
What all of these habits have in common, is that you are put last. And when you are last, there is no way that you will be doing the things that will progress your career.
To prevent you from becoming a ‘doormat’ to others, replace any bad habits that you have with positive ones. For example:
- Saying ‘yes’ to everyone all the time – learn how to say no or how to offer help without taking on unnecessary work. (When to say No (or yes) to extra responsibilities at work)
- Letting employees delegate upwards to you – coach your employees through a task rather than taking it off them because ‘it’s quicker.’ (5 foolproof ways to get your staff to take initiative (and why they won’t take it in the first place)
- Working in a certain way because ‘that’s how it’s done’ – if this way doesn’t work for you, have the confidence to change it. Results are more important than process so avoid getting pulled in different directions or moving backwards by staying true to you.
- Working all hours of the day and night and not switching off – you need to prioritise the essentials that help you work at your best: 7-8 hours of sleep, healthy food and drinks, exercise, recharge time. (The 4 foundational habits: How to be at your best each day (regardless of what cr*p you have to deal with)
11. Think, act, and behave like a partner
Whether you want to make partner or get a promotion from the role you’re in now, the advice is the same. To move your career forward, you need to start thinking and acting like you are already in the role that you want.
Here is a checklist to review whether you have the right mindset and habits to progress to partner:
- Do you have the confidence to assert yourself in the workplace? Do you have enough gravitas?
- Are you helping others in your team develop?
- Do you and your team hit your billing and collection targets?
- Are you hungry for more leadership and management responsibility?
- Do you demonstrate, by what you say and do, that you are committed to the firm’s strategy?
- Have you found ways to be more involved in the leadership and management of your part of the practice?
- Do you have your key achievements and progress against your plans and targets at your fingertips?
- Which partners in your part of the practice regularly consult your opinion?
- Do you talk about your business or practice rather than a collection of clients?
- Are you actively working towards a business plan which will grow a profitable business within the overall business of your firm? And if asked by a partner, can you quickly and succinctly talk them through this business plan?
It makes sense when you think about it. If you’re showing the other partners that you already think, act, and feel like a partner (plus being able to balance demands of the day job and take on partner-level responsibilities), you will be a very strong candidate when it comes to the partnership vote.
12. Get good at authentic, self-promotion
You may not like it, but to move your career forward, you will need to increase your visibility in the firm by effectively running your own internal PR campaign. Yes, we are talking about self-promoting (a.k. tooting your own horn!). (How to get good at blowing your own trumpet without coming across as a show-off)
It’s a fact that the more proactive you are in making your strengths and accomplishments known, the more doors that will open and the further you will advance. If you fail to get yourself out there and build yourself up as the Go-to-Expert, chances are you will be overlooked for new opportunities and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, like most things, this fact isn’t enough to get us raring to go, so here are some actions that you can take for authentic self-promotion:
- Understand your value proposition and your strengths (what is unique about you?)
- Build up your internal and external market value (do great work and you’ll be in demand from partners in the firm and clients)
- Get time with or in front of influential partners (how much are you contributing to your firm’s chat channels or internal social networks? Are you picking up the phone to individuals as well as participating in group calls and meetings?)
- Take part in cross-firm initiatives and projects (Aim to be present on committees, steering groups, projects or assignments where you can increase your internal network and contact with key influential partners)
- Choose an influential mentor (These are the people who can easily facilitate your path to partnership and ‘sell’ you to the other partners)
- Take a strong interest in partners and their part of the practice (treat your partners as if they are your best client, find referrals for them, and help make their job easier)
- Turn up as the authentic YOU (when you are being true to yourself and congruent with who you are, i.e. authentic, you are more likeable, trustworthy, and easier to relate to)
Make 2021 your year!
We can’t promise you that 2021 will be a better year when it comes to the chaos that the pandemic has caused. What we can promise you, however, is that, if you set yourself certain goals or intentions this year; if you back them up with action and focus on these 12 areas, you WILL move your career forward.
Find out How To Truly Commit To Moving Your Career Forward
If you take this self-study course, by the end you’ll have:
- Created a career plan which you are motivated and energised to implement
- Created the time and space to do a little on your career plan every week
- Identified how to create habits that will support your career progression going forward
- Have set your first ONE BIG FOCUS to focus your career progression for the next 90 days on what really matters
- The tactics required to help you be at your best every single day
To 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.