So you just graduated and you’re starting a new job as a consultant. Everyone wants to move to the top and these days the play book is to job hop. I’m a technical manager with 9 years of experience in a technical consulting firm. And, all 9 years have been at the same firm. I started from the bottom and worked my way to here. What I’ve compiled here is a strategy for moving up to management as quickly as you can based on my experience and everything that I wish I knew when I started. I even included the things I look for in my mentees today when I’m looking to promote).
Setting the Stage
If you’ve come from school, you have all the skills to need to get started and none of the skills you need to be successful. School primes you to learn and working as a consultant the learning never stops. If you’re like me you’ve heard this advice over and over again.
“Be a sponge.”
“Work hard and you’ll be rewarded.”
“Let the work speak for itself.”
While I can’t argue in good faith that you wouldn’t want to do those things, those few bits of advice are so obvious that they’re useless. Everyone hears those things. They’re vague and they won’t differentiate you from your peers.
Here are my tactics to get promoted from the consultant ranks to the management ranks. Take what you want and leave the rest. It used to be that hard work was enough. These days with hard work, you’ll get there…eventually. These tactics will help you take control of your destiny more proactively.
Seek out the expectations for your role and do those things
Read them, review them, internalize them. While it’s true that you can succeed without knowing the path to success, it’s a lot easier if you use your map.
Seek out the expectations for the next role and strive to do those things
Read them, review then, internalize them. Talk to people in your org who were recently promoted to the role you want.
Every obstacle is an opportunity to learn
In consulting every day is different, but circumstances have a habit of reoccurring. Do your self a favor and learn it the first time you do it so you don’t have to re-learn it next time.
The Less Obvious
Focus on the activities that will get you promoted
Managers are metrics driven. They won’t have visibility into everything you do after awhile, but they will have visibility into your metrics and how you report them. Do the things necessary to prevent you from popping up on someone’s radar for the wrong reasons. And, do the things well that will show up in their metrics. Examples of things that will show up in their metrics are
- How much time you bill
- How accurate you are in your estimates
- How well you track to the plan
- When you deviate from the plan, how well you do in communicating that
- The quality of your questions
- Your sense of risks
Do anything your direct manager (or their manager) gives you right away
Your manger is your biggest advocate in promotion discussion. Do what they ask as quickly as you can, especially if they don’t manage your day to day.
Make sure your manager knows you want to get promoted. Work with them to get promoted.
Your relationship with your manager is a partnership, not one of servitude. You’re not perfect and you’re not expected to be perfect. That said, they’re a lot more understanding of your imperfections if you have a strong relationship with them.
The Deep Cuts
Seek out opportunities
Volunteer for opportunities as they become available. Ask your manager if there are any things you can take off their plate. Setup time with them to learn about their role. People like to promote people who seek out opportunities that are not given to them.
Yes, your manager is your biggest advocate. But, your best chance of getting promoted is if you can have multiple advocates who are in the room for that discussion. It’s great if your manager thinks highly of you, but it means so much more if you are backed up by 2 or more people when your name comes up for promotion.
A good attitude goes a long way
Be friendly with those at work. Nothing makes work more miserable than a toxic work environment and you do your best work when work is not toxic Read the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team or watch a youtube summary. Be wary of being too competitive with your peers. You’re in your own race and it’s a marathon.
Don’t let your focus on promotion become a distraction
Find your groove and sit in that groove. Spend 95% of your time doing the work and 5% making sure you’re on track to your goal.
Update June 2022:
I have been promoted. This is the first evaluation cycle since I wrote this…so it must work! Right????