In my interactions with thousands of staff and firm leaders, I’m struck by how differently the two groups view what it means to be promotion-ready. If you are staff, you use criteria like how long you have been at the firm or in a certain position; how your peers are progressing; or that you had a good year performing at-level. Your assumption is that you are promotion-ready because you are fulfilling the duties of your position and therefore, you’re ready to move up.
If you are a leader, you assess staff as promotion-ready using different criteria that are projective into the future. Will this person be able to fulfill the role and function of the next level? Will they be accepted by others (clients and firm personnel) in the next position? Will they represent the firm well in this role? These criteria are less about how staff are performing now and more about seeing the candidate performing at the next level.
So, if you’re interested in being viewed as promotion-ready, give glimpses that you are aware of and prepared to fill the role and function at the next level. For instance, you should be looking at your assignments as if you were one level above. If you’re younger, ask
• What could I do now that makes my manager’s job easier?
• What questions should I ask to demonstrate my awareness that this assignment is only a part of the whole engagement or project?
• How does the assignment contribute my client’s goals (if you even know them)?
If you’re more experienced, ask
• How does the work I’m managing fit into my client’s ultimate objectives?
• How can I use these engagements as a way of creating a positive client experience?
• What other client issues should we discuss with them?
• How can I organize engagements so that I’m raising up the talent level of the other staff?
The point is that if you can demonstrate you’re thinking about the things that are representative of the next level’s function, you make it easier for your leaders to see you in that position. You make it easier for them to arrive at the decision that yes, you are promotion-ready. If you do your part, they will do theirs.
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