1 - Think and act like you are already in the job you want.
Take on extra responsibility and look to assist partners with challenges. If you are a supervisor, think like a manager. Observe the duties undertaken by your manager and watch to see how they deal with things. That doesn't mean you should go ahead and undermine your superiors or act in an overly dominant manner, but taking the initiative and acting like the person you want to be is the smart option.
Remember, partners do not promote you for what you have done for the firm but what you will do for the firm in the future. If they think you are displaying the right qualities and looking and acting the part, they will be more likely to see you in the role.
2 - Learn to be more commercial
What does it mean to be commercial? I asked senior staff from a diverse range of firms that include the Big 4 and smaller niche firms. While there were apparent differences in how some teams operated, there was a consensus over certain things.
See the full picture with clients by understanding the business and the economic implications of your actions - not just the tax implications.
Become an all-round knowledgeable business advisor by looking beyond the given task and assessing all economic and financial requirements of your client.
Predict your client's needs - the issues they may face in the future. Do this before they know themselves.
Develop and cultivate relationships. Become a trusted advisor - the first person your client turns to.
3 - Make sure you are liked by senior staff and the partners
I can't stress the importance of this enough. To advance, you will need senior staff to respect and like you. It is not possible to advance in any organisation without the buy-in of senior staff. This sounds like common sense, and to a degree it is, but being liked is not merely down to you chatting to your partners and senior staff or asking how their weekends went, but genuinely making an effort to cultivate a relationship.
Get an understanding of what the partners enjoy doing outside of work. Cultivate an interest in any sports or hobbies that the partners may pursue, although only do so if you feel it is a hobby or a sport that you could be interested in.
Explore the areas the partners need assistance with. What do they do that is important to them but feel pressurised to complete. If it is likely to help advance your career, offer to help. However, before volunteering your services, remember to gain an understanding of all the things that are important in this area. There is no point volunteering for something and being bad at it.
If you are working in a firm where the partners have not expressed a view on you or your work and are not open to talking about your future, then leave. Find a firm with senior staff you can respect and like and who will respect and like you in turn.
4 - Work for a fast-growing firm
Fast-growing tax teams will offer you more scope to stand out and more significant opportunities for promotion. I appreciate that in tougher times, identifying the more successful firms can be a challenge, but there are always firms that simply do significantly do better than others. Contact us if you would like an idea of which businesses are doing well or are likely to do well.
Working for a firm that has limited growth potential will severely curtail your ability to advance. This is an obvious statement, but one that gets ignored more often than you might imagine. You can tell yourself that the partner has made you a promise or that the aging senior manager blocking your path will retire soon; however, that is no substitute for a true path to promotion.
Fast-growing firms will need to hire and promote. A rising tide does lift all boats.
5 - Make sure you work for the right firm for YOU.
Some firms are purely about generating business. Other firms will recognise the contributions of tax people to non-billing activities that nevertheless add value to the organisation. You must understand what your strengths are and what you enjoy doing as a professional.
If you enjoy people management and do not wish to become a salesperson purely, then you need to make your case and demonstrate your value to your firm. Alternatively, join a firm that will value the contributions you make beyond developing business. This can be tougher to do in a Top 6 firm where billing becomes increasingly important the higher you climb, however not impossible by any means.
6 - Impress your peer group, and they will be an excellent advert for the brand "you."
Make friends. As you advance, you will create resentment, and there will be people who will find this an excellent reason to make your life difficult. This is sometimes inevitable and something that the ambitious has to accept. By making friends, you limit the level of resentment and create allies who will support your advancement and work as your very own brand ambassadors.
Your boss may not actively canvass your peer group to form an opinion of you or decide if you are worth promoting. Still, they will have a level of awareness of people's perceptions of you based on conversations or remarks regarding yourself and your performance.
Make sure you are with the in-crowd. Take your firm's values seriously and cultivate relationships with your career peer group. Hang out with the successful people in your firm. Your peer group do not all have to like you for you to advance, but it will undoubtedly help your case with partners if they enthusiastically encourage or, for that matter, reluctantly sing your praises.
Being known as someone likable, approachable, and fun is never, ever a bad thing.
7 - Become a Rainmaker
The ability to develop new business and generate fees from existing clients is undoubtedly one of the most obvious ways to get noticed in an accountancy firm. It is also the main area that most people in the profession view as the most significant challenge.
The idea of networking and meeting clients to 'sell your services' does not have to be a painful experience. Some of the most successful partners I know have had trouble with generating business until they made an effort to learn and improve their skills. Take the time to learn and develop these areas, and you will see great rewards.
The most successful people I know have a niche and understand the type of client they are interested in working with.
8 - Ensure you are replaceable
The last thing you need is to be irreplaceable in your current role and therefore overlooked time and again for promotion. You certainly need to be able to demonstrate what your partners will gain by promoting you; however, you will also need to understand what they could conceivably lose if they do.
Will the firm be inconvenienced if they encourage you? What will the cost to the firm be if they have to replace you? Is there anyone who could step up and fill your shoes? How important are you to the firm in your current position?
If it makes more financial sense to bring in someone else from the outside as opposed to promoting you, then the partners will undoubtedly attempt to do so.
How do you prevent this? Make sure there is someone who can fill your shoes. Make it clear to your employer that if promoted, you are happy to train your successor.
9 - Arrive or start early
In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biologist from Harvard, discovered that early risers are more proactive than people who are their best in the evenings.
Some of the most successful people on the planet get up early and start their days soon. It's much more comfortable than staying late every evening and better for you in the long run.
Most senior partners will get in first and will generally recognise people who do the same. You are also more likely to see the influential people in the office in the mornings, allowing you to establish a relationship with them. You dont need to come in every day to do this.
10 - Dress like a winner
Buy the best quality suit/outfit you can afford. The culture of your workplace will dictate the style of dress.Use the way you look as a way of expressing your professional attitude and approach to your work.
Invest in well fitted and well-made clothing that makes you feel great. Try not to be too "fashionable" by, for example, wearing skinny trousers with your suit jacket or hiking up the length of your skirt. Keep it classic and classy. There is still room to express your individuality and to stand out from the crowd.
11 - Find a mentor
Within a short time of starting at your new employer, you will have identified those individuals who you look up to and whom you feel an affinity with. These are the people who will be perfect mentors - if you can persuade them.
Finding a mentor is not as much of a challenge as you may think. Most senior partners are proud of their successes and are happy to take a little time to bring on staff with the potential to advance. It might be a bit narcissistic, but it works in your favor. It also looks useful to other partners to show they are happy to give up their time for the betterment of the entire practice.
12 - Form habits
You will need to develop habits that will become second nature to you once you commit and work on the essential things in your career plan.
Did you know that a child will need to have new food introduced to them 20-30 times before they will learn to like it? You need to have that same level of perseverance. From the beginning of your plan, you should be forming habits that you will gradually build upon as you progress. Introduce one new one at a time and make sure that each is taking you towards your goal. If you see no benefit after 30 days, then try something new but make it a daily habit that takes you forward.
Forming habits is a powerful thing and can make a dramatic difference in your career and life.
13 - Be a solutions person, not a problem person
We all have problems at work, but there is a good chance that it is a problem that already has a solution. Find out what that is before you bother your superiors with it. Ask around your colleagues, do a little Googling, look on the Intranet, or just be a little lateral in your thinking.
If all else fails and you need to approach your boss, come armed with what you think could be the right solution to the issue. Even if you are wrong, it will show that you have taken the time to think about this issue through before you bother them with it
14 - Stop looking for the next big thing and focus on smaller things
Don't worry about looking for the one thing that will make a massive difference to your firm and its fortunes. Instead, focus on the little things that need improvement. Small actions will add up and are often the things that are overlooked by others in the office.
The goal here is to get noticed and to make a genuine difference to your firm/team. Partners will recognise effort as much as they will do actions that make an impact on improving the business or adding to the cash flow. One senior manager I know looks to enhance small areas the practice needs developing. She actively makes a note of the systems, processes, marketing, and any areas she can analyse and improve.
You don't have to do as much as you think to get noticed, but you do have to do something!
Contact us with any questions or career queries.