Promotion advice for new consultants

You know what the worst thing is that can happen to a consultant trying to get promoted?

You telling them exactly what they need to do to lock in that bump to the next level.

Here’s why.

People drawn to consulting tend to have a more inflated view of themselves than in other industries. They have to – putting yourself out there in front of clients on topics where you don’t have deep expertise puts you in a vulnerable position. If you don’t have confidence, this job will eat you alive.

The downside of this inflated self-view is sometimes that confidence turns into entitlement or unrealistic expectations. People who are definitely smart – but have proven little in terms of work effectiveness – believe they should be promoted just because they want it.

When confronted with the reality of needing to do some work on their end, the situation gets awkward. You’ve given them the blueprint, but they don’t want to do the work…but they still want the promotion. In fact, their desire to get the promotion only grows stronger. And any indication that it may not happen feels like an atrocity against humanity.

Follow-up is such a powerful thing. That’s why project management skills are so important in consulting. Just by doing what you said you were going to do or effectively getting other people to do so – instead of procrastinating or making up excuses – positions you ahead of so many others.

If the career benefit of keeping your follow-up game strong isn’t enough, there’s another way to look at this. People generally imagine scenarios where they give their colleagues the old two-finger salute ruins relationships, but you can burn a bridge just as quickly by not following up. You remember this person emailing me for help on an interview and then disappearing for months after I replied to try to help?

If you’re reading this and find yourself wanting to get promoted, I’m going to tell you something that you may not have considered. You’re not getting paid to get promoted.

By that I mean, if you’re expected to have 45 billable hours/week, that 45 hours doesn’t include time for you to put together your promotion case.

To put it differently, would your client want to pay for you to work on a document you’re putting together so you can put more money in your pocket (and take more from theirs)? Probably not.

The solution? Take half an hour each night for a weeknight for a week or spend a couple hours one Saturday and knock it out (put it on the calendar to make sure you do it). It shouldn’t take much time because you know exactly what you’ve been working on. Once you have your story together, then you start having more meaningful conversations with people about you being ready for promotion. I promise you won’t miss the time.

The bottom line is you aren’t going to find people who are more invested in your career than you are, and in case it wasn’t clear, you shouldn’t be expecting to.

Here’s to you doing what it takes to get that next promotion and your bank account getting a little bit fatter!