John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
There are various ways to say it: “Why am I not growing in my position?” “Why am I not getting to work on the juicier projects?” What it really boils down to is: “Why can’t I get ahead?”
No two answers to this question are exactly alike, because no two circumstances are exactly alike. If the question plagues you, however, there are ways you can approach your search for the answer.
It’s critical to begin with an honest self-assessment of your contributions to the practice. The easiest and most productive place to start is with those things you have the most control over. Start by investigating exactly what it is that is not happening in the way you’d like. If you can’t articulate that clearly for yourself, you’re not likely to be able to discuss it with your boss in a way that will bring change.
It’s also true that a boss’s choices might be arbitrary from time to time. Over the long haul, though, they’re driven by a desire to build a successful and profitable practice. Your advancement correlates well with your contribution. Another reason for looking to see whether it’s up to par.
No matter where you sit in the practice hierarchy, from the nearly entry-level analyst’s chair, or a single rung below partner, there’s always something else to reach for. Are you looking around for it?
Maybe it’s spending more time in technical reading about the complexities of the engagements you’re working on at the time. Ask the boss to recommend reading material that will give you more education about them. Has there been an article in a recent industry publication, for example? Is there a book in the boss’s library that has a chapter on the subject?
In most practices, becoming a good writer is a sure path to advancement. Seek out coaching for your skills in that area. Ask to read what the boss thinks is well written product. As practice, take a section of a recently issued report and see what you think might be done to improve it.
Alternatively, if you’re already managing projects, and maybe reviewing the work of others, your next major advancement opportunity is in business development. Even little steps on your part can show up as significant. What would the boss really like to do in the business development arena that he can’t squeeze out time for? Is there something you can do toward that same objective? Watch for opportunities to get your boss quoted in the paper on relevant financial issues. Business weeklies are a good place to look.
If you’re not getting to go out on sales visits, ask. Be prepared to maintain your chargeability, or at least your productivity, even though you’re taking time for the calls. By reducing the risk for the boss, you increase the likelihood of getting the exposure and coaching you want. On the way back from the call, test your conclusions about how the engagement might be handled most profitably.
Are there some situations that, in the end, call for you to consider a move somewhere else? Sure there are. If you do decide to leave, however, you’ll want to be very certain you’ve given it your best shot. If you can’t say that you have, you might think twice about assuming you would somewhere else.