Seven tips to get noticed at work so that your career takes off

Seven tips to get noticed at work so that your career takes off

3 April 2024

Getting noticed at work by the right people in your firm can mean the difference between your career progression plodding along or being rapidly accelerated. But how to get noticed? In this article Heather Townsend , author of ‘How to Make Partner And Still Have A Life’, discusses what it really takes to be noticed.

Further guidance on training and development can be found on Navigate Practice Management.

Partner potential: What is this?

Many partners will swear that they can spot who are the future partners from the current intake of trainees. They are looking for this X Factor which they call partner potential. But what are they looking for? It could be a number of things. But often, they are looking for individuals who:

  • have good commercial instincts – even as a junior professional;
  • are hungry to learn and take feedback well;
  • are easy to work with;
  • see the bigger picture, not just the technical work they are doing;
  • take initiative;
  • have good levels of emotional intelligence.

Act like the role you want to have

When it comes to making partner, the first thing I tell people is that they need to act, think and feel like the role above them. The reality is that you often need to demonstrate that you are already doing the role before you will get formally promoted. Your firm is likely to have some kind of career pathways and competency frameworks which will show you what is required for you to get to the next level. When was the last time you looked at these documents? Have you used them to talk through with your counselling manager where your strengths, weaknesses and development areas are?

Choose your advocates and champions wisely

I recently ran part of a ‘how to make partner’ programme for a mid-sized firm. The managing partner stood up and told the delegates that he would welcome a 30-minute conversation with them and their potential business cases. One of the delegates took him up on that offer. Three months later that individual made it to partner. This may have happened regardless of the conversation. However, it meant that when his application came up at the partnership committee, the managing partner knew about the business case and was well disposed to admit the individual to the partnership.

This example wasn’t necessarily an isolated case. Getting yourself known by the right people is more than just doing a good job with client work. Your results will not do the talking for you. You need to find people who will put their hand up and back your career progression. This could be by finding you ‘that’ secondment which will accelerate your career progression. Or by getting you onto an influential sector team or group in your firm.

You may find that your firm has an established mentor system, i.e. where individuals in the firm have someone who acts in a line management capacity and a mentor who supports their career aspirations. Whether or not your firm has a formal mentor system, it’s important that you find yourself a mentor. Ideally this will be someone who:

  • you respect and admire;
  • is outside of your service line or department so that you can build your profile more widely around the firm;
  • has skills that you want/need to gain. For example, if you want to get better at winning bigger pieces of work, consider asking someone in corporate finance to mentor you.

Having a mentor is one thing, but you need to lead the conversation with them. For example, do you want a monthly or a quarterly conversation? What help do you want from them? What areas do you specifically want to talk through with them? The more proactive you can be with your mentor, the more value you will get from your relationship with them.

Be authentic

People often think that in order to make their way up the hierarchy in a firm they need to become a clone of the partners. In fact, the opposite is true. The more authentic you are to yourself, the more charismatic, likeable and impactful you become. Of course, if being truly authentic to yourself is vastly different to the culture of the partnership, then you may find that you are in the wrong firm.

Increase your internal market value

Everyone in a firm has an internal market value. This is a measure of how valuable you are to your firm. In an audit or accounting role this is linked to your charge out rate, how easy it is to charge you out, your utilisation and your future prospects. For example, if you have a skill set which is going to become more in demand going forward, such as expertise in integrating cloud-based systems, your internal market value will be higher than someone who doesn’t have this specialism.

A good way to increase your internal market value is to look at your firm’s strategy and what is happening in the external marketplace. What sectors does your firm want to develop? What skills are in demand? What are clients saying they want? These are all good places to start to shape what you bring.

Own your narrative

This may sound like something straight out of a politician’s playbook (and it is!). But owning your narrative in a firm is vital if you are going to get noticed. Whether you realise it or not, there will always be a conversation going on about you. People, whether your peers or your superiors, will always have a view on who you are and what you bring to the party. It’s up to you to seed the conversations about you. You can do this by:

  • advocating for yourself, i.e. telling partners and managers at performance review time about your strengths and what you bring to a job;
  • being consistent in your behaviour – particularly those behaviours you want to be known for;
  • staying in your own lane – don’t compare yourself to others, just let your results do the talking for you;
  • being disciplined and avoiding getting involved in office gossip.

Be commercially curious

The people who make it to partner are not necessarily the best technicians in the business. What they are is commercially astute. What does this mean in reality?

  • They make decisions that are right for both the client AND the firm.
  • They are interested in what the client really values. After all, it’s never a clean set of accounts at the end of the day.
  • They enjoy finding out more about the client and what their needs are. Their curiosity doesn’t stop at the financials. They are often interested in the wider picture and what is really happening with the client.
  • They are always on the lookout for an opportunity to win more business.