It’s a common piece of feedback that many aspiring partners or directors will get told. In a consultancy firm, having a good profile leads to getting onto the plum assignments and being first in line for any promotions. In this article, Heather Townsend examines what this means, and how do you go about increasing your profile?
Very simply a lack of profile means two things, either you are not visible to senior management for the right reason, or you are perceived to not have a strong internal or external network.
Before you start thinking about improving your profile, it's important that you consider exactly WHO you want to improve your profile with. Is it internally or externally or both? Do you need to build profile with your ideal clients or a network or introducers? Are there specific people that need to know about you and view you positively to help move your career forward?
If you are part of a big firm, you may need to build your profile within your local marketplace AND your service line AND your sector team. If you have little time for profile building, the more specific you can get about who needs to know about you, the easier it is to effectively build your profile with them.
1. Put your head above the parapet
Very simply, if you get into work, and keep your head down and chomp through your work, your profile will suffer.
A visible profile is more than just doing a good job.
When I returned from maternity leave and went part time my profile really suffered. Not only had I been literally out of the business for 17 months in a period of 3 years, but I then returned to work as a part-timer. Like many part-timers, I was given a portfolio of work which kept me very busy with little or no time to do anything else apart from the urgent work on my desk. I was not alone in falling into this trap. Many part-timers, or people who must leave work at a certain time, often fall into this trap.
In a worst-case scenario, this behaviour often leaves you at risk of being on the wrong side of a re-shuffle or reorganisation. (This happened to me!)
If you believe that I am exaggerating, think about how many part-timers or people on maternity leave are made redundant in reorganisations or headcount reduction initiatives. Make sure you allocate some of your time to networking internally and externally, whether this is by stopping by a few people for a chat, or planning to meet colleagues for lunch.
2. Volunteer and contribute
One of the best ways to expand your internal and external network is to volunteer for high profile or cross-department assignments.
There are normally many ways for you to contribute to your firm. This could be standing on the social committee, supplying articles for the department's newsletter or intranet, organising a corporate social responsibility initiative etc. If you want to grow your profile you need to be prepared to put your hand out and volunteer for stuff outside of your normal day-to-day workload.
3. Talk to senior management
So many people put senior management up on a pedestal, or decide that ‘they are too important to want to talk with me’. Your boss’s boss has a big impact on your career – so why take the risk and be an unknown to him or her?
One of the times that you will be exposed to senior management is in big staff briefings, workshops or communication sessions. Do be brave and be prepared to diplomatically express your real views – particularly when tough questions are being asked, e.g. how good is morale at the moment?
I was recently listening to a very senior Big 4 partner speak about the 'listening' sessions they would run for staff at each level of the firm. It appears the more senior the group the less people were prepared to ask questions or speak up. They couldn't shut the recent graduates up, but struggled to get the senior managers and directors to ask many questions.
4. Use your lunch times
Your lunch breaks are a great time to expand and maintain your internal firm and external network. Make sure you do take a lunch break, but use it to have lunch with someone. Don’t fall into the trap of having lunch with the same people each day, or rushing through a sandwich at your desk.
You've also got more time than just lunch time to grow your profile. You can meet people for breakfast, coffee, lunch, afternoon tea AND an early evening meal.
5. Attend firm social events
You need to turn up to company or firm social events – whether this is informal drinks after work, or a big firm summer party. If you are like me and have never really enjoyed this kind of thing, give yourself a time limit to spend at the event, and then you can leave. Plus give yourself a goal to achieve at the event. This may help to give the social event some purpose for you.
6. Attend meetings
Meetings can be a huge waste of your time. However, they are a great way of being seen for the right reasons – particularly if you contribute positively to the debate.
7. Be positive and enthusiastic
Most people like working with positive and enthusiastic people – and want them to be part of their team. Wouldn’t you like to be first in line when people are picking teams? Be careful not to cultivate a negative reputation – e.g. for moaning, finding problems but not suggesting solutions etc
8. Seek out PR opportunities
Getting quoted in magazine and journal articles is a great way to grow your profile. If your firm uses a PR agency find out how you can get your articles or quotes into the press. Another way to get journalists to contact you is to follow and talk to them on twitter whilst sharing relevant and great content.
This article was first published on the How to make partner website.
Heather Townsend is the global expert in what it takes to make partner in a professional services firm. She is the award-winning author of 4 books including ‘The Go-To Expert’ and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie) In the last year, her team of coaches have helped 7 people make partner and coached clients from all the major continents of the world.