Consulting Annual Review Process 101 (Part 2): How to Get Promoted

Consultants that get great ratings and fast promotions didn’t get there by accident. There are a handful of strategic activities they invest in to make sure the odds of success are stacked firmly in their favor. While you can’t control the environment in which the decisions are made, you can control the foundation for the conversation-and that happens well in advance. Here are six habits of competitive consultants that guarantee great ratings year after year.

  1. Keep tabs on what really matters. Competitive consultants work smarter, not harder, by making sure they understand what’s most highly valued by their firm, practice leaders, client leaders, and immediate manager. And these aren’t always exactly the stated criteria for success. These consultants get that there are nuances. Certain things carry more weight while others, though important, are more “check the box” criteria. If they want the big promotion or a great rating, they make it their business to know what’s going to matter to the people that get a vote.
  2. Set a few important goals that match firm expectations and personal priorities. Each year when it’s time to set annual goals, these individuals don’t get bogged down in lots of lofty goals. They set a max of three to give goals closely tied to the things that carry the greatest weight and the things they need to be totally satisfied on a personal level. They use these goals to guide their decision-making for things like the roles they seek out and the extra-curriculars they sign up for.
  3. Meet with their team of advocates regularly. The more people vying for you, the greater your chances of success, but savvy consultants will have a core group of advocates firmly in their camp. These are individuals they strategically target and proactively manage their relationship with on an ongoing basis. They keep them informed of their goals, accomplishments and areas they need their help.
  4. Keep track of their own accomplishments. Your days and weeks are incredibly busy. It’s easy enough to forget all the things you did last week never mind six months ago. High performers recognize this and have a system in place for tracking their accomplishments, regularly, because they know no one else is going to do it for them.
  5. Can tell their “story” (and make it easy for influential people to tell it too). If you want to ensure you are fully recognized for your accomplishments, it’s always a good idea to help write your performance review. Equally, if not more important than the written review, however, is your “story” or an executive summary of your most important, quantifiable accomplishments that demonstrate your strong career trajectory. In essence, this is the “Reader’s Digest” version of your review for the purposes of the rating discussions. For star performers, this is something they can articulate clearly and succinctly and they make it easy for others to do the same.
  6. Act the part. Finally, there’s a saying in this business that you should dress for the role you want. We’ve all seen that guy that all of sudden starts showing up to the office in the partner jacket! The same principle applies for the way you act and present yourself. Those that want to lead a team find ways to step up and do it, whether they have direct reports or not. If they want to be the go to guy or girl for a particular subject, they seek out opportunities to share their knowledge with others and build a reputation. They know that when they step into being the role or level they want to reach, others start to see them there as well.

If you’re starting to think this all sounds like a second full-time job, don’t panic. You can actually do all of this in about one hour per week. Once you orient your mindset around these strategies, you’ll start to see that they require minimal time, if any, and usually can be combined with other things you’re already doing. Out of your entire week, isn’t one hour of time a worthwhile investment to get you where you want to be?