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Earn a promotion by acting like a hired consultant

By Cyrus Mavalwala

Whether you’re on the front lines managing the customer service department, crunching numbers in accounting or deep in the trenches in human resources, you may be looking to earn a promotion in 2012.

Many dedicated employees, however, won’t achieve that objective this year because they’re only checking off the tasks outlined in their job description. Yes, it’s important to exceed the expectations you are being measured against. But that’s table stakes. So how do you provide your employer with real value?

If you want to earn the respect of the leadership team you need look beyond your job description and start providing business value by thinking like a hired consultant.

The following Act Like An Agency tips are designed to advance careers and drive entire departments up the proverbial food chain by helping people and teams evolve from tacticians to strategists:

Personal and team branding Lily Tomlin said “I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.” Start your branding quest by asking colleagues what you and your department are known for? Without knowing your title, what position would a new colleague think you hold based strictly on the type of questions you ask at work? You have likely been so busy telling your organization’s story that you have never taken the time to strategically position yourself and your team for the people who matter most.

Define your target audience Companies take the time to position themselves in the marketplace so why aren’t you creating a plan to target the key people you need to impress at work? Determine the key relationships you need to establish to advance your career and then uncover each of these individuals’ biggest challenges and how they relate to you and your department. If you can help solve their pain, you’ll grab their attention.

Selling ideas and yourself You’ve got inspiring ideas, but how do you sell their worth, and yours, to the people in power? Research shows people trust people like themselves. Study your target audience so you can speak their language — the language of business. For example, can you readily cite your organization’s top two performance measures or when your next quarterly earnings will be announced?

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Shift your focus to high-value activities Employees are constantly being asked to do more with less. Before saying no to a good idea because you’re too busy, take a simple audit of what’s consuming your day. Do you only work on items that are both important and urgent, or just important? Where possible, automate or delegate the low-value tasks and invest this newfound time into tasks that create high-value for your target audience. You will soon be recognized for working on the right stuff.

Focus on how to consistently add value to your organization by thinking about the challenges that trouble your bosses. Practice being inquisitive by answering a question with a question before committing to saying yes because you want to please your boss. Choose your battles, but be curious and skeptical with requests for your time or your team’s resources.

Not all brains are the same Although you may be a creative right-brained employee, your boss and likely the CEO and CFO, the folks who sign your paycheque, are not. Learn and then mirror the different personality types of your target audience. When pitching the leadership team you might want to approach it like a personal financial investment. Balance emotion with logic by first painting a picture of the future and then appeal to the left side of the brain by moving to recommendations and the rationale behind them.

Applying the same approach a smart consultant uses when interacting with their clients offers insight in how to relentlessly focus to provide business value to your boss. And if that’s your goal, your chances of a promotion will greatly increase.

Cyrus Mavalwala, ABC, is president of Advantis Communications ( and co-founder of Act Like An Agency (, an organization that trains managers and their teams to advance their careers by evolving from tacticians to strategists within their organizations.

Reinvent Your Career would like to thank the Financial Post where this article first appeared.

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