Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
Becoming a principal, partner, or senior executive with P&L-level responsibility requires a completely separate set of skills from entry and mid level jobs – the criteria for evaluation just changes at some point and no one ever sits you down to tell you that.
Instead most people assume just doing their current assigned job well is enough – so many associates at law firms think doing all the paperwork and litigation properly is the road to partnership and many PR account executives think that getting a few articles written about their clients will earn them a promotion. They think that way because their year to year advancement had previously been determined by doing their assigned work well and on-time.
To make the big jump to the next level, they’re really being bench-marked on their ability to deliver future value to the firm in ways that are not taught or explained to them: chiefly how much business are they are able to bring in.
When you first start at a company or firm, your success depends on doing your assigned work well. As you move up, your future success depends on doing unassigned work and responsibilities. Anyone who made it past the hiring process can do the assigned job at the company but it takes a lot more to deliver value to the company that wasn’t assigned or even thought of. Managers are largely stretched thin managing their reports so they can’t always think of everything to be done that will benefit the firm. People who can think of what to do and deliver are the ones who ultimately are more likely to get promoted to the top levels. You can get by doing your assigned job well for a while even with titles like managers or directors but generally as you get to VP or higher, you aren’t given exact instructions from your superior and you’re just expected to deliver.
Every industry has different things that a firm would value: deal flow or investment ideas at financial firms, new clients at law firms, product/partnership ideas at multinational corporations, etc.
So don’t ever think that the metric used for promoting you to a senior position is the same as the the one used in your earlier ones. No one will tell you exactly what it will take to make it to that next level. You just need to figure out what the firm values and deliver on it.