How to Get Promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant
5 min read

How to Get Promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant

How to Get Promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant

The promotion from Consultant to Senior Consultant is a major milestone.

It’s where you go from being a smart junior team member able to plough through analysis and identify interesting insights, to an “experienced” team member who can plan and oversee analysis to achieve an end-goal.

By the time you are approaching this promotion, you probably have 3-4 years of client project experience (even more if you didn’t start in the graduate program) and are starting to see patterns in client projects that save you and your team time.

Still, you need to play your cards right. If you are currently trying to get promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant, this guide is for you.

Let’s dive in.

What Makes You a Senior Consultant?

The Senior Consultant promotion has official “tick boxes'' to check off. But in the end, your practice's leadership is looking for consultants who are more experienced in the eyes of the client and in-control in the eyes of the team.

For this reason, this is the promotion where solely advancing a technical skill is not considered enough. Something that surprises many star Consultants.

So what makes you a Senior Consultant? We can break this down into three areas:

1. Technical skills and experience

Senior Consultants have a level of technical skill that means they can complete tasks end-to-end with limited oversight and direction. For example:

  • Structure and build a financial or operational model
  • Plan and execute customer or client interviews
  • Plan and deliver a (small) client workshop

They will also have project experience under their belt, which means they are not doing many of these types of activities for the first time. That means they are faster, avoid common pitfalls and are more confident as a result.

2. Ability to independently plan and execute work

Senior Consultants don’t ask:

“What should I do?”

They say:

“Here’s how I would approach this, what do you think?”

They combine their skill and experience with an ability to structure their own work to lay out the work required to get to an end outcome AND accurately estimate how long it will take.

Increasingly, they will also do this for more junior team members.

The Senior Consultant promotion can come down to whether Managers and other senior staff trust the person to be able to reliably deliver outcomes (rather than tasks) and, crucially, communicate when things aren’t on track and figure out ways to get back on track.

3. Maturity in client management

At the end of the day, it’s the client who is paying for the team who is on the ground.

So, if you don’t seem like a Senior Consultant to them, then you’ll probably not be deemed ‘ready’ for your promotion.

Senior Consultants show maturity in their client management style and they demonstrate their experience in client situations by very quickly understanding a client’s business and finding useful parallels between the client’s project and previous projects.

Those assessing a Senior Consultant promotion will be looking for:

  • Clear and professional written and verbal client communication (clients trust them)
  • Good rapport-building skills (clients like them)
  • Good conflict navigation skills like managing scope or changes in timelines (clients can’t easily push them around)

Make sure you have covered all of the bases to give yourself the best chance when round tables and other promotion discussions take place.

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5 Practical Tips to Get Promoted

Here are some practical tips on how you can make the best possible case for your Consultant to Senior Consultant promotion, and maximize your chances of success:

1. Tick the technical competency boxes

Start mapping your project experience and skills against your ‘competency framework’. A ‘competency framework’ details out the types of skills and experiences that are expected across different areas for a given level.

Mapping examples of what you have already demonstrated on projects and where your relative strengths, development areas or gaps are is a helpful way for you to prepare for promotion. Do this exercise critically and you will be ahead in filling in any gaps in your experience to make your promotion case a slam-dunk

2. Perform as a Senior Consultant ahead of time

Expect to be ‘acting’ as a Senior Consultant 3-6 months prior to promotion.

The Number 1 simplest way to breeze through promotion discussions is for senior staff and leaders from your team to say:

“[Name] is already acting as a Senior Consultant”

Or:

“I already staff [Name] as a Senior Consultant”.

It can seem a little unfair of an expectation, but it’s true. People like sure things!

You may encounter a challenge in getting given enough responsibility to prove you are operating at the level above, so be creative. Here are two examples:

  • You may not be allowed to run a whole workshop independently, but can you ask your Manager to let you run a section of it?
  • Can you take the initiative to bring a first cut at a project plan for your Manager, even if ultimately they will own it?

Look for small opportunities that you can use to show you are capable.

3. Make sure you ask for a promotion, and leave enough time

Signal your intentions early with senior staff on your projects, your coach or counselor and all the relevant Partners. These people will be critical voices in your promotion case, so you want to prime them to be on the lookout for good opportunities in the lead up to promotion.

This should be a two-way conversation, where you also seek their advice and get a clear sense of their expectations (“what would I need to demonstrate in the next 6-9 months for you to view me as a Senior Consultant?”).

On a very practical note, headcount planning usually happens far prior to performance conversations, so you want them to be forecasting and allocating budget on the basis that you will be promoted.

4. Gather feedback from clients

A great way to demonstrate client management maturity is to show the great feedback you get from your clients and how well you understand their challenges.

Create a summary document that outlines the client company and project, the specific clients you worked with, their position on the project and the feedback you received. This both serves to highlight your ability and your understanding of how critical client service and recurring client work is to your firm.

This is a huge sign of professional maturity.

5. Own the preparation

When it comes down to actual performance process time, take the preparation into your own hands. Document all your experience against the competency framework and write a neat top-line summary (or ‘narrative’) for your coach or counselor.

They will be presenting your case in promotion conversations, so make it as easy as possible for them to do a good job.

Your narrative should highlight your strengths, your readiness for promotion and an acknowledgement of areas you want to further develop (this shows a growth mindset). It should be no more than a paragraph or around 30 seconds when spoken.

Remember, your coach or counselor is probably representing multiple people in these conversations and these sessions can last for hours (they are draining!). So the better you prepare them, the better they can represent you.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Consultant to Senior Consultant.

I hope that was a useful breakdown of what the promotion is about and how to best prepare for it. Thanks for reading, and please share how you go.

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