How to: Develop Your Career

You may be thinking…How to: Develop Your Career?!? I can barely keep my head above water.

Beginning your career at the Big 4 can be a whirlwind. You are growing intellectually and relationally in new and challenging ways. There are new demands on your schedule and time that are difficult to navigate. It can be difficult to step back and create a plan to develop your career.

This post will provide a simple, yet robust framework (the Development Matrix) to do just that: zoom out and strategically develop your career.

Development Matrix

Understanding the Development Matrix

The Development Matrix is broken out into two dimensions: Core/Grow (y-axis) and Personal/Others (x-axis). Every task/goal/activity can be mapped in each dimension. Core represents tasks that are generally expected of you/primary to your job. Grow represents activities that are outside of your current job description and/or move beyond the “four walls” of the firm.

In addition, the Development Matrix is divided into four quandrants: Do your job, Take on more, Mentor/be mentored, and Serve your customers. Each quandrant represents an intersection of the two dimensions (this is beginning to sound like I am explaining Dungeons & Dragons, but stay with me). The four quadrants provide a multifaceted approach to assessing career growth/performance.

Do your job

Execute your task list with efficiency and quality.  Seek to understand the “Why” behind the task. Special (i.e. interesting) projects usually fall to associates who have performed boring work at a high caliber.

Take on more

Grow your piece of the pie. Where are you curious? Where do you want to be developed? What could you take off your manager’s plate that would make their life better?

Excel in customer service

Every job is a customer service job. Being smart is overrated. Become someone who clients love to have on their accounts.  Read: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Be a great mentor (and find a great mentor)

Be a mentor. Start early in your career. When you were an intern, would you have appreciated an engaging associate taking you to coffee? Be that engaging associate.

Finding a mentor = cheat code. There is no better way to accelerate your understanding, development, and network than a mentor. Or better yet, develop your own personal board of directors.

What does a lopsided matrix look like?

High Core, Low Grow

HCLG is a workhorse. They get things done, as long as process was the same as last year. Don’t ask them to work on that new transaction or represent the firm at a networking function.

  • Super power: Execution
  • Kryptonite: Risk/Creativity
  • At risk of becoming: Grinder/Minder 4 life

High Grow, Low Core

HGLC is a natural salesperson (just ask them). They don’t have time for the minutia, they are ready for the finder life (and the paycheck that comes with it).

  • Super power: Confidence
  • Kryptonite: “Getting in the weeds”
  • At risk of becoming: $30,000 millionaires

High Others, Low Personal

HOLP is the people person. People love them. They always have time to grab coffee. Although, overtime they may lose credibility if they disconnect from the nuts and bolts of the job.

  • Super power: Relationships
  • Kryptonite: Work
  • At risk of becoming: the barber with the bad haircut

High Personal, Low Others

HPLO is a technical expert. They live for complexity. Their CPA scores were in the 90’s. But, they aren’t too keen on sharing their knowledge with less experiences folks at the firm. And interaction with the client is seen as a necessary evil.

  • Super Power: Technical proficiency
  • Kryptonite: Playing nice with others
  • At risk of becoming: banished to the National office

Which one of these stereotypes do you most relate to?

In conclusion, there is no one size fits all approach to growth. Instead, use the Development Matrix to evaluate areas of strength and improvement as you develop your career.

Further reading

How to: Ask Developmental Questions

How to: Find a Mentor

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