Coming back from the summer break is an ideal time to take stock of where you stand ahead of the year-end process, and to determine what you still need to do. Here are six questions to ask yourself as you map out the strategy which will leave you best placed to maximise your bonus potential at year end.
1. Do you know how your boss likes to work?
Everyone has a different style of approaching problems and getting things done. Figure out how to fit in with your boss' natural pace and inclinations, and you will have an easier time. Some bosses are control orientated, in which case feed their need to know with regular briefings. Others like you to present solutions with every problem you bring up. Mould your behaviour to suit their view of the model employee.
2. Have you addressed the development areas from your last review?
Take a look at the prior feedback you have received, and if you haven't taken visible steps toward addressing the identified issues, then get going now. Show that you are proactive about improving and, ideally, be in a position to demonstrate tangible progress.
3. What kind of projects do you need under your belt?
Make sure that you have the appropriate variety of projects that showcase your abilities, and develop your skills. There is no substitute for experience, and you need to ask for opportunities to cover any gaps you perceive in your portfolio. In an ideal world, it is best to start the year with projects that stretch you, and end the year with those that will play to your strengths. After all, people tend to remember the most recent events more clearly, and evaluators are people too.
4. How well known are you?
While this is not a popularity contest, it is nonetheless important to have as many people as possible aware of you and what you bring to the table. You can do this directly through the people you work with on assignments as well as informally through networking. Put yourself out there.
5. What are you known for?
Spend some time thinking about what you want your reputation to be, and make sure your actions are consistent with that objective. Most importantly, check to see if that's how other perceive you. If there is a gap, then focus on how to change your behaviour to address it. This takes time, so get started now but don't be discouraged if results are not instantaneous. Just keep at it.
6. Who are your advocates and sponsors?
Advocates are people who think you are really good and will say so publicly. Ideally, these are people who are highly credible themselves such that their voices will carry weight. A sponsor is a special kind of advocate who is senior enough to make things happen for you, and will use their personal capital to pluck you out and give you an opportunity. You cannot make someone be your advocate and if you are lucky enough to attract a sponsor, they really have to choose you and not the other way round. However, you can identify who these opinion leaders are and put yourself in a position to impress them with your abilities and attitude. Make it easy for them to see and better yet experience how good you are. Reach out to them and share with them your aspirations so that they can help you.
Whatever your situation, there is no time like the present to improve it. Hopefully, these questions can help as you map your strategy for moving yourself forward.
May Busch is a former chief operating officer for EMEA, head of European firm relationship management, and co-head of global capital markets coverage at Morgan Stanley.