Things I wish I knew when I started by consulting career

my experience Aug 10, 2020

One of our fantastic graduate consultants caught me off guard this week by asking me to share with him some of the things I wish I had known when I started my consulting career some 15 years ago. Having not thought about this previously I answered poorly! so I wanted to follow up having thought through the answer to this question. I thought this was quite a good answer so wanted to share!

1. Nothing is EVER as bad as it seems

I cringe when I think about the amount of time I spent worrying about the ramifications of a mistake or a missed deadline. Sleepless nights. Mind racing 24x7. Nothing was ever as bad as it seemed at the time. Treat each failure as a learning opportunity and get over it! Others certainly will.

2. The HARD work is ABSOLUTELY worth it

I’ve always had a great work ethic and the extra effort has always served me well. I regret none of the late nights and weekends that I put into my career. If I was putting in extra hours I was generally doing something outside of my comfort zone that would help me learn something new and get to the next level. Put the extra effort in now as when you get older you have less “free” time to give.

3. Take every opportunity to TRAVEL with work

Getting the opportunity to travel the world for work has to be one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. I’ve been lucky to work across America, Europe, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and all over the UK & Ireland. I’ve always found the differences in working practices to be fascinating and the people in each country extremely welcoming. Sure it gets less glamorous as time goes on but I still get a buzz when getting the opportunity to do business overseas.

4. There are NO EASY projects

I can’t think of one. They all have their problems. The sooner you realise this then the “easier” they become. Be open to the fact that issues are going to arise and prepare your team to take corrective action.

5. Everyone has been an IMPOSTER

Everyone has sat in that meeting thinking “I shouldn’t be here; what do I know; all these people are so experienced/senior what can I contribute; I can’t do this”. STOP. Everyone has been there. If you are in the room your are there for a reason. Realise that, say your piece, and absorb all the rest. The big thing is that you made it into the room.

6. Don’t B*LLSHIT a B*LLSHITTER!

Linked to the point above. If you don’t know the answer to a question then say so. There is no point trying to b*llshit a b*llshiter. People will generally respect you more for the courage to say you don’t know as opposed to trying to make something up on the spot. Take it away and agree to get back to the person who posed the question ASAP.

7. Phone calls ALWAYS TRUMP emails

Having a conversation over email - particularly if it is a sensitive or difficult subject is tantamount to WAR! This is a lesson I’m still learning to this day. Phone calls or face to face meetings always trump emails. If you do need to deliver difficult news or challenge a customer or colleague - do it by phone or face to face and summarise the conversation in a follow-up email so there is no ambiguity. Do not underestimate the hidden communication in the tone, pace, and sound of your voice!

8. Great MENTORs are worth their weight in GOLD

"You have one mouth and two ears for a reason - you are supposed to listen twice as much as you speak!" Great mentors help guide you through your career and if they are really really great, will spend a good amount of time *PISSING* you off by pushing you to be more than you think you can be. Seek them out early in your career and build a relationship with them. If you are lucky, your mentor will also be your boss. Thanks, Mike Knox, Matt Samme, Mark Patrick, Kim Gray, Greg Williams, Andy Frost & Mal Smith.

9. You will meet CUSTOMERS that you will NEVER forget

Typically on your hardest engagements and they will become more like family than customers. John Hayes, Rakesh Shah, Trudie Fell, Claudia Meyer-Scott, and Robin Goode.

10. Surround yourself with the BEST people

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with a number of fantastic individuals over the years and there are far too many to mention. That said, as a Project Manager I was only successful due to the Solution Architects I worked with Gareth Williams, Mark Toye, Martin Nurse, and Steve Sweet and as a Solution Architect I was only successful due to the PM’s I worked with Amil Pasic and Barry Lynch - fair play lads - I appreciate you all.

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