Whether you are graduate just starting out in your career, or a seasoned professional embarking on a new path, the unknown can be daunting. If you choose to work in consulting you will be granted a unique experience that gives you access to a diverse landscape of knowledge and people in a short space of time. With each new project, you get to work with a new team of people and different technologies. For most of us, this is the main draw. The constant supply of new challenges and exposure to new ways of thinking, allowing you to grow in a manner and pace that few other roles can match. If you are lucky enough, your role may also afford you the opportunity to travel. However, as amazing as these positives can be they have a drawback. The experience can be overwhelming, and when you spend your time moving from one client to another it can seem quite isolating. That is why it is so important to find a work environment that you feel supports you.
Finding your footing may feel difficult, but remember you are not the first person to experience this. In fact, chances are you’re not even the only person facing these challenges right now.
Look to other people at your level. If you are a new graduate, start conversations with other graduates about how they are adjusting. What did they find most useful when they joined? Or what technologies they found hardest to get their heads around? Often people are more than happy to share their tips and tricks, or maybe they are also a little overwhelmed and you can find solace in knowing you aren’t alone.
Even if you are not a graduate, but just new to a company, take the time to say hello around the office. Ask what people are working on, the technology they recommend, or internal projects you could get involved in.
When working on projects, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Wanting to know more is a good sign, and intelligent questions allow senior team members to gauge your understanding and identify areas you may need support in. It’s better to ask now if unsure, than to feign understanding and as a result cause bigger issues for the project down the line.
Outside of projects, it will stand to you greatly, if you get to know the people working in the area you wish to progress into. If there is someone in your company with a career you think you would like to work towards then email them. Show your enthusiasm, ask if they would be open to meeting you to discuss how they got to where they are today. At worst, they may be too busy and politely decline, at best you could get some amazing insight into where to focus your energies.
To get you started I’ve asked two senior members of my team what general advice they would give to any young professionals starting out in their career.
“Get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to people you meet at a client site, tell them what you do and take an interest in what they do – you need a network to be successful. Be curious; ask questions, learn how to interview, listen and collaborate with the client’s staff to understand the context under which they operate. Find out how your work will contribute to operational, tactical and strategic goals to ensure your effort is correctly aligned.”
“When asked to do something, don’t just bound in blindly. Ask for the background/context so you can understand why you’re doing it. This will not only help you complete the task to a higher standard but will also help you translate what you learn to future situations.
On every project, you will learn something. Even if it doesn’t seem interesting give it your full attention and effort. It’s all relevant, although you may not see it until later.
It’s okay not to know things! You can learn. Just be sure to ask and listen to the answer, make sure you understand it so you can build up your knowledge base.
Most importantly: everything takes time!”
After you find your feet remember how
daunting it was when you had no idea and no connections. Continue the positive
work culture, be friendly and approachable. You don’t need to go out of your
way to look for people that need guidance, but if you are approached by someone
trying to navigate their new environment why not offer to field their questions
over a coffee.
Don’t be so focused on how hard you had work to find those answers, that unbeknownst to yourself you pull the ladder up with you. Instead be a positive influence and help grow the roads for a supportive, competent and innovative workplace.