Starting any new job can be a harrowing experience. One wants to start out on the right foot and make a good impression. Every company is different, and starting in a new industry such as consulting can cause confusion in the most intelligent and confident people. In this week’s podcast, we’ll discuss the things a new consultant should address as they launch their consulting career.
What are some of the first things a consultant should do as they prepare to enter the consulting industry?
As I began preparing some notes for this podcast, I couldn’t help thinking that I wish I knew then what I know now.
When I began consulting right out of college so many years ago, the small firm I joined put me through an extensive training program, but it was mainly based on technical skills. There was very little about professional behavior and career management.
I look back at my first few assignments and kind of cringe. I was just learning the ropes and wish I had done things much differently.
It’s not that I made a lot of big mistakes; I just wish I had managed things differently.
What types of things would you do differently today?
Well you’re bound to make a few friends at work. Maybe you all started the same week or went through your orientation together.
You may have one or two or a group of people. But don’t limit yourself to just that group. Try to meet as many people in the firm as you can.
You don’t have to necessarily become friends with all of them. It’s just important to expand you network and not just stick to your own circle of friends.
Invite others to join you for lunch. Strike up conversations when you meet people in the break room. And try to sit with different people when you go to firm meetings. Not only will you get to know more people, but more people will get to know you.
Another to-do is to observe other people’s behavior. See how people communicate with each other and how they act in meetings. This will give you some insight to the company’s culture. This ranges from when people get to the office, when they leave and how long of a lunch they take.
I’m not necessarily advocating being a follower; I’m just suggesting that you see what the bulk of people are doing to learn what the norms are within your organization.
For instance, regardless of the published standard work hours, if you see that a majority of people come in 30 minutes before the standard start time, you may want to emulate that.
If don’t take their full hour of lunch, take note of it. I’m not suggestion you cut your lunch time back. I just wouldn’t take more time than you’re allotted if most of the firm takes less time.
You want to be yourself while fitting in at the same time.
The same goes for the dress code. They may have a formally published dress code, but I would observe the veteran workers. The code may say one thing, but the folks that work there may say another. There also may be people who push the envelope with dress or time they take for lunch hour. They may get away with it for no other reason than they’ve been with the firm for a long time.
It’s important to determine what’s the norm within the company and who are the rebels who overdo it a bit. If you start emulating the rebel, someone may pull you aside and tell you to back off.
And finally, something that will help a new consultant with all of the items I’ve just talked about is, if one is not assigned to you, adopt a mentor. In fact, I would recommend having a couple of informal mentors even if the firm assigns one to you. Choose your own.
If you can identify a couple of more experienced people that you can just bounce ideas and questions off of, you can get a variety of opinions from and just get some different perspectives.
Those are good suggestions for working within the firm. What about when you get to the client.
When you first get assigned to a client,