Hi everyone! I used to contribute to an Accenture video blog and have now restarted my efforts through this Consulting Careers Blog. Since it has been awhile since my last blog entry, I got to reminiscing and realized that my first entry had been as an Analyst in early 2010! A lot has happened in the past two and a half years, so I’ve decided to share a detailed account of my career since then. Kidding! I do want to share, however, some of the things I’ve picked up along the way. Below is a bit of advice that 2012 Shannon would like to share with 2010 Shannon. With any luck, my lessons learned can be helpful to some of you, too!
Worry about the things you can control –
This is the single most important advice I’ve gotten and I’ve only learned it recently. I have spent a lot of time in my career worrying – how will this deliverable review go? Will our go live be successful? Will we save any money? These worries are what make me a good consultant and what drive me to deliver quality products for my clients. They are also responsible for giving me a couple grey hairs at the age of 26. My lesson learned here is not that I am not accountable for my results – it is always my responsibility to do everything I can do and put my best efforts into my work – the lesson is simply that, once I’ve done all I can do, I have limited control over some of those results and sometimes I just have to dial down the stress and see what happens. This also comes with the knowledge that whatever the output is, it most likely won’t be disastrous – if it is, keeping a cool head will make you far better-prepared to handle it.
Say “yes!” –
When you’re starting your career, you will be presented with a multitude of opportunities. Take them. Do you want to help out with our community’s holiday toy drive? Yes. Are you interested in meeting this Senior Executive? Sure am. Are there any volunteers to organize the next team event? That would be me. Can you lead tomorrow’s client meeting? Definitely.
My hesitation in saying yes has generally been, “I’m not ready; I don’t know how to do that; that sounds scary to me.” (That’s inner monologue, folks.) Here’s the big reveal: It is in nobody’s best interest to set you up for failure. When people ask you to do things, it’s usually because they know you can handle it. Take risks and do things you’ve never done – you’d be surprised what you’re able to take on – and the amount of support that people will provide for you.
EXCEPT when you should say “no” –
Contrary to the above, there are also plenty of times when you should say no. Beyond general risks to your health, safety, or ethical values, sometimes you just don’t have the time or tools to get something done. Knowing my limits is one of my more challenging daily struggles. The urge to say yes is so great sometimes and I’m not the only one who feels this way. A product of working with a bunch of smart, high achievers is that we tend to be a people that at times stretch ourselves a bit too much. While this doesn’t seem like a “real” problem (kind of like in interviews when you say that your weaknesses are that you care too much and try too hard), the issue here is that we may run the risk of burning ourselves or not being able to consistently add the high level of value that we would like to every given activity. Save yourself and your team/client/boss some headache and say no when you need to.
Build relationships with everybody (really, everybody) –
Doing good work is, quite frankly, the easy part of this job. Relationships are everything. It is near impossible to succeed in management consulting if you don’t work just as hard at building relationships within your team and with your client as you do on the actual work itself. Strong, trusting relationships have opened more doors for me over the years than any of my (awesome) Excel spreadsheets.
Hopefully your 2012 selves have benefitted from my some of my bumps in the road – I wish I could ask 2010 Shannon! Feel free to share some of your own lessons learned in the Comments. Thanks for reading!