When I joined Accenture in the 1990s, I had no idea my career would take me all over the world, from Denver to Tokyo and Manila to London. And I certainly didn’t expect to become the youngest managing director in the firm at the time. Along the way, I was privileged to have been mentored by some fantastic people, and in turn, I’ve returned the favor to many new consultants joining our Accenture team.
So, with this in mind, here’s some advice on how to stand out from the crowd, shape the job into something that’s your own, and achieve success. I can only talk about it from my own experience, but I think I’ve distilled it down into five key areas:
About everything. Be one of those people who want to know more about your area than anyone else. But more importantly, consider how that makes an impact in the real world. We’re lucky at Accenture; we have the opportunity to be involved in projects that touch people’s lives and span every industry.
I work in utilities, and I’m curious about how it affects us every day. Like when people switch on their kettle during a TV commercial break, for example, and the increased demand for energy means more electricity is generated to prevent a power cut. The U.K. calls it the “Coronation Street Spike”, after the popular TV show.
I’m also curious about how my industry is, and will continue to be, affected by new, disruptive technologies—for example: artificial intelligence, how will blockchain affect trading energy? How will the latest developments in battery technology revolutionize the way we look at our energy storage and consumption? I’m constantly reading up on the newest innovation or technology, what it can do and how I can use it to help people everywhere. Being knowledgeable about these disruptions—and being able to explain the impact of them to clients, colleagues and even your family—is what sets a great consultant apart from a good one.
Grow your network.
Make every opportunity to meet people, and find out what they do. Your network can be colleagues, clients or people you meet outside work; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is looking after and developing those relationships. You have to tend them like a garden, nurture them. Then they can grow into a supportive foundation for you and your career.
Over the course of my career at Accenture, I’d say I’ve reinvented myself about four to five times. I’ve jumped at the chance to go to Manila, even though I initially struggled to find where it was on a map; I’ve pioneered SAP (Systems, Analytics and Products in data processing) and sold one of the first utilities SAP projects in New Zealand. I then transformed myself into a business process outsourcing expert, and led a team in Japan.
Each time, my reinvention was in response to either a feeling of staleness or the sense that I needed to push myself in a new direction to maintain my personal growth. When this happens for you and you think that you need to shift gears, or if there are elements of your role that you want to make more of, my advice is to grab every opportunity and make it happen for yourself. Take a risk and tell people that’s what you want to do. Make the most of your skills, and see how they apply elsewhere. It’s the only way to see how far you’ll go.
When I first went to Japan, I tried to present myself as the consummate Japanese businessman. It didn’t work. It’s not what the client wanted or expected, and it’s not what Accenture wanted either. To be at my best, I needed to just be me. I was still always respectful, polite and aware of the different culture around me; I just stopped pretending to be something I wasn’t. Remember, you can only be you. And that’s a good thing. That’s the reason you were hired. Be comfortable in your own shoes and use it to your advantage.
Always have a point of view.
I tell all the people I mentor, “Imagine you get in an elevator, and Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme or the CEO of your client’s business is there, and they turn and ask you what you think about the company. What would you say?”
It’s important to have your own thoughts—about a range of topics – both personal and professional. About your work, about your company, about the way we live. How should we be working? Where should the company be going? We’re all in this business because of our brains. We need to use them.
As a consultant, you figure out your strengths pretty quickly, and you have an opportunity to play to them straight away. You’ll solve really interesting, complex problems that have a genuine impact on the way we live and work. Visit our Accenture consulting careers page for more information on current opportunities. And good luck.
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