You graduate; you get your dream job—and then what?
How do you take control of your professional development, personal growth and wellness?
Not long ago, I asked myself these very questions.
After graduating from college, I embarked on a journey to pursue a career in consulting. I also moved to a new city to join the Accenture Consultant Development Program. That first year was marked by ups and downs, twists and turns and plenty of blind spots.
Here are five things I learned as a new consultant:
1. Accept growing pains.
In college, much of your learning happens in a classroom, with set parameters for feedback. In consulting, much of your learning will happen through feedback on client projects, and you will receive regular input from managers and clients.
When I first received feedback to improve my quantitative analysis abilities, I felt like an underachiever. I was frustrated during this period of growing pains, but I quickly understood that my manager was helping me to grow and build this new strength.
2. Know your needs.
Similar to “A/B testing” two versions of a single algorithm, you can test yourself to maximize your energy and performance at work and in play.
Ask yourself questions, such as: How does my work performance change on six hours of sleep versus eight hours? How do I feel during the day if I exercise at 6 a.m., noon or 6 p.m.? How do I feel when I eat chips instead of an apple for my afternoon snack?
When you first start working, you won’t automatically know how to reach your optimal performance and happiness levels. After working a year, I found that seven hours of sleep, a morning workout and consuming minimal sugar helps me work and feel my best.
3. Ask why.
As an entry-level analyst, it’s easy to become stuck in “output mode,” a state of stagnant thinking when you only do what you are asked to do. You research the correct Excel formula, organize the spreadsheet and check the item off your to-do list. But you don’t ask why.
Creative thinking is asking: Why are we making this calculation? Why are we organizing this project in the spreadsheet? What is the “so what?” factor that lets you pinpoint underlying drivers influencing the variables and problem you’re solving?
I found myself stuck in output mode when I was supporting a client’s digital marketing operations. I did everything I was asked to do, but I did not understand why I was following certain processes.
My mentor advised me to carve out time in the day to think through why I was doing what I was doing and proactively generate ways to improve. Taking this advice, I set out “thinking time,” and I proposed a recommendation to consolidate an operations process from weeks to days.
4. Seek mentors at all levels.
Mentors share advice so that you can learn vicariously from their experiences, and they are critical to your professional development and personal growth. In building your career, find individuals at all levels. Whether a senior analyst or senior manager, they all have unique advice to share.
I’ve been grateful to find a sponsor on one project who helped me find more opportunities to learn and impact my output. Outside of my project work, a senior manager has mentored me in my personal growth, helping me integrate my personal passions with my work at Accenture.
I recently founded Life Hacks for Women, a digital platform that empowers women to find their center through a professional development, personal growth or wellness lens.
5. Build your community.
Community connects us to people who share similar values and links us to a common purpose. In college, your communities may have been academic department, religious centers or student organizations. As analysts, it’s just as important—if not more important—that you find community.
I found my community through the Northern California Consulting Development Program. By going on weekend hikes, Friday evening happy hours and even an off-site trip to Napa, I’ve made analyst friends who share my values and inspire me to achieve my ambitions.
Just over a year into my career with Accenture, I feel grateful for all that I have learned—and I’m excited for what’s to come.
Ready to grow personally and professionally, and do work that really makes a difference? Find a career opportunity with Accenture Consulting.
Hannah Schlacter – Read this article on Accenture Talent Connection