Are You Winning the Work Competitions?

Posted by Richard Moran.

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Corporate cultures are competitive by nature. You don’t have to hurt yourself in a competitive 10K race or win the contest to raise money for charity to see it. The competitions are everywhere. Most organizations don’t admit that the culture is competitive or cutthroat. The word competitive doesn’t show up in vision statements. More likely, the culture is supposed to be collaborative and trusting. But wait, don’t blame the corporation, we compete ever day at work and we have both the organization and ourselves to blame.

One competition that can exist but I never want to win is who can send the most emails on a weekend or while on vacation. Another competition to avoid is who has the most frequent flyer miles. Other activities are ones in which you may want to compete, like who can make the most sales pitches, show up at the office the earliest or generate the most billable hours. Winning the competition of who can go to the most meetings may or may not be an honor.

The benefits to winning these competitions could include promotions, raises and respect in the organization. Winning these contests could establish you as a leader and a “fast tracker” – the one who carries the organization forward. The other side of the coin is that you are seen as the jerk who is always competing and making others look bad or that you are the one who turns everything into a completion with your co-workers. There are plenty of words to describe this person; most begin with the letter A. When it comes to competition with your colleagues, be sure you are the kind of competitor you want to be.

Sometimes the competitions at work are the ones we have with our self. Here are just a few questions to consider. If you answer yes to any, you are competing with yourself. I hope you win..

  • Can you empty email faster than the messages come in?
  • Can you participate in a conference call; work on email, and baby-sit all at the same time?
  • Can you talk on your cell phone and handle emails and texts on the same device at the same time?
  • Can you visit with your local barista more than three times a day without getting the jitters?
  • Can you take a vacation without feeling guilty?
  • Can you say no to the FREE doughnuts and red licorice?
  • Can you make a TO-DO list while you are in a staff meeting?

Competitions at work exist. Some are with others and some are a personal challenge just to see if we can do it. Some competitions may not be healthy or make us more productive but they do exist and sometimes the goal is not to win but survive.

What competitions are you competing in (or avoiding)?

3 Ways a Consulting Firm Can Change Your Career

Posted by Richard Moran.

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If you work at a Consulting Firm…

Number One: “You may not be smart, you may not be handsome, but by God, by the end of this program, you will know how to manage a project so that it comes in on time and on budget.” So said the instructor and she was right. (I thought also that one out of three for me isn’t bad.) By virtue of being in a training program at a large consulting firm, I learned how to manage a project. And project management is a skill that is utilized every day by everyone.

Sure, there are other places to learn project management but I suspect very few places provide the rigor that consulting firms can provide. A consulting firm’s success is dependent on project management skills. The nature of the client relationship depends on project management skills. No places are better at inculcating the project management skill than consulting firms. It is a skill, once developed; that will make you more successful at work.

But wait, there’s more… remodeling the kitchen? Planning an around the world sailing trip? Trying to find the best college for Junior? Starting a new company in the garage? Building a sailboat? Losing thirty pounds? Scheduling a complicated summer of logistics? Project management skills will come in handy, no matter what you do where or when and those skills you learned at the consulting firm will last forever.

Number Two: Besides the project management DNA that will be instilled, you will derive other traits from working at a consulting firm that will impact your career. Like:

  • Understanding that sales is a part of every career and position as well as other topics they don’t teach you in college.
  • Understanding the concept of billable time or, if someone is going to pay for your time, you better bring something to the game. It’s called adding value.
  • Relationships matter and the colleagues formed in the workplace are not to be under estimated.

Other reasons can be found in the recruiting brochures that consulting firms provide. But there is a more nuanced reason how a consulting firm can change a career: the experience can be a rite of passage, it can be an initiation into the world of work, it can be the dividing line between what you did before (like college) and your future.

The discipline that working for a consulting firm provides can set you up for success no matter what is next in your career. Sometimes learning that discipline is a hard lesson but it one that needs to be learned.

If you don’t work at a Consulting Firm…

Number Three

Consultants are all about change. They are brought in to organizations to change the strategy, change the culture, change the headcount, change the structure, change the systems, change the processes, change the wallpaper or change the product, to name a few. Consultants are not hired because “we want to keep things the way they are around here.”

If you don’t work for a consulting firm, of course, you can learn from the firm and how they approach change and the projects at hand. Usually the approach and the techniques are cutting edge. Learn and integrate the know-how into your own career.

Most importantly, the change actions could boost or kill your career. As in, getting promoted as someone who can lead change, or getting eliminated as someone who is in the way of change. Many jobs have been enhanced or eliminated through the change recommendations of consultants.

Whether you like consultants or hate them; whether you are one or you are looking at one, consulting firms are around to stay. Be alert to how you can benefit from their work. And, if you want to learn how to manage a project, go into consulting. Let’s hear it.

About that Hellish Transition Out of College…

Posted by Richard Moran.

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I see it every day, the reality is setting in, and the reality can be brutal. College is over – the good times, the friends, the stimulation, the games, the interesting classes, the free time – all gone. After the graduation parties, the celebrations, and vacations are over, reality sets in. What’s next? Why couldn’t it last forever? And what good is summer if there is no “back to school” on the horizon. September will be like all the other months. The “real world” is at the door and knocking harder every day.

No doubt, the transition for many is harsh. It is a transition for which there is no preparation, no handbook. Programs that ease the transition into college are on every campus. But leaving college? You are on your own, sink or swim, do the best you can with that degree in hand. It can be depressing, discouraging and downright debilitating. We all know this feeling, including me.

Why is the time so difficult? First, the transition is severe and there is no soft landing, it is a cold turkey change. One day you are on campus rejoicing with the best friends of your life and the next day you are home on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns. Maybe there is a week in Hawaii or another adventure in between but that only postpones the inevitable. Life has changed and it can be scary.

The second reason why the transition is tough is that all of a sudden things are missing. So many things are missing that you can’t even describe all of them. Let me help. What is missing?

  • For those who lived on campus, there were scores of friends within easy reach. It was easy to make friends and the possibilities were limitless. You could have friends from classes, friends from intramurals or activities, friends from the residence halls, friends from everywhere.
  • Each term presents an assortment of options for classes and activities. Since you took Calculus last term, this term you might take it a little easier. You have lots of controls over how much you do and when. With a job, that is not as easy.
  • Yes, you know you will have fun again after college but it not as easy to count on. The Thursday nights with friends (and Friday and Saturday and more for many) were predictable and easy. Very little planning was required and fun was guaranteed. The social activities and the events were easy to walk to – they were on campus. Now, Uber is involved.
  • The “one” is gone. That “one” that you have been with for a while with whom you shared so many good times. Now you may have to make a decision about that “one” and whether he or she stays in that vaunted place. Up until now, no big romance decisions were required. This can create big pressure when you least want it.

So many good things are now missing. Will they ever be replaced? Is “this” what I worked so hard in college go become? Aaaargh. It is time to move on.

Whether you have a job or not, the transition is tough. For those who don’t have a job, it can be more difficult. College might be over but life isn’t. You need to move forward because you can’t go back. Maybe graduate school is in the cards but even that’s different than the college experience you are missing.

What should you do? It may sound simple but here it is: Make some decisions, put a plan together, get busy and don’t look back. The plan can be a simple one in your head like: travel for a year, then, go to work or grad school. Or, get a job at a startup right away – even if the pay is low, there will be learning. Or, get any job just to learn what I do or don’t want to do. The possibilities are limitless, if not perfect. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by those possibilities or lost in the shuffle. And watching the Seinfeld reruns is not a plan.

College – for those entering enjoy every minute. For those who are leaving, life is still good; it’s just different.