“I literally feel a different feeling about consulting every single day,” – my Facebook status a few days ago. “Consulting schizophrenia” is what I’ve taken to calling it. Having spoken to a few of my former-consultant friends, they confirmed this is perfectly normal. The fact is, the work of consulting is grueling: it’s fast-paced, it’s ever-changing, and incredibly fun moments are often followed by ridiculously stressful ones. Despite all that I can say with 100% honesty that I LOVE my internship. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s genuinely, truly fun.
I’m a fan of happy endings, so let’s start with the not-so-great stuff. First of all, I spent the first week of my project alone in our New York office because my entire team was working from different cities: one person was in Boston, two people were in Dallas, and a few more were in Canada… And I was alone. Generally speaking, I do not like being alone. I guess you could say I’m a social person (understatement of the year).
The reality is, there are times in consulting when the full team just doesn’t need to be together. To be clear, sometimes this is GREAT – it can mean working from home (though I still went into the office everyday), or leaving for vacation a day early and doing a bit of work on the beach. As an introduction to my project, however, it was lonely and more than a bit disorienting. Every question I had – and I had a LOT of questions – had to be asked via email. As a result, I spent most of the first week feeling unsure about what exactly my contribution would be. I had been given a “work stream” (consultants love this phrase), but without a face-to-face conversation it was hard to clarify what all of the deliverables were. This was made more difficult by the fact that in consulting, the target is almost always moving. The overarching goal may remain the same (i.e. Growing revenue), but the roadmap to get there is constantly changing. So this has all been a long way of saying my first week was less than spectacular.
Then something amazing happened: I met my team! On my second week of the project we all got together in Boston, and suddenly my role became much clearer. Now I say “suddenly,” but the truth is a lot of this was a result of my very deliberate attempt to create a work plan and shape the course of my summer. If there’s one thing I have learned both in my prior work experience and at Harvard Business School, it’s that waiting around for someone to make you feel useful is most certainly the wrong approach. As the saying goes (and it’s possible I made this saying up…), “If you don’t feel useful, you probably aren’t.”
The good news is, even though there are still plenty of stressful days, I know I’m adding value to my team. A good deal of the work I’m doing for our growth strategy project has actually made it in front of the client (after some thorough scrubbing by my manager), and in the process I’m learning a ton about our client’s industry and the consulting profession as a whole. Since I’m only 4 weeks in, I’ve still got plenty of time to keep adding value, keep learning, and keep having fun. I can’t wait.
-Kristen Jones, MBA 2014