Advice to New Consultants: Perspective is Everything

Blog post by Jason Bazarkewich, SATOV Consultant

Travel. Team dinners. Long nights. Consumer surveys. Client presentations. When I think of the newest crop of SATOV employees starting over the next few months, I reflect on what wisdom I can provide them with – advice that I wish someone told me when I started. My new teammates will be eager and excited; they are beginning their careers as management consultants! They will also undoubtedly be nervous, anxious and full of questions.

It’s been nearly nine years since I accepted my first job as a management consultant. I remember the anticipation and the uncertainty surrounding my first assignment. Where would it be? Who would my client be? Who would I be working with? Then some other questions started cropping up: what if I don’t know what I am doing? What if others know that I don’t know what I am doing?

If I had to give one piece of advice to my incoming teammates, it would be that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Nobody said it would be easy. We’re helping clients with some of their most challenging issues. We have external clients, internal clients, etc. and it’s sometimes easy to get down on yourself or question your abilities. My personal view is that it’s important to remember why you’re here. Presumably no one chooses to be a management consultant because they want a predictable 9 to 5 role. They choose management consulting because they want to be challenged, they want ‘stretch opportunities’. It’s important to focus on those learning opportunities and realize how much you are getting out of the role. After all, if our job was easy, our clients wouldn’t hire us in the first place!

All jobs have their ups and downs – consulting is no different. During an engagement, particularly when you’re hard at work, it’s easy to catch yourself reminiscing over how much more you enjoyed your last project. Why does this project have to be so difficult? Why can’t it be more like my last one? The restaurant options in City Y were so much better than here. In all fairness, that’s probably because the case you are fawning over is finished; it was solved and there is a sense of gratification that comes with that.  This is still something that I personally struggle with. Especially if I’m working on a slide late at night – I catch myself reminiscing about how great Case X or Case Y was. Then I think about it for a minute and realize that in that moment, on that previous case, I felt the exact same way!

I think it’s important when you get overwhelmed (or catch yourself being envious of a previous version of yourself) to remember how you got here in the first place. We’ve all been successful in school, likely not by taking a back seat in group projects or coasting right before exams. Presumably, you’ve hustled. You’ve learned to pay attention to details. You know how to communicate. You’ve demanded the best from your project teams and yourself at every turn in your academic career. Those same success factors will make you successful in consulting.

Come hungry. Come ready to learn. But remember you’re not alone. We’ve all been there before.