2016: A Year in Review

As it’s been well-documented, there’s a lot of good reasons why 2016 should just come to an end. However, before it does I thought it would be good to recap the year and preview what’s in store for 2017.

2016 went by in a whirlwind. I spent more time on an airplane than I ever have in my life and while I’ve lived in San Francisco for a year and a half it’s just finally starting to feel like home (in part due to the amount of time away) Furthermore, I had the privilege to spend time with friends new and old, and even though I live 3000 miles away had multiple chances to see my family all across the United States.

 

Here’s a quick recap of how I spent 2016:

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

I had the privilege of attending and serving a number of weddings in 2016. It was great to see so many people that I care about tie the knot and move to the next stage of their life and to be a part of the celebration with friends and family. Additionally, each wedding served as a great opportunity to reconnect and engage with near and dear friends – they all were almost mini-reunions in of themselves! To be a part of those experiences with so many great people was truly special, and something I am grateful for.

Managing a Bi-Coastal Family

With my sister and I on the west coast and parents still back in the northeast, it makes it difficult to see my family as regularly as I did when I lived in Boston. Even communicating can sometimes be a challenge given the time zone difference. This year, I had the chance to see my family through various work trips, holidays, and celebrations such as graduations and weddings. We even celebrated our first Thanksgiving outside of Rochester! While at times I wish I was closer to my family we really made an effort this year to make it work and I’m grateful for the chances we had.

 

Hitting the Gym

Humblebrag and “insert where’s the weight room joke here,” but this year was the best year I’ve ever had in terms of going to the gym on a regular basis. It certainly helps that it’s a short walk from my apartment. I’m proud of the fact that there were many times this year when I didn’t feel like going to the gym and I had the discipline to force myself to go anyway. I hope to keep this up in 2017 (and beyond)

                                                  Wrigleyville

Travels and Friends

Being on an airplane for over 40+ weeks out of the year is tough but it definitely has it’s perks. Between weddings, weekend visits, and extending work trips to spend time with friends I was able to see and spend time with lots of friends throughout the past year. The most popular spots were DC and Chicago (5) and the farthest away was a solo trip through Italy (my first real vacation in the working world!) These trips are not only fun but give me a ton of energy and joy.

 

                                   Cinque Terre, Italy

 

Career Progress and Milestones

This year, I did a number of speaking engagements on career development to undergraduate and graduate students, had articles published on multiple media sites, started my formal career coaching career (after years of amateur practice) at The Muse and continued my career progression in my day job. Given that your career is something you devote a significant amount of your time to I’m happy with the progress I am making and the experiences that I am getting. Above all, I’ve been fortunate to work for and alongside some really smart people who appreciate working with other people, and working on causes that are worth working for.

Lessons Learned

We All Need a Sounding Board

As thinker, extrovert, collaborator and action driven person, I’ve come to realize that I truly need to vocalize thoughts, ideas and feelings with other people. I guess it took many nights on the road in a hotel room by myself, or cross country flights in silence, or having a roommate and group of friends now who patiently tolerate my thoughts and feelings, but especially after big events, or decisions being around other people to talk to is really important to me. Those who have lived with me, or who have had to spend a lot of time with me are probably laughing at this as they have been directly impacted by this trait over time (and thank you for your patience) and are probably wondering how it took me so long to realize this, but even as someone who is pretty self-aware I find myself learning new things about myself even at my ripe age of 29.

Discipline is Boring and Effective

This year, I set out to make good on some goals that I had been putting off for some time. Going to the gym more, developing a process for writing that was consistent, and jumping into career coaching were all things I set out to do in 2016. What I found was that particularly for ones which required a consistent effort (going to the gym) even though I had made it a priority there were plenty of times when I didn’t want to do them and needed to find some extra will power to get to the gym or churn out an article. This wasn’t fun or glamorous, I didn’t always see immediate results, but what it made me realize is the importance of those ordinary and pedestrian like workouts, or middling articles that really help you develop the discipline needed to pursue a goal. Only when you consistently execute those with 100% effort over and over will you develop the discipline required to achieve a goal. As Ray Allen said, “The secret is there is no secret. It’s just boring old habits.”

Finding Meaning in the Unexpected

2016 was the year of the unexpected (Cavs, Cubs, Trump, Harambe etc.) Despite these surprises, I’ve come to realize that even in those moments of in some cases, shock and utter despair, you have to pick yourself up and make sense of where to go next. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this question since November 8th, and I wish I could say I’ve come to an answer. Unfortunately, all I have to show right now is the importance of asking yourself the question of “what role do I have in this moving forward?” and not moving forward until you come forth with an answer that you can take action upon. One glimmer of hope – I do believe that pondering that question will give you a sense of purpose, and in the case when it’s about a cause that is meaningful to you it will also give you conviction along with an urgency to act. So even when surprises suck, there’s opportunity to find opportunity to move forward.

Conclusion

In light of a bumpy ending to 2016,  it was a year of growth, learning, setbacks and successes, but all of which I am truly grateful for. After some much needed vacation I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

My 2016 Resolution Report Card

Last year, I wrote out my first ever “Year in Review” which was accompanied by a set of resolutions/goals for 2016. In the full spirit of transparency I’ve decided to review those goals and to grade myself on how I did.

Personal Projects: A-

Over the past few years, I’ve pursued a number of personal projects and have had varying levels of success. The hard part is sustainment as it takes persistence and patience. Additionally, it’s one thing to say you want to do something and another to do it. 2016 was a good year for my personal projects, as I worked on a few that I sustained throughout the year and jumped into a few things that I said I always wanted to do but never had the chance to do. They say that how you spend your time is a reflection of your priorities, so putting my pet projects as my priorities certainly showed in the time that I spent on them

 

Building New Relationships – B

Now that I am living in SF, I set out a goal to make friends and build new relationships to augment the many great ones I already have in my life. Even though I have a schedule that means I’m on the road quite a bit I made some progress towards this goal in 2016 by finding opportunities to spend time and go on adventures with friends who live around me. I want to do more of this in 2017 while trying to still stay in touch with my existing friends, but I was happy to make progress.

 

Sleeping Better – C

So, I started off the year pretty strong but faded quickly. Old habits die hard, and it wasn’t long before my phone was back in my room before bedtime.

 

Getting out of my Comfort Zone: B-

I had a feeling this was going to be one of the harder goals and I was certainly right. Even though I know in my head and heart that the most growth comes when I put myself in these situations it’s hard to fully be comfortable with doing this on a regular basis. I made some progress in this department this year in terms of the assignments I took on at work and through various opportunities I pursued personally and professionally. Not all of them worked out, but I learned something from all of them which was very valuable. I want to make this a goal again in 2017 and hope to push myself even further.

 

More Doing Less Thinking B+

I have a tendency to think…a lot, which in many ways is a good thing. On the flip side, I often suffer from paralysis by analysis, and it sometimes makes it difficult to make a decision. This year, I did a better job of cutting myself off when I was overthinking, going for things spontaneously and making the best of situation, or just generally “time-boxing” for analysis/research before forcing myself to make decisions. I still have a lot of ways to go in this department but feel good for making an effort to work on this as sometimes thinking gets in the way of enjoying what’s around you.

 

2016 was a good year with plenty of wins and many opportunities to do better. In an upcoming post, I’ll go into greater detail about 2016, and outline some more goals for 2017.

How to start off your Management Consulting Career

I recently worked on a project with a few new hires they asked me what I thought were things they could do to start their time at the firm in the right direction. It’s a great question, and I spent some time thinking and writing down some thoughts because of the importance of this topic. (For the sake of this article, this is meant primarily for those starting at big consulting firms)

I’m inclined to believe that you wouldn’t enter the consulting industry if you didn’t know anything about it or if it didn’t interest you. But you need to understand first and foremost at the core of the value proposition and structure of a consulting firm. Consulting firms (generally speaking) do not own any assets — their assets are their people. So while tech companies pour R&D dollars into potential new products, Consulting firms pour dollars into investing in their people. So here is what you can do to start investing in yourself:

  • Understand the Firm: The very first thing you can do is to make sense of the firm, the people and how things generally operate. Learning this institutional knowledge is simple on paper but due to the size and complexity can sometimes be very difficult. This isn’t meant to be a plug to brainwash you, but to help you gain an asset that will pay dividends down the road. The more you can understand and articulate how the firm works, the better you can understand how to use it to your advantage.
  • Learn how to Learn: To stay relevant and trusted in a fast-moving industry you need to continuously build new skills so you can stay ahead of the curve. “Learning how to learn” is critical for being able to understand new concepts, skills, industries and capabilities in a short amount of time. Start by taking time to find the resources that will help you learn and build skills quickly. It can be anything from finding information sources (ex: websites, Twitter, etc) or to more advanced and formal learning such as online or in-person courses. Over the course of your consulting career, you’ll be constantly asked to learn new skills. The quicker you can get good at this and develop methods and tools to do this, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
  • Read Frequently: As a consultant, you will be constantly asked about your opinion and you’ll have to frequently share that with others. One of the best ways to have an informed opinion and to develop opinions and perspectives is to read and to read frequently. Read things that are directly related to the issue that your client is trying to solve. Read what’s going on in your client’s industry. Read things that are not directly related to either of those but are of interest as sometimes there are opportunities to spot connections from the related and unrelated. Most importantly, develop some sort of system that works for you which has a combination of resources that you continuously read and go to for information and insights.
  • Think ahead: In addition to solving the challenge your client has put in front of you, a good consultant also needs to be one step ahead of where their client might go next. You never know what your client might need, but if you can anticipate their challenges and gain the knowledge or insight on how to help them think through the challenge you will become an incredible asset to your client and potentially identify further opportunities for yourself and the firm. Reading frequently will help you think ahead, and serve as a great mechanism for helping your client spot problems and opportunities before they come to you for them.
  • Develop your Brand: Identifying the topics and capabilities you want to develop expertise in and building those capabilities is what will help build your reputation in the firm. If you need help figuring out your brand, answer this: If someone in the firm were to email you asking for help, what would you want to be known for? You may know the answer to that question yet, and that is okay. Start with thinking about your past skills and experiences along with what is in front of you for your current project and role and do your best to “own” those topics. You may not be known as an expert immediately, but that will change over time as you grow your knowledge and experiences. And that brand will evolve over time, as you learn and grow yourself.
  • Be resourceful: As important as it is to be knowledgeable and insightful, it’s impossible to know everything. That’s where knowing how to find the right answer or knowing the people who can find the right answer becomes critical to consulting. Taking the time to build true relationships with the people you meet when you work at the firm and then cultivating those relationships through digital and in-person means will be incredibly helpful over the time of your career here. There will be lots of times when you will need to call upon help from others and having those relationships will help you find the right people at the right time. Additionally, the tools and mechanisms you use to build these relationships will help you throughout the rest of your life, personally and professionally.

Consulting is a knowledge and serviced based business. Your value as a consultant is equivalent to the sum of your knowledge and your experiences. What you do to develop both knowledge and experience starts with you.

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