I’ve recently been participating in #BlogChat on twitter and came across an interesting idea that’s going on: the #PowerToThePen campaign. Basically, the task is for bloggers to write a post using good old fashioned pen and paper, and then post a picture of the blog instead of typing it up as you normally would. I chose to write an open letter to my younger self (14 years old). I have to say – even after all of these years of typing for practically all forms of written communication, pen and paper still feels the most natural for “true” writing.
In one of my first posts on determining if business school is the right move, I talked about some of the issues students need to consider before going back to school, specifically the full-time business school student. As promised in that post, I want to spend some time sharing my top reasons for pursuing a part-time MBA.
Part-time MBA students can get their MBA without sacrificing the professional development that goes along with leaving to the workforce for two years. Oh yeah, and the income that comes with continuing to work full-time is also a benefit.
Fewer Required Courses
This seems to vary by institution. For example, at the Kellogg School of Management (the best business school in the world in my humble opinion) and the Hass School of Business, part-time students are required to take fewer courses to graduate than their full-time counterparts. On the other hand, the Stern School of Business and the Booth School of Business do not reduce the required coursework for their part-time programs. All of these are top-notch programs that simply have
The idea behind reducing the coursework (at least at Kellogg) is that you will compensate for that discrepancy in coursework by continuing to learn in the workplace since full-time employment is a requirement for the Part-time program.
Perhaps the most interesting difference in choosing to go to the Part-time MBA program is the fact that you can tailor your coursework around the needs of your job/company. For example, I was working at a global consumer goods company that always invested in derivatives. Once I became responsible for consolidating North America financial results, I wanted to better understand how derivatives were structured so I enrolled in an investments class and an international finance class. When you are able to see the value like this immediately, it makes it easier to prioritize things you may not have prioritized otherwise, like studying perhaps…
Instant Professional Network
While going to business full-time allows you to develop a network with your colleagues that will go onto leadership positions in their respective business endeavors, it may take more time to realize this than when you’re in the Part-time program. Similar to how you going part-time means you won’t forgo career advancement for two years, you may also reap the benefits of your classmates continuing to advance their careers. I’ve seen multiple instances where classmates have changed jobs in the middle of the part-time program because of a connection made with a classmate.
Ability to Handle Multiple High Priority Tasks
By successfully completing an MBA program while maintaining your career progression, a potential employer immediately knows that you can take on multiple demanding tasks at a time to achieve a desired outcome. Honestly, people respect the fact that you were even brave enough to try going back to school while working full-time. And if you have a baby in the middle of the program like I did, it makes for a great story.
People always love a great story.
People tend to cite two well-documented reasons, namely travel and the hours, as the reason he or she decided not to pursue a career in consulting. In fact, the travel was the only reason I didn’t want to pursue consulting coming out of undergraduate school. It’s interesting to see how one’s perspective can change with additional work experience and emotional maturity, but I digress…
Travel and what sometimes feels like endless hours in the office are perfectly valid reasons to focus your job search elsewhere, but if you are undaunted by that challenge, there are three lesser talked about things you have to be prepared to take on once you become a consultant.
1. Status Meetings
Most corporate jobs require some degree of sitting through meetings which may not be the most relevant to you (read: boring, inefficient, etc.). What you will find in management consulting is that the frequency of meetings you need to attend, some of which undoubtedly will be less relevant to you than others, multiplies by roughly tenfold. The main culprit to blame for this is the status meeting.
In a business where the stakes can be so high, as in career making or breaking, it is crucial to CYA, as we say in the business, and one way in which this is done is the status meeting. These checkpoints allow everyone the opportunity to understand the progress of the project and if there are any concerns that need to be escalated. To put it simply, this is how you manage expectations through the project so that there are no surprises (e.g. missed deadlines) later on. In some cases you will have a status meeting for a status meeting to prepare for an executive status meeting.
I really wish I was joking about this. I guess you can say the number of status and review meetings required is directly correlated with the importance of the meeting at the end of that cycle. In my previous example, that would be the executive meeting (clearly very important!).
2. Extreme Scrutiny
Everyone associates consultants with a high price tag. With that price tag comes even higher expectations and with those expectations comes still higher levels of scrutiny. If you take offense to people double- and triple-checking your work, it is something you will either learn to embrace or you will find yourself looking for other employment. It makes sense if you stop to think about it – if YOU were paying hundreds of thousands our millions of dollars for a service or product, wouldn’t you want to be sure the numbers were run correctly and the analysis was spot on?
When this scrutiny is applied internally, you should think of it more as a collaborative exercise and less of a result of some sort of distrust. Specifically, if your manager, peer, or direct report can catch a typo or mistake in the analysis, it can be corrected before losing credibility with the client. Just to be clear, increased client credibility => more projects won by your firm => more $ paid to you.
3. Lots of Listening
A few months ago I read the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and one of the principles of this book is listening to understand. What this means is you actually have to HEAR what people are saying to you. It’s not about listening so that you can respond and/or share the latest widget is that you have to sell. It’s about genuinely feeling the underlying
In a lot of ways, consultants are like business therapists, so if you don’t want to hear people talk about their problems, regardless of how irrational or unreasonable the people may be at times, then a different long-term career path might be a better fit.
I say long-term because even if you’re not strong in any of the three areas above AND you don’t want to travel AND you don’t want to work unpredictable hours, people can push through anything for a set period of time. Just know what you’re getting into and plan accordingly.
I just came across this Forbe’s article on one of our young gold medal women’s swimmers, Missy Franklin. According to Forbes, Missy is on the verge of bypassing millions of dollars in earnings to retain her amateur status and compete in NCAA competition.
I’m all for pursuing your dreams, but I seriously hope someone…anyone… is providing her all of the context on how the “real world” operates, especially in the world of fickle sports fans. Comments such as “the money will be there in 4 years” and “she’s going to be the best swimmer in the world in 2014” are doing her no favors. Operating under the assumption that she can come back to this opportunity 2 or 4 years from now is a dangerous game to play. I’ve found firsthand that guarantees in life are few and far between, so it’s best to capitalize on opportunities when they are presented.
This issue is not “black and white,” and I know as parents,we want to make every dream come true for our children, many times at a cost that others might not understand, but is there a boundary to this? At some point, we have to guide (and sometimes push) our children to make the most practical decision, right?
Missy is nearly an adult in the eyes of the law (17 years old) and ultimately should be allowed to make her own decisions, going against whatever conventions she likes and learning life lessons on her own, but I cannot shake the feeling that this move is fiscally irresponsible. I’m truly hoping opportunity knocks again and that this story ends with Missy living happily ever after.
What would you do/say if it were your daughter?
|Typical Day in Consulting|
Here is another question that a lot of people thinking about going into consulting ask: what is a typical day in management consulting? First, let me say that there isn’t really a typical day, client, or project. Everyday there is a good chance you will find yourself doing something that you weren’t expecting. I’ll give you a recent example: one of our senior partners was initially only going to participate in a client meeting via phone on a limited basis, and next thing we know she tells us she is flying into Boston to speak with the client in person, so we (i.e. I) needed to make sure the partner was fully prepped on the work we are doing at the client and the vision going forward. It wasn’t something I had planned for, but it was something that needed to be done.
You begin each with a certain list of things you want to accomplish but flexibility and the ability to prioritize will become your two new best friends. Just make sure you understand the big picture of your assignment so that you can prioritize correctly, and if you don’t have a firm grasp on the big picture then you should ask.Trust me – it’s better to get it right up front than to have someone asking you later on why you didn’t you clarify things.
With respect to typical clients (the people in this case, not the company), you may find yourself specializing in a particular industry, but there is no predicting the types of personalities you will encounter at a given company. Truth be told, the same applies internally to the colleagues you will work with on your project teams. While you may try to work again with people you gel with on future assignments, there are always some different players that come into the picture and change the chemistry of the team. The change doesn’t have to be good or bad, per se. It’s just different and takes some time to adjust.
Each project, even when performing the same type of work, has different challenges that you will face, particularly company culture. The culture goes beyond the individual personalities that I referenced in the previous paragraph. Culture speaks to how business operate as a whole in dealing with both external parties (customers) and internal parties (employees) and how the business responds in the face of change. The change piece is the one you have to really monitor. Just because your previously client was able to do something in 10 weeks that does not mean this client can do it in the same amount of time.
The underlying reasons for the difference in change uptake can vary. It may be as simple as resources are constrained and you need to extend your timeline as a result (i.e. you have to understand what % people are dedicated to a project as they are still responsible for their “day job”) or something complex such as being fearful that their jobs will be rendered obsolete. The bottom line here is to work with your direct client contact to understand the environment you’re working in and the most efficient and effective ways to get things done.
Any more specific questions on a “typical day” just let me know in the comments.