Tying back to my post this past Friday on recruiting, I wanted to take a brief moment to share what-I-feel is a blunt and honest system for benchmarking your existing role within the context of what a “great role” is in consulting. I have borrowed part of this system from a couple colleagues and expanded on various areas to make it fit within the context of what I have found to be true in my journeys (I call it the “satisfaction quotient” – very original, I know). The premise is simple – you will never find the “perfect project”. The quicker you accept that, the quicker you can start to see the silver lining across various areas that matter to you. And your happiness and willingness to get up and jump on that plane Monday morning is the ultimate sanity savior when all else fails and you feel like you are running in circles.
- Client – The client you are working for: If you are working for a mom and pop shop that has a risk of being acquired at any moment, what would that mean for the body of work you’ve completed? Similarly, are you working on a huge project at a massive company where your efforts may get lost in the mix? Either way, I always like to look at the client I’m working for and the context of where they are at in their corporate history. If their organizational context or place in history helps tell a better story – I consider that a huge win (e.g. if I am helping with a people/process/technology transformation for a client that is at a major crossroads and is about to take a huge step forward in the marketplace).
- Industry – The industry you are working in: If you enjoy working in the health sector and are stuck on a public utilities project, is that something that is going to be beneficial for you in the long run? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps your company has skills aligned by technology verticals in which case you are more or less fixed in delivering to one specific industry. Does that industry interest you? Does it have staying power? Just remember that all the work you are completing will eventually fall on your resume and the more you can develop competency in a given space, the more marketable and in-demand your services will be. So I hope you like it!
- Scope – The scope of the project you are working on: If your project only touches a small part of the business or is a low-cost pilot or trial, is there a chance that your efforts are ultimately going to be thrown away? Alternatively, if you think your project is huge in scope and may never really prove out the original ROI per the business case, will that perceived failure follow you for a period of time in your career? Again, it all comes back to the story you are able to tell. It’s always refreshing to step back after a project and say you were comfortable or proud of the accomplishments you made given the scope of the project (it never hurts to brag a bit). I also consider the project context as part of scope (i.e. whether you’re working 40 or 100 hours a week). I firmly believe that most people who are working long hours do so mainly because the sales team overscoped/understaffed a project rendering it nearly impossible to deliver given the known human capital constraints – hence why people work long hours/weekends to try and close that gap even though it’s probably not their fault.
- Role – The role you have on the project: As with the scope of the project, your direct role, responsibility, and contributions to the project are key in determining whether you feel like a project is a good fit. If you have recently been promoted and are ready for the next step – would it be best to take a PMO role where you don’t have anyone reporting to you? This is just one more area where you are continuing to develop your story and expand your resume. A lot of interviewers I have heard lately are increasingly asking, rather than what projects you’ve worked on, is what YOU SPECIFICALLY have done on those projects. Make sure you are able to tell a good story based upon your position and responsibilities!
- People – The people you are working with: If you are generally happy with the people you are working with, it can nearly drown out the rest of the categories mentioned. This is perhaps the single most important area that many people fail to acknowledge (i.e. How many people have you heard complain about “hating their boss”, “hating their client”, or worse?). It is extremely important for a self-worth and satisfaction standpoint to legitimately enjoy the people you work with. I’m not saying you should be looking strictly for people you’d want to have a beer with, but these are the people you will ultimately spend more time with than your loved ones. You may as well at least enjoy their presence.
Your satisfaction quotient is equal to the number of categories above where you say “I’m happy with this” relative to the overall set of areas (5 – Client, Industry, Scope, Role, People). If you are batting more than 3 for 5 in the categories above, you are approaching consulting nirvana. If, for some strange reason, you have stumbled into something like 5 out of 5 – you should keep your mouth shut and ride that wave as long as you can. It really does not get any better than that. And, if you are stuck with 2 or less – it might be time to navigate yourself on to something new.
Til Next Time,