What to do between the offer and the first day
The offer letter swam in and out of focus. I had been staring at my laptop screen for the past hour, reading eleven pages of terms and conditions for the umpteenth time. I could only think of my grandmother’s famous Thanksgiving stuffing. The smell of it – rich, slightly nutty, full of seasonings – wafted under my nose. Finally, after careful deliberation, I followed my heart (and my stomach.) I hit “Send” and officially accepted an Analyst position at Charles River Associates.
I raced down the stairs and into the kitchen. After I shoveled a scoop of mashed potatoes, a few slivers of turkey, and heaps upon heaps of stuffing onto my plate, I plunked down on the couch next to my cousins. We watched my hometown Washington Redskins get steamrolled by the Dallas Cowboys.
Eight months remained before the start of Research & Analysis Core (RAC) Training (introductory training for all CRA Analysts) in August. Besides watch football on Thanksgiving Day, what could I do in the interim?
An incoming Analyst or Associate at CRA should celebrate and unwind. The recruiting process is stressful! However, with light preparation, you can contribute to real project work on Day 1.
1) Update your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a great resource to promote CRA and develop your own brand. If you haven’t already, make sure to follow CRA and share their media releases. It’s not too early to put “Incoming Analyst/Associate at CRA” as your LinkedIn byline, even if you don’t know the specifics of your project work. An updated byline lets other employers know that you’re off the job market and allows you to connect with your future colleagues.
2) Work on your Elevator Pitch
Lots of people will ask about your new job. You should be able to describe, in general terms, how you’ll contribute to society. I suggest developing two pitches: a technical one, and one in layman’s terms. For example, I like to relate my work to my family’s experiences. I’m in the Energy practice, so I’d say: “I’m helping your power company produce more clean energy and lower your monthly bills.”
3) Practice Excel
A great consultant is an Excel master. There’s no way around it. You’ll learn your practice-specific programs on the job, but there’s no harm in learning about Excel logic functions (SUMIFS, AND, OR) and shortcuts (did you know that F11 automatically generates a chart for a highlighted array?) before beginning your project work.
4) Shop for Work Clothes
Most junior staff won’t be meeting with clients directly, so the dress code at CRA is not always “business formal”. However, first impressions are important, and sharp dress improves posture and confidence (see below), makes you feel polished, and establishes a productive mindset. Purchase two or three well-fitting formal business suits, two each of “business semi-formal” and “business casual” outfits, and finally, a piece for Casual Friday. Yes, it exists here. I like to sport my cowboy boots!
5) Improve your Posture and Confidence
Analysts and Associates should prepare to one day meet clients directly or solicit projects for the practice by making connections. Practice eye contact and a firm handshake. Whenever you get a chance, roll your shoulders back and face your palms skyward. Don’t unnecessarily apologize. You were hired for a reason – you’re going to be a great consultant.
6) Prepare to Relocate
Whether you’re working in your hometown or traveling abroad to start your new position, you should read the Housing and City Guides that your office will send in early spring. The Housing Guides will describe the pros and cons of living in certain parts of the city, such as price range and proximity to public transit. This information can narrow your roommate and apartment search. Use Facebook groups and Craigslist, but don’t be afraid to reach out within your Analyst class. The City Guides contain staff picks for lunch near the office, activities, history, and city culture.
7) Listen to a Financial Results Call from Our CEO
Every three months, our fearless leader Paul Maleh invites investors and staff to a webcast about CRA’s recent performance. This is a great chance to learn about company trends and your practice’s performance. You might also hear about some pain points. Take note and do your part to help fix them as a new Analyst or Associate. You can also sign up for investor relations email alerts to stay up to date on CRA’s financial news
8) Keep Abreast of Industry News
If your practice works within a specific industry, make sure you’re keeping up with industry news. Is a big merger pending? What are the newest patents in your industry? Sign up for Google e-mail alerts, push notifications, or download industry-specific news apps.
Clear, concise writing is a staple skill for a CRA consultant. You will communicate with a wide range of audiences. CEOs will read your project proposals. Regional judges will read your rebuttals. Anyone can read your whitepaper. Read industry papers and legalese, but also read popular prose: Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Hemingway, King. Perhaps even leaf through the United States Constitution and interpret legal language. The flow and cadence of good writing will become second nature.
10) Relax! Enjoy!
Enjoy the last semester of your degree! Use your eight months of stress-free time to pick up a new hobby that brings you joy or try out a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ll have an amazing story to tell your colleagues once you arrive at RAC!
Congratulations again, and I hope to meet you at RAC soon.