Starting your first job can be both exciting and daunting. While we can’t give you all the secrets about the consulting world – as many you’ll have to learn about while on the job – we can share some advice to help you become a great consultant. These tips were compiled by employees who joined CRA direct from school and know how it feels to be the newbie.
Basic tips for success
Keep learning – you’re not done when you finish college. Whether it’s technical skills, like SAS or STATA, or new ways to create data visualization, there’s always something at which you can get better.
Effective communication is key. Don’t be afraid to approach anyone on your project, whether he/she is an Analyst or VP. Ask questions, and be on the same page as the rest of your team.
Continuously improve yourself. There are a lot of great opportunities at CRA. Though you come in as a junior trying to please others, don’t forget about your own professional development and interests. Taking initiative to complete a CFA exam, receive a certification, etc. is something CRA will support you doing through the Tuition Aid program, even if it’s not necessarily project work.
How do I stay productive during down time between projects?
Let people know you have down time. The staffing model is fluid, and a different VP can give you work. You can take on a pro bono assignment or a marketing project. Even if you have just one free afternoon, you can ask those around you if they need help with work. Other free time can be spent watching training modules and learning technical skills.
Write articles during your down time as it’s a great opportunity to try your hand at something different. Similarly, staying up to date on the industry is key. Research the hot topics happening within your practice/industry so that if you get staffed on a project, you are already a step ahead.
I’m not sure which of my skills will be useful when I get to CRA. How do I acquire more?
If you don’t know something ‘fess up! Ask questions of your peers and learn from them. It’s likely less time for them to teach you something than it would take you to do it yourself.
Over time you are going to develop hard skills working here. But it is equally as necessary to develop your soft skills like communication and presentation skills. Don’t be shy in raising your hand for opportunities!
How to handle the transition from school to work
There is a learning curve with the transition from college to the workforce. At university you are accountable for yourself, your grades, etc. You can even procrastinate on studying. In the workplace, however, there are constant deliverables and other people depending on you. Try to be a collaborative person and team player.
Speaking of collaboration…
Your practice may experience slower times of the year. Reach out and offer to help another practice! Cross-practice work is both interesting and rewarding, but you have to take the lead to dive into it. Do make sure to check with your practice before you go shopping for other projects.
How to be helpful even when you’re new
Be straightforward – ask for ways you can help! Do this via email, pop into offices, whatever is comfortable. Over time you will build relationships with managers that you like. Keep in mind, however, that you should start small so as not to sabotage yourself. Reach out to one or two VPs initially. You want to keep your word and get the work done you said you would.
Utilize your peers. If someone is slammed, offer your assistance – even if they’re in another practice.
Communicate with your staffing coordinator. They will know how much free time you have, and keeping in touch with him/her will give you the best opportunity. If you let your coordinator know you have Friday free, someone may come to your coordinator with work those days, and the coordinator will know to turn to you.
There are many ways to be involved at CRA. Each CRA office has a Social Committee, which is a popular initiative people like to join. The groups set up office happy hours, plan sporting events, and coordinate other fun outings. Other opportunities outside of project work such as the Volunteer Committee or assisting with recruiting efforts are both enjoyable and helpful for the firm. Joining a committee will help you meet people outside your practice who can be a helpful resource. CRA cares about your work/life balance and they are willing to fund the budget so you can enjoy yourself!
We hope you find these tips useful as you launch your career. Our collegial, academic, and friendly atmosphere is a wonderful environment in which to thrive and be as successful a consultant as possible.