The role of luck in the job search

Recently I sat on a panel of 5 individuals who just went through a career transition. As we all told our stories every single panelist at some point said something similar: without a little luck or good fortune in their job search, they wouldn’t have ended up being successful in their job search
Yes, you need to work hard, network your butt off, make connections and prepare for your interviews, but even if you do all of those things you may not find success right away. At some point in every successful job search, a little bit of luck happens that helps the bounces go the right way. An old colleague who makes a referral. An interviewer who shares the same passion for a hobby or activity. Or a tip on a job posting from a friend. This doesn’t invalidate your hard work and preparation, but it gives you a leg up that you sometimes need in a process that involves so many things that are outside of your control.
On the flipside, you could do absolutely zero of those things, and apply online to a job and get an interview right away. It’s a bit maddening and somewhat unfair, but that’s the reality of life!
While it might be tempting to roll the dice and not put in any efforts, time and time again when I work with clients on their job search I notice an interesting trend: While hard work doesn’t guarantee anything, the people who prepare and work hard are the ones who eventually get that lucky break. It reminds me of the phrase, luck happens where preparation meets opportunity.
Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”

 

So what does luck look like?

– I didn’t know of the company even existed before a classmate of mine told me about it. I learned and read as much as I could and navigated the interview process and eventually got an offer. My hiring manager told me my passion and knowledge of the company was unmatched by any other candidate.
– The recruiter made a mistake, and thought put me forward for the wrong role. I ended up striking up a great conversation with the hiring manager and she became my advocate in the interview process. Even though I wasn’t in the right city I got the offer
– I was complaining about my job to a friend, who told me her old boss was looking for someone with my exact experience. The job was never posted externally. After I made it through the final round, there was a hiring freeze. My Father ended up next to the SVP of HR on an airplane, and happened to mention my situation. The guy sent a few emails, and a few days later I got an offer
– I moved to San Francisco without a job after graduation and told everyone I knew that I was applying and looking for roles. I reached out to everyone who I had networked with during the year. The first person emailed me back saying someone had left their team and they needed someone with my exact skillset. They asked if I could come in and meet the team, and over that week I interviewed with everyone and got hired.
I didn’t like my job and wanted to start searching but couldn’t find the motivation. I ended up going to a birthday party and mentioning to someone that I was looking to go to a much more established tech company, and that person connected me to his friend who was standing right next to him. He referred me to an open role, and the first guy knew the hiring manager and put in a good word to my now boss. 
I could go on, but at this point I think you get the point. Everyone every now and then needs a little luck, but with the right process, patience and persistence, you’ll be well on your way to making things happen.

What Mike Tyson can teach us about navigating the career search

I was talking to someone about the randomness and luck that happens in the job search, and how sometimes things can get derailed. We can have visions and dreams of the job we want, the company that we desire, and the dream role, but sometimes making that all happen doesn’t go as planned. 

First and foremost, having a plan is a good place to start! Proactively thinking through what could happen helps you identify what work needs to be done and provides a very actionable process to follow to make progress. Please don’t stop that!
Having said that, as Mike Tyson alludes to, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  Sometimes things get in the way that serve as a wakeup call (or a punch in the face) Maybe your dream company doesn’t have a role for you, or maybe the alum you identified who you hoped would give you a referral didn’t respond to your e-mail –  That’s okay, it just means you have to find another path in.
To do this, draw on inspiration from Rohan Rajiv’s Concept of Plan’s A-F.  Rohan says,
The first and most important assumption I’ll make is that you know exactly what you want to do. Once you do so, construct plans A-F. This means having at least 6 routes to the destination. I say plans A-F because it is highly unlikely your plan A will work. And, as you cycle through them, it’ll become easier to move past F to other alphabets”
When you want to target a new opportunity or destination, come up with multiple routs for how you could get there. Instead of just having a Plan A, you can have a plan B, C, D, E. Having some backup options ensures that if you do happen to get punched in the face, you can get back up and find the best route forward. As an example, plan A might be simply to get your way in through a referral from a colleague, but B,C, and D might look like this:
B – Have an alum connect you to a hiring manager
C – Move across country to be there in person
D – Find other companies who still fit my criteria but are less competitive
The job search is filled with uncertainty and there will be plenty of things that are outside of your control. Having said that, thinking through a number of paths into a company helps you get creative about how you can find a way into a specific company, and helps you prioritize and understand the resources, tasks and people that you need to help you navigate the job search process.
Finally, this is a perfect reminder that there isn’t one clear path into a particular company or job opportunity. Ask 10 people who work at a company how they got their job and you probably will get many different answers.
While it would be nice if there were a magic and repeatable formula for success for finding a job, I’m confident that with patience and persistence the process will yield results. There is something to be said about learning through the journey, but I can appreciate that might not seem so rosy when you’re going through the process. The good news is that thousands of people find jobs every day, and your day will come in due time, especially if you’ve thought out a few different paths to get there.

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6 Challenges of working as a Management Consultant

I’ve been fielding a lot of informational interviews lately with undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in consulting. I enjoy these conversations and helping students along their career search journey.

Inevitably, students (rightfully) will ask a question about the challenges working in the consulting industry. I’ve compiled a list of challenges that consultants often encounter in their career. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to share your additional ones.

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Bad Project – Not all projects are amazing. Furthermore, while some projects can sound sexy (Strategy, M&A, etc.) there are lots of challenges and difficulties that can derail even the coolest sounding projects. Companies don’t pay firms a lot of money to solve easy problems, they pay them to solve complex and challenging ones. Projects can be bad for lots of reasons. Tight timelines, unreasonable demands, not enough resources, and the list goes on. If you work in this industry long enough, you’ll be guaranteed to have one.

Difficult Client –Clients are investing lots of money into consultants to solve difficult problems. As such, they demand results and progress, regardless of its reasonable or rationale. At some point, you’ll have a client who despite the circumstances and constraints is incredibly unreasonable or irrational with their demands. Despite this, you’ll have to figure out how to best meet and exceed their expectations, even if it seems unreasonable.

Tough Team – Hopefully, you end up at a firm where you fit in with the culture and around people whom you like and respect. While many firms put care and thought into assembling project teams, you’re not going to like or work well with every single person you meet.

Curveballs – Things change quickly in consulting. M&A Team Lead role you signed up for suddenly changes to you being the entire team. The role where you thought you were managing five resources only has 3 resources due to the project budget. Curveballs and changes are routine in this job

Demanding Travel – For most consultants, travel is a part of the job. While policies differ firm to firm (local, regional, national) there is always the chance that you get stuck with a travel schedule that stinks. Maybe it’s because you have to go to North Dakota for 6 months. Maybe you’re doing cross-country flights with redeye’s back on Saturday mornings. Or, maybe you have to fly out Sunday nights. At the end of the day, consultants go where the business (see $$) is, and if the $$ is in North Dakota, you’ll be headed there shortly.

Not being able to make personal plans. Ever. – If you’re traveling Monday-Thursday it can be hard to make plans during the week. Furthermore, I’m sure you want to go home for Thanksgiving to see your family, but since you don’t know where your next project is going to be its hard to know where to book your flight home. The uncertainty and unpredictability of consulting can make it difficult to make personal plans (see live a normal life) It can make the most normal of things (ex: scheduling a doctor’s appointment) a truly difficult task.

Here’s the thing: Every job has its ups and downs. Similar to picking a significant other, picking a job is like means taking the best and worst of your selection. Sure, some of these scenarios are crappy, but if you can navigate through these situations (and make the best of them) there’s a high likelihood you’ll enjoy the profession.

Furthermore, the nature of consulting is temporary – you’re on a project for x amount of weeks and months and then you move onto the next one. The good news is that if you encounter any of these challenges there is always an end in sight. The next project serves as an opportunity for a fresh start. If you do this long enough, I’m confident there will be more good memories than bad ones. In my next post, I’ll examine some ways to manage these situations.