19 Feb, 2012 | by

Several years ago, I was chatting with a friend who was laboring under an almost six-figure undergraduate debt after attending a prestigious, top-tier university and then becoming a public school teacher.  We had both paid particularly close attention when our most trusted high school mentor, an alumnus of such illustrious schools as Holy Cross and Brown University, told us sagely that when it comes to college, “You get what you pay for.”  The schools we chose to grace with our attendance were both pricey, well-regarded institutions of higher learning, but the difference between us was that my education was almost entirely paid for with scholarships and grants.  My friend, on the other hand, had to finance his degree.  He had reached the end of his deferment eligibility on some of his student loans, and he was feeling the pressure.  I could see that he was beginning to panic.

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21 Jan, 2012 | by

After tying up some paperwork to officially bring the engagement to a close, I walked the client’s hallways to say good bye to the friends and colleagues I had made over the previous five months:  “Rich, it was an absolute pleasure working with you.  Do make sure you keep in touch.  So, what’s next for you now”?  To which I almost always reply:  “That’s a good question.  I have no idea, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I land.”  After a few hearty hand-shakes and a couple of heart-felt good-byes, I turned in my security clearance and exited the building.  Before entering the taxi standing by to whisk me away, I closed my eyes and took a brief moment to contemplate the experience.  Shortly thereafter, I opened my eyes, let out a deep sigh and thought to myself:  “It’s time to move on to the next challenge.”  “Where to sir?” replied the patient taxi driver.  “Airport, please.  I’m eager to get home”. continue reading »

30 Aug, 2010 | by

The following article is an extension of The Resilient Consultant (Part 1 of 2):  Five Steps to bounce back from failure.  It’s a logical spin-off to cover what I believe to be an extremely vital topic, which will most assuredly help you obtain some perspective.  It will provide five key steps to minimizing future engagement failures and protect your personal brand in the process.  I’d like to point out that these steps go beyond a standard methodology for managing an engagement.  There are plenty of materials out there that cover that space, so you won’t find that here.  What you will find are proactive steps an individual can take across the full range of the sales life cycle, from pursuit to execution, that better position him or her for success.

However, just like any other methodology, the following guidance will not guarantee that you never encounter a bad engagement again.  In fact, I suggest that you accept the absolute certainty that you will be confronted with bad engagements at some point, so please save yourself the suspense.  Some of the most dramatic personal growth I’ve achieved in my career has come directly from bad projects.  Don’t be afraid of the challenge; embrace it.  Just be mentally prepared to take on anything and get ready to adapt.  continue reading »

28 Feb, 2010 | by

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My heart was beating through my chest, and my mind racing.  The same thought kept replaying over and over again within my cerebral cortex:  “I’m not prepared for this meeting.  How did I allow myself to get into this situation”?  After my colleague and I entered the client’s palatial office, I calmly sat down and distributed the packet of information that we would be reviewing.  I was confident with the early part of the presentation but was struck with an escalating sense of foreboding as the conversation progressed.  His eyes said it all, but his words would remove any doubt:  “I was expecting something very different.  I am now stuck in the unenviable position of having to make a difficult decision…Either postpone tomorrow’s board meeting, yet again, or trust that this presentation will be properly fixed by tomorrow morning”.  His comments, coupled with my senior colleague’s less than stellar support, shook me to my very core.  I was thrown under the proverbial bus, and I knew there was no coming back from it.  Less than two weeks into a new engagement, I was surreptitiously rolled off the client.  Just like that…I was done. 

Never in my career had I experienced such a profound sense of failure and anger, in both myself and the project’s leadership team.  I cannot put into words just how deeply my confidence had been shaken.   In many cases, a consultant’s effectiveness is directly tied to his ability to exude confidence.  Had I lost my Mojo?  Had my personal brand been tarnished?  How could I recover from something like this? continue reading »

17 Aug, 2009 | by

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(Photo:  Adam Lyon)

About a year ago, I was strongly considering the pursuit of an executive MBA to compliment my existing advanced degree in technology management.  I had been on the fence about the decision for quite some time.  Part me of felt as though my education would be that much more enhanced with the addition of those three little letters to bolster my resume.  Another part of me just felt as though I had unfinished business from several years prior.  You see, my graduate degree was comprised of about 1/3 of the standard MBA curriculum so I theoretically could have declared a dual degree approach.  But I didn’t.  At the time it just didn’t make much sense.  I had just landed a new job as a consultant and I knew my time would be very limited moving forward.   

As I revisited the possibility of heading back to school, an executive MBA was the only thing that might be able to comport with my hectic work schedule.  I decided to attempt to obtain firm sponsorship so my tuition fees would covered.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut as only 1 out of a little over 2o applicants received sponsorship.  This was at the height of our economic downward spiral so the outcome really didn’t surprise me at the time.  Trying to obtain firm sponsorship was even more challenging then the actual executive MBA application itself.  Not only did I need to provide a completed application that I’d be providing to the university I was applying to, but there were also series of other internal applications and recommendations I needed to provide.  It was an extremely painful process.

As you could imagine, the process left me with a number of completed applications; including my precious essays which would sadly never see the light of day.  Rather then cast them into the abyss of my My Documents folder, I felt that it might be helpful to some if I shared a sample essay response to one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions.  The hope is that my personal style to the essay may help spark new ideas to help enhance your own response, and ultimately increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.  To be clear, this is not an approval to plagiarize the essay.  Writing an MBA essay for admissions is a profoundly personal activity.  It should reflect who you are, and not what you think the admission’s committee would like to hear.   

The following is one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions:  Why are you an ideal candidate for the Executive MBA Program and how will your professional and personal accomplishments benefit your EMBA colleagues?  continue reading »

17 Jun, 2009 | by

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I’m frequently asked by friends, family, clients, job candidates and random people I encounter on my travels what it’s like to work on the advisory side of a Big 4 firm.  Typically, if there’s time to discuss and there’s mutual interest in the exchange, I’m immediately bombarded with a slew of follow-up questions like:  What do you do exactly?  How does one get into that line of work?  How much do you travel?  Is it a good career path?  Is there such a thing as work-life balance?  Is it challenging?  Do you think I’d be good at it?  And so on…

The reason I’m so consistently willing to discuss my perspective with so many people, especially young professionals, is that I was once in their position and had many of the same questions.  When I received answers to my inquiries from people in the profession, many of whom continue to this day to be my friends, I was intrigued.  After some time contemplating the potential challenges that such a job would offer, I decided to pursue a chance opportunity to join the ranks of Ernst & Young LLP.  I’ve been with the firm almost three years now.  Looking back, I feel as though the six years of professional experience I had accumulated prior to joining E&Y, although invaluable on many levels, simply did not hold a candle to the client exposure, professional networks and shear rapid-fire experiences afforded to me in my present capacity.  I must confess, however, that this outlook reflects how I feel today, which wasn’t always the case.  Reaching this point has taken an immense amount of patience, hard work, resilience, ambition, and even a little luck.  Yes…I said luck. 

To be clear, this article has not been written under the guise of any Big Four recruiters.  Its goal is not to solicit top talent or self-promote services offered or whatever other angles you might have running through your head right now.  I respect all of the Big Four firms, especially mine, a great deal but feel that the only way to offer up a truly unbiased perspective on the lifestyle is to provide genuinely candid insight.  The primary purpose of this article is to offer a balanced perspective to those who may be interested in such a career path regardless of industry focus or subject matter area.  continue reading »

12 Apr, 2009 | by

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I have officially ended my transition; it lasted just over 230 days.  As I sit and look back at more than seven months of uncertainty, I thought this would be a good time to share some ideas that might help others facing their own journey.  Please keep in mind that I am not an expert.  I have no advanced degree in psychology or training as a career advisor, I am just a guy that made it through to the other side and has a point of view.

Network
The key, and you already know it, to surviving transition is networking.  Groan all you like, but there are plenty of statistics that show how few people land jobs through the online job boards.  Use them to be sure, just don’t count on them.  Recruiters aren’t the sure source they were in times past; companies are cutting corners everywhere, including the usage of staffing firms.  It all comes down to who you know.  And don’t wait until you see an open job to start your calls, it’s just as critical to get in the door for the job open today as well as being there before tomorrow’s job is even posted. continue reading »

7 Mar, 2009 | by


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I just celebrated the six month anniversary of being in transition.  That’s the vogue way of saying unemployed these days.  Like many, I was recently down-sized, or as I was told to say, my position was recently eliminated due to a re-organization.  However you word it, I am out looking for work.

Reflection is inevitable during this type of life change, and I find myself looking back at the “rules” of Corporate America and how they seem to have changed. You know the ones I mean, those unwritten truisms we all know and try to live by, yet never saw in any handbook.  I thought I would offer an updated perspective during these uncertain times, from the other side of the paycheck.

Before I begin, let me say, I am not an expert.  I am not a career coach with formal training or special insights into the job market.  I’m just a guy, like many of you, making some observations based on my journey. continue reading »

5 Feb, 2009 | by

I think most would agree that effective verbal communication is a fundamental skill needed in order to succeed in both business and life. Whether it’s in the board room or a family outing, how you articulate your thoughts ultimately defines who you are in the eyes of others. These instant perceptions could very well dictate your opportunities for career advancement or even opportunities to build personal friendships.

Let me present you with a hypothetical scenario. Frank (nice innocuous name) has just been tasked to research a potential solution to a lingering business issue within his organization. He did the appropriate legwork and put together a solid business case to justify a project idea that will once and for all address that pesky problem. He prepares a sharp Power Point presentation to make his pitch enticing. Afterwards he’s greeted with a lukewarm response from the audience but is still confident that the supporting data is too compelling for his idea to be shot down. Several weeks go by. Frank’s then told by a colleague, in passing, that the project idea was canned. How could that be, he thinks to himself? The solution was sublime. Oh well, I guess there was just no budget for it. I have no control over that. Life goes on. Several months go by when Frank learns that the project finally gets the green light. He feels a deep sense of vindication that the organization finally came to its senses.

 

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22 Jan, 2009 | by

I created the model of 4 Mind-Sets and 7 Stages of Business Life in order to give you a simple but proven roadmap to success. Here’s how it works.

First identify which mind-set is yours right now:

  • Technician: In this mind-set you do as you were trained to, depending on leadership and decisions from others. Those dissatisfied will soon become inspired to move to the next level.
  • Entrepreneur: With this attitude you venture out on your own. But once you become established, you need to delegate work to others and manage time and energy more effectively in order to grow.
  • Business Builder: In this mind-set you increase success by putting human resources and technical and managerial systems into place. You expand your business – and your profitability – exponentially, freeing up more time and money to look toward the future.
  • CEO: The CEO mind-set is characterized by abilities, tools, assets, and resources to plot your own course – both professionally and personally – and do whatever you want to in life. You can dream big and then fulfill those dreams because you have reached the pinnacle of success.

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