Help please - feeling inferior...

(42 Posts)
LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 13:51:51

My first started thread so please be gentle.

6 weeks ago I started at a Big 4 consultancy in quite a niche area (not Audit, Tax etc).

This was a big move for me - I'm 32 and had spent the last 8 years within a dot.com company, most recently managing my own team in said niche area (i.e. not a consultant before). I felt at the stage where I wanted a new challenge, and was amazed to even land an interview with this company, let alone a job - plus sizable pay rise. .

I expected to have a difficult transition period, knowing that these companies can be quite demanding and have high expectations of new joiners, plus adapting to a consultancy environment, different corporate culture etc etc, but felt like the role would offer me the chance to learn a lot about my industry and the name on the CV would be good as well.

But now I feel like I've made a MASSIVE mistake.

I feel in waaaaaaaaay over my head and vastly inferior to all these bright young things (until now, I thought I was a reasonably high achiever), and am getting very little help or support from anyone - my director is a genius (truly!) but doesn't really seem to do "listening" or "support" when it comes to people under his management.

Workwise, I feel between a rock and a hard place - either I am sitting doing nothing, or being thrown into things I'm not equipped to do. I feel like I'm either playing in the paddling pool or being chucked in the deep end, IYSWIM - no one is helping me swim at all! The bits and pieces of work I've done so far have got some positive feedback, but that's quite small fry stuff really.

I hate all this emphasis on "networking" and "building yourself as a brand" - I can't bear networking (am quite shy) and have to force myself to do it each time! And all the buzzwords ("granularity", "boiling the ocean" etc) that people here use in a non-ironic sense <boak>. And am dreading the day they throw me in at the deep end in front of a client, and I end up making a total tit of myself for total lack of any training (none at all - bar generic induction) or clue what I'm doing here...

I feel like I need to make it a year here for this to be for any greater good and not look a quitter on my CV, but there's a nagging voice saying to start looking again and get the hell out as soon as possible...

I guess this is less of an AIBU and more a plea for a bit of objective advice. I know I am lucky to have landed a job like this, but in all honesty I'm wondering now whether for the first time I have bitten off more than I can chew here....

Hellocampers Wed 16-Sep-15 14:05:36

The work you have done so far have got positive feedback so hang on here you are obviously going a great job. Deep breath and concentrate on what's important in shy job and that's to deliver.

All the other crap of networking and buzzwords leave to the kids. They will grow up soon. grin

Do the jobs assigned to you as well as you can. Be friendly and professional and guessing you will he a great success.

Sazzle41 Wed 16-Sep-15 14:08:05

You arent in London by any chance are you? It's sink or swim with minimal training at whatever level I find at the big 'corporates'. I speak as someone in Banking at lower level who is 'Mummy' to the Grads and onboards/looks after new starters at all levels. What is it you feel not trained or equipped to do - the client facing stuff ? Is it giving presentations of what you can provide that bothers you, or sitting down with clients and telling them? If you give a bit more info people would probably be able to give you some pointers.. Is there a company powerpont template for bog standard presentations for instance, if not does anyone have an old one you can have as an example etc etc. Is there a shared drive where people put stuff that would give you help and pointers? Is there anyone not your manager who would be sympathetic if you admitted you feel rudderless and clueless?

The corporate speak BS... we have all been there, it makes us all cringe, ignore it. Networking is bascially, these people might know other people who might want us to work for them. If you aren't social or cant pretend to be, is Consultancy for you? If you still feel the same in 6months I would stick it a year then move back to what you like. Life's too short.

Hornydilemma Wed 16-Sep-15 14:10:53

Can you get a mentor within the company?
Pick someone senior (but not your director!) who seems to have both knowledge and the ability to impart it.
Ask them if they would consider the role for a few months, or if they could recommend someone who would be a good fit (probably best via email so they have a chance to think about the request without the pressure of you standing at their desk)
Look up mentoring on Google - see how to get the most out of it without plaguing your mentor!
Let your director know that you are looking for a mentor - package it that you are looking to broaden your experience - flatter the director a bit so his/her nose is not put out of joint.
If someone worked for me and had the nous and motivation to get themselves a mentor in a different area of the company I'd be quite impressed!

fluffikins Wed 16-Sep-15 14:13:29

If you think of networking as gossiping it becomes a lot easier.

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 14:24:28

Thanks all.

Yes, I'm in London.

I am naturally a bit of an introvert, but this never seemed to bother me before in a work context, as looking back I always knew my stuff and could speak confidently about it - whereas now I don't feel like I know anything!

I came into this thinking I would try it for a year for the sake of my CV and the fact that I would learn a lot across different industries / projects etc (my primary aim), and then move back into industry knowing a lot more than I did before on the back of it - I never saw myself as a consultant long-term. Now I am wondering if I can even stick it that long!

A mentor is a good idea - the problem being that everyone here is so busy (except for me, it seems), that I'd probably never get to see them. I was assigned a buddy who I've seen all of once, as he's on a project abroad, and an appraiser who is also on a different site, so not a lot of access to those who are supposed to help me as it is!

I never expected to be "hand held", but I did figure on there being at least something in place to help point me in the right direction.

I am pushing myself to go up and chat to people, volunteer to do stuff, even go into large groups of strangers and go up and force myself to speak to them. I don't think I've come across as anything other than someone who can talk to people - even if on the inside I'm dying a bit!

To all intents and purposes, I am swimming for the moment on the little bits and pieces I've had to do so far - and still I just feel massively out of my comfort zone and thoroughly demotivated anyway... sad

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 14:40:45

You arent in London by any chance are you? It's sink or swim with minimal training at whatever level I find at the big 'corporates'. I speak as someone in Banking at lower level who is 'Mummy' to the Grads and onboards/looks after new starters at all levels. What is it you feel not trained or equipped to do - the client facing stuff ? Is it giving presentations of what you can provide that bothers you, or sitting down with clients and telling them? If you give a bit more info people would probably be able to give you some pointers.. Is there a company powerpont template for bog standard presentations for instance, if not does anyone have an old one you can have as an example etc etc. Is there a shared drive where people put stuff that would give you help and pointers? Is there anyone not your manager who would be sympathetic if you admitted you feel rudderless and clueless?

I am fine with Powerpoints, presentations and talking to clients, or at least was where I was before, when I knew my stuff!

I guess I feel like in a bit of an informational void - I don't think I'd even know the right questions to ask to a client on a project, and certainly not how to answer any of theirs... They might as well have plucked someone from the street and said "Here, be a consultant" for all I feel I know at the moment...

Feel a bit of a fraud even being here, to be honest.

marge26 Wed 16-Sep-15 15:11:14

Hang in there OP. I also work in Big4 consulting. Please know that there is a massive amount of BS! You have EIGHT years industry experience, believe me, you know loads! Some of these "bright young things" have probably never worked in industry, but they do know how to talk the talk. I also cringe at the "selling yourself" crap that it is needed in this type of environment. IME there's no way around it, you just have to fake it!
It sounds like being idle isn't helping your paranoia! I would suggest you get involved in any proposals/tenders and aim to get yourself on a big job. Once you are busy you should feel like you are contributing more.
Also, ask someone on your team for a link to the online training - there should be some short online courses on "consulting" skills etc which might help you feel more prepared in general. If no one on the team can help, phone the central HR team and ask for a Learning and Development contact.
Good luck. It's a massive culture shock moving into this environment but you can survive it.

marge26 Wed 16-Sep-15 15:12:51

ang in there OP. I also work in Big4 consulting. Please know that there is a massive amount of BS! You have EIGHT years industry experience, believe me, you know loads! Some of these "bright young things" have probably never worked in industry, but they do know how to talk the talk. I also cringe at the "selling yourself" crap that it is needed in this type of environment. IME there's no way around it, you just have to fake it!
It sounds like being idle isn't helping your paranoia! I would suggest you get involved in any proposals/tenders and aim to get yourself on a big job. Once you are busy you should feel like you are contributing more.
Also, ask someone on your team for a link to the online training - there should be some short online courses on "consulting" skills etc which might help you feel more prepared in general. If no one on the team can help, phone the central HR team and ask for a Learning and Development contact.
Good luck. It's a massive culture shock moving into this environment but you can survive it.

Sazzle41 Wed 16-Sep-15 15:15:34

Hi OP, what I meant was, if its basic info you feel you arent au fait with or haveing been told, when it comes to clients, old client presentations or master templates will have that info. Most Consultancies and Banks have a shared drive of these: the presentations will commonly have an overview of what your company can provide to the client, a how we do it , with examples and short bio's of the team and twhat they can offer/do - more usefully for you, an FAQ . Most often people take the master template and just personalise it according to client. They are a gold mine for info if you are new to a role involving client contact.

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 15:59:34

Thanks Marge and Sazzle.

You are right Marge that being idle isn't helping at all - I am someone who likes to be busy, but now it seems a choice between boredom and massive stress. I do have a shitload of experience but am really struggling to apply it here.

I've been doing some online trainings, yes - anything to fill the boredom! I have heard proposals being bandied about, but not sure what's involved there either....

Ah yes I see what you mean Sazzle - that we do have.

I am struggling to explain what's bothering me when you ask - though I do hear my feelings are not unique with the few people I do know here. I guess a mixture of culture shock, imposter syndrome and good old-fashioned ignorance.

ShakesBootyFlabWobbles Wed 16-Sep-15 16:20:40

I spent many years in big 4.

Google 'impostor syndrome', collection of very common feelings, particularly in high achieving women, sounds like you are tickng the boxes. Trust me, you would NEVER have been recruited if you didn't have some skill they can sell.

Networking is an essential part of the job. Start with partners and directors first. Search out relationship partners to clients that are similar to your previous business and go and introduce yourself. Say you know they deal with 'xxx' and you used to work at 'yyy', so these are some ideas they could take to their client. They will really appreciate it and stArt building a network for you.

You'll get to love buzzwords.

Pm me if you have any questions, I don't want to out myself as I too was v niche.

ShakesBootyFlabWobbles Wed 16-Sep-15 16:21:39

Cross post on impostor syndrome!

LobsterQuadrille Wed 16-Sep-15 16:33:46

Hi OP, like many other, I trained with two of the Big Four - through audit, corporate finance, management consultancy and training departments. I left after many years and went into banking and at time my DB told me that I hadn't worked in the "real world", just the public schoolboy working world. It's all a big bluff - so many people haven't a clue what they're talking about and if you actually recorded their lines and wrote a transcript, so much is buzzwords and bluster. Just learn to speak their language and you'll be fine - I can pretty much guarantee that with eight years' experience, you will know a lot more than the majority. My first year at PwC was spent photocopying statutory documents whereas my peers at a smaller firm had actual hands-on experience.

Hang in there, keep to your "I'll do a year and then see how the land lies" policy and then review after that time. You will find, if you get to know some of your colleagues, that loads of them are terrified of their real selves and lack of knowledge. (as an aside, even now, the phrase "excess of loss reinsurance programme" sends my mind into a total blank).

Good luck!

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 16:54:57

Thanks all.

I know I sound stupid - it's a relief to open up and admit weakness (don't want to towards friends / family etc - and definitely not towards colleagues!). I'm lucky enough that I have never really "struggled" in this way before - I've always worked hard, but seem to have just done well as a natural progression...

I am struggling to get my head around what networking means in the consultancy context. For me, building networks means an organic thing, which comes as a result of working with different people on a variety of projects - not just walking up to someone with the whole introductory spiel or making small talk at an event who might work in a totally different function and will never remember you anyway (I had to force myself to speak to loads of people at the induction, and don't remember any of their names or roles - so hardly in my "network"!).

Perhaps I should set a goal of talking to someone new every day? Ones who I see around the office or recognise from the org charts and so know might cross paths in the future?

Stupid question, but what happens if you don't choose to network? Do you just sit there till its annual review time and they notice you've not been on any projects yet...? Surely you don't just get put on projects as a result of who you know...? Or do you...? I'd have thought that a director would know who is available and who specialises in what across the team, and assigns projects accordingly. Or not?

I did do my research before joining, but nothing that I ever read really seems to apply here!

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 17:00:11

Haha lobster - yes public school boys galore here! I am a bog standard comp girl, but luckily seem to have developed a deceivingly posh accent over the years...

And I did go to Cambridge - and felt exactly the same there as I do here, i.e. not good enough. And I got a First at the end of it all!

I know it's half me and my personality type, and half the difficulties that anyone coming from industry to consultancy without any guidance would face, but all in all feeling pretty low about it all.

Thanks also Shakes - I will probably take you up on that later today!

ShakesBootyFlabWobbles Wed 16-Sep-15 19:02:30

I spent most of my first year thinking that at any point id be found out and let go, I was so intimidated by the brand. But you get past that, and realise that everyone is continually learning and you find your feet and confidence. You are in very early days so you need to give yourself a chance and relax a little while you are learning the ropes. The business is so big it will take time.

Networking means a few things in big 4 and these are just examples I can think of, but it will depend on your niche really.

If your past experience was at say Amazon, think about how you added value to that business. Think about the specific things that makes you skilled. Think about what clients your office may have similar issues, look up who the client relationship team are. Go and introduce yourself to the partner or senior manager and talk about your experience and how you think this may be of interest to their client. Even if it isn't, you've sown a seed, so if they come across another client with that issue, they already know someone (you) who has something to add. They will be very see to people doing this so they'll not think you are odd, quite the opposite.

If your client has a particular issue, say a restructure, you'd want to be networked with a range of specialists in he firm that could all add value to the deal (buzz phrase): tax, cosec, vat, m&a, international specialists etc

At client events, look at the attendee list beforehand and pick a few people you'd like to introduce yourself to. Find out who advises them in the firm and let them know you'd like to meet their client and can they effect an introduction. In a large room of people you've never met, this makes finding strangers easier and you are not going in cold.

In my experience, nobody gets progression in big 4 by just doing the work given to them and being a nice person; that is just expected. You have to display pro activity, business development and a hunger, and also recognise when you are doing those things so you can give specific examples of those at appraisal time.

ShakesBootyFlabWobbles Wed 16-Sep-15 19:04:25

Very used to people..., not see, stupid iPad

ditherydora Wed 16-Sep-15 19:14:17

concentrate on the job/task in hand and completely ignore all the bollocks which people spout. Clients can see through the bullshit and if you do your work competently and are nice to clients that is all that is required ime. And you have managed a small team you will be able to cope, without question.

And 6 weeks is no time at all. Review it after 6 months and then see how you feel.

myotherusernameisbetter Wed 16-Sep-15 19:15:00

the issue is that you are used to being very competent and doing a good job. That doesn't seem to be a necessity in these types of roles and in fact I think the need to be competent and good is often a hindrance to success.

What they want is for you to talk a good game the same as everyone else and move up the ladder until it's getting too hot in the kitchen and then move on.

That might sound sarcastic or bitter, but it's not meant to be, imo it's the way a lot of these institutions work. it's all about saying the right things, wearing the right clothes and having someone else to blame if it all goes wrong - that's why there is such a high turnover in these places, it's not that everyone is brilliant, it's cos they need to keep moving so that nothing catches up with them smile

Clearly there are always exceptions, but you probably just need to go with the flow - they think you are doing great so you just need to keep doing the same type of stuff. If your boss is not any good, I wouldn't worry, there will be a new one along pretty soon...

Hope you settle in soon and try to relax.

squicketysquack Wed 16-Sep-15 19:28:33

I'm ex-PwC consulting and spent 11 years feeling like a fraud, wondering how on earth I got the job and then also being amazed each time I got promoted and / or given a pay rise. I used to wonder if everyone secretly felt the same ....

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 19:31:28

Thanks all - I really do massively appreciate the advice and will get the mentor thing in process tomorrow. It is truly good to speak to you all honestly (even OH doesn't know the current extent of my angst).

How do I learn how to "talk the talk" and overcome my natural honesty? Six weeks isn't long, true - but still more enough to make me a bit cynical once I saw how much they were pimping me out for! I was put on a small solo project on day 4 (cue major heart attack - but survived) and pretty much Googled 80% of it! The client could have done it themselves with probably more relevant knowledge and expertise.

I am so clueless right now I wouldn't even know what projects are going on around me! I imagine there must be ways to find out though, given the advice on here.

Perhaps my "brand" should be characterised by no BS or jargon - good old plain speaking! It's got me this far...

Ok, this is my secret truth as it stands - I don't want to move up the ladder. I am earning more money in this role (presuming they don't realise I'm on currently mumsnet half the day, and promptly sack me) than I would have ever expected even just a year ago; I massively value my time with OH so want to preserve work-life balance where I can; I like a challenge but not necessarily all the drains that come with management; and I have no desire at the moment to be anything above the level I am (Senior Consultant).

When the company extended the offer, they were adamant that they wanted to fast track me to management in a year (God knows what I said or did at interview to give them such a good impression - but likely the fact that I not only managed but created a team played a role there).

A lot can change in a year, of course, but at the same time I don't think there's anything wrong with finding your level and staying at it, if it's

Does that change anything...??

Also just ordered the Imposter Syndrome book on Amazon. It might well apply to me, though I still maintain I've just blagged it hitherto!

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 19:33:36

A lot can change in a year, of course, but at the same time I don't think there's anything wrong with finding your level and staying at it, if it's what you want.

LadyShirazz Wed 16-Sep-15 19:40:08

*If your client has a particular issue, say a restructure, you'd want to be networked with a range of specialists in he firm that could all add value to the deal (buzz phrase): tax, cosec, vat, m&a, international specialists etc
*

This is another thing I just don't get.

If I needed help in any other firm, I would look up that team, contact the team's manager, say I needed to collaborate and ask them if anyone with skillset x y z is available to lend a hand. It would be in the firm's best interest to provide that expertise, and both teams / individuals get credit...

Why does it all have to be via personal connections - especially when the person you just happen to have once or twice may not even be the best one for the job...?

Seems a bit nepotistic to me... hmm

myotherusernameisbetter Wed 16-Sep-15 19:41:52

I'd save as much money as you can from what you are earning and you might be able to wangle blagging non progression for a bit - or maybe try a sideways move to gain experience in other specialisms but I do think a lot of those organisations want you to be moving up so they can charge you out for even more ££££.

Your other alternative is maybe to see if a client takes a shine to you and wants to take you on at a similar level to what you are on now.

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