As a campus hire at Capgemini, you will experience a lot of training. Some business units go to India for technical training, while others are trained in specific skill sets in their local offices. After several weeks of internal website introductions, networking emails, and several phone calls with IT, you’ll be a fully trained Staff Consultant, ready to embark on your first project and get promoted in 12 months—right?
Then you get to the airport on the first day of your project and you are terrified. You fumble through security, land in a new city, rent a car for the first time, and show up at a hotel to a group of 10 higher level consultants. You are thrown into a year-long engagement and have what feels like approximately one hour to catch up.
When I finished my first “real day” as a consultant, I looked out over the port of Miami and thought to myself, “What am I doing?”
A month later, I am established on my project, about to go billable, have autonomy over several projects, and interact with senior managers and VPs on a regular basis.
So, how did the “trained” campus hire acquire the experience to become a project manager in a month?
The answer is in what individuals don’t tell you immediately. Our training and recruiting staff do a BEYOND amazing job of preparing us for projects and life at Capgemini—but you have to learn some lessons for yourself.
That’s why I think that these eight things are the most important experiences every young professional should be aware of when preparing for their first project:
1. Be Patient
It isn’t a competition to get staffed—the managers at Capgemini know what they are doing and have your best interests in mind. Be sure to communicate with your managers and tell them what you think you’ll enjoy about consulting—all good things come in time.
2. Ask for Help
My OnBoarding class was an amazing group of people. We began our careers together and they are the first taste of our new company. This does not mean we know everything—in fact, we knew very little about anything on our first week. Do not be afraid to ask questions! Colleagues expect you to ask numerous questions about various issues; in the beginning, capitalize on this and grow your knowledge base. My project manager says, “In the beginning it is all about just asking questions, but eventually, it’s about asking the right ones.”
3. Know Your Resources
Utilize the resources Capgemini gives you. If your project manager asks you to edit a PowerPoint, check out the internal knowledge management website for previous Capgemini presentations; if you are unsure about which project status template to use, ask your Capgemini buddy or People Manager. Consulting is as much about a service as it is relationships—build these from the ground up and sustain them to ensure that you will also have help when you need and it advice when you seek it.
4. Define Yourself Outside of Your Project
Find a resource group or network within Capgemini you want to get involved in. When it comes to promotions, it is important to diversify yourself. Participating in community service, recruiting, or even forming a new group is a great way to set yourself apart and to meet new people.
5. Create a Schedule For Yourself
Some people love working from the moment they wake up until the moment they sleep—I am not like that. I enjoy working out, socializing, and having autonomy over my free time. Once you’re on a project, set a schedule for yourself on the team. If you don’t want to go to team dinner every night, designate a night of the week you will always participate. Your managers aren’t just there to help grow your career, but also to make sure you are enjoying your project experience.
6. Criticism Will Become Your New Best Friend
Asking for feedback is something you will learn in Capgemini training, but actually receiving feedback on your project is a different experience. Be sure to always ask for feedback—ask “how could I have improved that?” and be conscious of your performance management responsibilities. Some managers may not be as nice as other colleagues, but the advice is usually genuine and there is significant room to grow.
7. Be a Sponge
Absorb as much information as possible—this is a pivotal time in your career to learn a lot and be flexible. You might not get on that amazing project in your first six months, but that doesn’t mean hard work won’t pay off in the long run.
8. Have Fun
Even as that intimidated girl on my project the first week, my team still took me out to dinner in downtown Miami and I woke up to a view of the beach every morning. As consultants, we work extremely hard, so it is important to utilize the benefits that our projects, travel, and lifestyle allows. Use a flight one weekend to visit a friend in a different city, or use your hotel points during a summer vacation. The best thing about Capgemini is that it enables “fun” in almost every aspect of the job—and as a recent college graduate, this is a company I can get along with.