Stretch Yourself: 4 Career Development Tips

Many Associates and Life Sciences Specialists (LSSs) have been on a clearly delineated path for many years: high school counselors help you get into good colleges, college career services guide you to enter a handful of career fields or advanced degree programs.

Once you’ve joined L.E.K., it’s time to take your career into your own hands! Guidance will be available, but in the end your progress comes down to being proactive. Here are four ways to help ensure that you are building your skills and taking steps to advance your career:

1) Take 5 Minutes:  L.E.K.’s extensive review process will provide you with an objective view of your development progress. This includes a review of your performance after each case, along with a semiannual summary review. At first, feedback can be flustering. Many associates can’t remember the last time they received a “B,” and many PhDs have been the best at what they do for years (so what if only 3 people in the world do similar work?). It may help to view each case as a clean slate – new team, new questions and new opportunities.

Invest the time (you can spare 5 minutes) at the beginning of each new case to reflect on your latest reviews. Do you need additional practice at a particular skill? Have you been encouraged to undertake a new challenge for the first time?  Choose one or two specific areas to personally focus on.

2) Face Your Weaknesses Head On: Given the wide variety of work you’ll do at L.E.K., you’ll inevitably find some aspects of your job that don’t come naturally. While your neighbor may be an Excel whiz, he or she may be less comfortable with primary research. You may crank out beautiful slides but require additional time to develop a model methodology. If you struggled with a particular aspect of your last case, step one is to try again! Don’t avoid this aspect of your new case, as tempting as it may be.

L.E.K.ers are supportive and generous with their time and expertise. If you share an objective assessment of a development need, your teammates and those surrounding you will support your efforts to improve. This could mean sitting down with you to provide tips on structuring a financial model (thanks, Matthias!), reading over an email to a client to help you polish your language (thanks, Ben!), or engaging in deeper explanations of edits and suggestions (thanks, Alan and Peter!).

3) Speak Up: Managers make a special effort to support our “one new thing” policy. At the beginning of each case, each team member is given the opportunity to name “one new thing” that they would like to experience on the case. Speak up! Development needs often translate naturally into this process. Ask to participate in an aspect of the case that is new for you or is in an area where you’d like to improve. For example, request to write an interview guide, help “blank” a portion of the presentation (create PowerPoint slides that outline your hypotheses and future analysis), or build a more complex analysis tool. Work with your manager and team to carve out these opportunities.

Don’t simply fall back on your strengths, even though this may feel more comfortable and seem most efficient for the team. L.E.K. both expects and rewards employees for stretching themselves. Your performance is evaluated along objective standards that change constantly during your tenure, and reaching for a productive “one new thing” on each case will keep you on track.

4) Lunch with Your Career Development Coach: At L.E.K., you’ll be assigned a career development coach (CDC) from the beginning, and while you’ll work on a variety of different case teams, your CDC will remain constant. Your CDC plays both formal and informal roles in your career development. During summary reviews, your CDC will give input and participate in the delivery of your review. Between cases, you can schedule informal check-ins with your CDC (often in the form of a delicious lunch!) during which you can discuss everything from case specifics to long-term aspirations.

Your CDC won’t track your every review and tell you exactly where to focus on a case-by-case basis. That’s your job. But you can bounce your ideas and questions (“What do you see as the pros and cons of getting an MBA?” or “What timing should I expect for the transition from associate to associate consultant?”) off of them. They have the experience and perspective to guide you – and all you have to do is make a lunch reservation.

Rock It: L.E.K. will give you the opportunities, feedback, and support you need to excel. Take advantage by investing time in self-reflection, pushing yourself on your weaknesses, and being proactive about your short- and long-term career development.

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