The Unexpected Ups and Downs of a First Year Consultant

So I just passed my one year anniversary of graduating college, and in just a few weeks it’ll be one year since I started at Tevora. This past year has been somewhat of a wild ride and I’ve learned a lot, so I figured I’d share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this journey so far.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is one that I’ve struggled with since long before I started working at Tevora. This is generally just a life thing that I am terrible at for a few reasons: 1) past life experiences (A.K.A trauma) that have made me avoid asking for help at all costs; 2) anxiety (caused by number 1); and 3) fear of looking stupid (caused by number two). Now I know I’m not the first person in the world to have these problems, but for me they were extremely crippling. I had been living with anxiety and depression for nine years without getting help and I didn’t realize how badly it was effecting everything I do until it started to have a serious impact on my work.

Because I’m on a team where everyone else is on the other side of the country, it became too easy to hide my struggles from them. When I was having a really bad few months with my depression in the fall/winter, no one knew what was going on, they just thought I was lazy and falling behind on all of my projects. In reality, I was seriously depressed on top of having a hard time actually understanding what I was looking at when I was writing reports. The lack of understanding was setting off the fear of looking stupid, which was triggering more anxiety and causing me to be more fearful and so on. I was stuck in a horribly vicious cycle that I wasn’t talking about with anyone.

My boss eventually realized I was not okay, and we had a lot of long talks about what was going on with me. It felt a lot better to finally ask for help and not feel so alone, and the projects I was on started going a lot more smoothly too…then COVID-19 hit and all that anxiety and depression came back in full force. I finally decided enough was enough about a month into quarantine and started talking to a therapist (I could honestly not be more grateful to modern technology for coming up with therapy apps). It hasn’t been easy and I still can’t believe it took me nine years to seek professional help, but I’m finally beginning to realize how important it is to put my mental health first.

All of this is to say, learn from my struggles and know that there’s no shame in asking for help. No one expects you to know everything 100% of the time, especially when you’ve been in the industry for less than a year. If anything, people will be more than happy to help and share their knowledge, and they’ll be appreciative that you asked for help before your projects fall behind.

Communication is Extremely Important

This is one that I tend to struggle with pretty often and definitely need to be reminded of a lot. It’s not that I don’t know it’s important, but my anxiety gets in the way of being an effective communicator a lot of the time. This can be especially hard when you’re on a team in which everyone else is on the other side of the country and you don’t really feel like you know anyone. I’m also pretty introverted in general and prefer to not have to talk to anyone most of the time anyway.

I’ve started to get use to the fact that I have to just push these things to the side. Project managers need to know the status of how all of the projects are going because clients are paying for the work we do and not communicating effects every aspect of the project (i.e., budget, timeline, profit, etc.). Once I actually started communicating with my co-workers and got to know them, the thought of having to communicate with them became a lot less daunting. I went from reading emails 20 times over to make sure there were no mistakes or strange wording because I didn’t want to sound stupid or awkward, to realizing that I was the only one thinking that about myself and now I only read over emails two or three times to check for mistakes. And if I do make one, so be it, I am a human being and I cannot be perfect 100% of the time.

Trust Your Instincts

It’s easy to feel like you don’t know much about anything when you’re first starting out, but if something seems off, it probably is. There have been several times in the last year when I’ve caught something while writing a report or reviewing evidence that the assessor didn’t catch, but I would immediately assume I was wrong or just didn’t know any better. Almost every time I’ve brought up one of those concerns they said it was a good catch and have asked me to reach out and update the client. While bringing up a concern to a co-worker seems like an easy task, you better believe that I tripled checked what I was looking at and did a good chunk of research before I even brought it up because it almost feels disrespectful to tell the assessor that they missed something. But, like I said before, we’re all human and we can’t be perfect 100% of the time, and if no one expects that of me than I can’t expect it from anyone else. We’re a team and we fill in the gaps for each other, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Anyway, back to my point. Once you gain more experience and have exposure to different projects and client environments, it slowly starts to become easier. You’ll actually start to know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about. It won’t feel like that the first few times you catch something. It’ll feel like luck at first, but that’s just the impostor syndrome talking, ignore that voice. Trust your gut and say something about it, and if you end up being wrong about it, so be it, you’ll probably learn something you didn’t already know about.

Overall I’ve learned a ton this year, both on the technical side of things and the being a working adult side of things. I’ve mostly realized how much I was holding myself back, and how much I needed to let go of my self doubt in order to be successful. If you take anything away from this blog, I hope it’s that you don’t wait as long as I did to get help, whether it’s for your mental health or work help. Suffering for any reason is just not worth it and you don’t have to go through anything alone. If you don’t have someone you trust to talk to about what you’re going through, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @Jeana_Byte, I’m always happy to lend an ear and some advice if I can.


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