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Grow your career when you're feeling in a rut:

How early-career professionals can find value in surprising places

by Jack Kremer, Crew Manager

From my conversations with early-career consultants over the past year, and as a former Crew consultant myself, I know so many of us are highly motivated, goal-driven professionals with big aspirations for their careers. Consulting can be a great way to advance your career quickly, but if you’re on a project that doesn’t feel immediately relevant to your goal, it can feel like you’re climbing the wrong ladder.

It is sometimes overwhelming trying to make sure every task or every project you work on relates to your overall career goals. There can also be a significant amount of societal pressure to ensure you are consistently working toward long-term career goals. I know I’ve certainly felt it.

That pressure only seems to increase as you work on projects that don’t feel directly related to your long-term career goals. For instance, my goal since day one at Turnberry was to work in the onboarding and consultant support space. Day to day, I felt like at most 10% of my client work was actually related to my long-term goals as I worked mostly in data spreadsheets for a little over a year and a half. Instead of fixating on the idea that I was not working toward my long-term goals, I put a lot of effort into changing my mindset around the work I was completing – and found ways to identify how it was contributing to my overall career growth.

Overall, I noticed this mindset shift to be useful almost immediately. It helped me increase my satisfaction as a consultant and made me realize that I really was laying the foundation of my career with every small thing I did, even if it was unrelated to my “desired path.” It made my client happier too!

  • I reminded myself that I was in the first year of my career. That’s about 1/40th of the way through it – or 2.5%. (In fact, even if you’re five years in, that’s 5/40ths of the way done. That’s only 12.5%!)
  • I realized that it’s entirely okay to still be learning about the things that motivated me, the things I want to do in 20 years, and the things I really didn’t want to be doing in 20 years.
  • I took every opportunity I could to work toward my career goals, offering to rework my client team’s onboarding documents, help onboard any new consultant coming into our space, provide updates in our stand-ups, and organize a team event. This still made up such a small portion of my day-to-day work.
  • I asked myself questions: If I never did any of the “thankless tasks,” how could I possibly provide perspective to new consultants I’m helping onboard, some of whom would end up taking on those tasks? If I produced low-quality work, how would that reflect on me when I tried to get a role that was in line with my goals? If I continuously talked about not being able to find value in my work during the foundational part of my career (especially when I had no experience) what reputation would I make for myself?

Ultimately, I chose to look at what felt like monotonous tasks as opportunities to share my experience with someone in the future (which was absolutely in line with my career goals), rather than seeing them as career impediments. I’d encourage you to do so too! If you have tasks that feel irrelevant to your career growth, set aside time to list out the ways those tasks might benefit your growth – especially if you’re feeling in a rut. Start each day with a quick reminder about how you will use this experience for future interviews, in future roles, and with future colleagues.

One final note: these are important conversations to have with your manager, friends, mentors, or family. If you’re working to identify the value in your current work and find ways to make it relatable to your future, “ideal” role, bring the topic to your manager – as a manager, I can confidently say that we would love to talk to you about it!

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