I've been a consultant for more than 13 years. I've spent my career working with some of the toughest and sharpest clients out there to transform the way they run their business. I've had tight deadlines, unclear or changing requirements, increased scope and new stakeholders to accommodate. And through it all, I've loved the thrill of working with a team to accomplish something that seems daunting or impossible.
I always understood that my consulting experience would prepare me for many experiences in my life, but I never thought that it would prepare me for being a mom. In reality, being a mom is like working on a project with no scope, no budget, no requirements and no deadline. I mean, think about it, your client (a.k.a. your child) is someone that likes something one day and doesn’t like it the next day, but can’t articulate why. You're often required to go back and forth, to try something else and to push yourself, just like in consulting. Here are 5 ways consulting jobs prepared me to be a mother.
1. I learned to manage different personalities.
Over the course of my career, I've worked with many different temperaments. I have clients that I still keep in contact with from the beginning of my career — true partners — and our relationships continue to grow. I have also had clients that taught me great lessons in dealing with difficult and demanding personalities. I have had to learn how to treat each client differently and become agile in my approach, recommendations and delivery.
It was still a complete surprise to me that my son would be my toughest client — a client with very unclear requirements, changing demands and, as a toddler, unreasonable expectations. I am constantly pulling from my consulting tool kit: setting and resetting expectations, taking a more waterfall approach versus a more agile approach, and celebrating the small milestones along the way to keep us motivated to reach the big ones.
2. I learned to say "no."
As a self-professed “people pleaser,” being in a professional services profession is right up my alley. I love to serve and help my clients transform their business operations. In the beginning of my career, I often said "yes" even when I knew deep down that the right answer was "no." I didn’t want to rock the boat and, frankly, I wasn’t as confident that I could stand behind the "no" if I was challenged. Over time, I learned that my clients wanted me to challenge them because they wanted to do the right thing for their team, their business and their customers.
As a parent, you want your child to like you, but you also realize that your role is to not be liked sometimes. Being able to tell your child "no" for their benefit is a skill that I have no problem executing because of my experience telling clients a meaningful "no" for years.
3. I learned to manage multiple interests.
Being a consultant is synonymous with being in overdrive. On any given day, you have worked for your client and your firm. In addition, you may have also contributed to white papers, developed reusable tools and assets or helped to develop the next generation of leaders.
As a mom, you are constantly having to manage various appointments, drop-offs, pick-ups and play dates in addition to your own priorities. The methods that I have learned over time has afforded me the structure needed to manage the various facets of being a mom and running a household with minimal meltdowns — at least on my part.
4. I learned to fail fast.
There is a concept in consulting called “failing fast.” It essentially intends for people to not be afraid to launch something new and to be prepared to adjust as needed. I love this concept. It empowers people around you to innovate and creates a mindset of continuous improvement.
As a first-time mom, I tried several parenting strategies before finding one that worked for my family. Being able to adjust if a tactic wasn’t working kept me from taking it personal and feeling like I was failing as a mom.
5. I learned to have fun, even when the going gets tough.
The rigor and discipline required to drive results for your clients is necessary, but unproductive if no one wants to work with you. Being able to have fun with your clients and your team is key to keep motivation and morale up.
As a parent, though the natural rearing and raising of children is demanding, you must be able to find joy in the moment, create memories and relax in order to survive and thrive.