How Can I Be Successful In Different Environments?

It goes without saying that not all work environments are the same. How a startup operates is different from that of a consulting firm. The traits required to be successful in each of the environments vary. While no two workplaces are exactly the same, there are specific key characteristics that you can display to help you be as successful as possible in your career.

How to succeed in a startup:

1. Be creative and determined 

When an organization is large and mature, they nearly always have the necessary resources to tackle any problems that arise. A big company often has the necessary financial reserves to make something happen, or they have experienced people on the team who use their expertise to solve problems. A startup usually is short on both of these fronts. Finances are frequently tight, and more needs to be done with less. Teams tend to be smaller and younger, and the problems they tackle often haven't even been encountered before. 

To attain career success in this scenario, you need to be creative with limited resources and have a strong sense of determination. There will be frequent struggles that you will have to push through by putting in long hours and coming up with innovative solutions. If you're resilient and flexible, you'll go a long way in establishing a successful career for yourself.

One of the things I’ve learned is to not be the object of the situation. That means, that when you come to work, it's your task to understand the business needs and understand how they best connect to your specific skills. You then grab your tasks and do them.   
- Oliver T. Neumann, Co-Founder of Cargo.One

2. Communicate effectively

When teams are small and, different departments cross over and blur into each other, effective communication becomes incredibly important. Being able to keep all relevant stakeholders in a project informed in the right way is a real skill. Your communication needs to be easy to digest and delivered promptly. In small organizations and early-stage startups, ineffective communication can have disastrous consequences. For the highest chance of success in this environment, you should aim for as much openness and transparency as possible. 

3. Execute, execute, execute

There is no space for slackers in a startup. You need to be a doer, consistently completing tasks and getting things done. Roles and tasks change from day-to-day and week-to-week, and you need to be able to roll with changes and have a high degree of flexibility. Most startups require working long hours to reach goals and meet deadlines. If you're not pulling your weight and ticking things off your list, it will hold people on the team and the whole organization back. With plans and strategies being so prone to change, you'll be a real asset and more successful if you focus on execution. It's a trait that will also be noticed by your boss and help you move up the ranks.

Great CEOs obsess over their high performers. They like to talk to them, they like to mentor them and they like to challenge them. Once you prove yourself, it’s time to reap the benefit of being a hard worker with massive skills and the ability to learn new ones.
- Jason Calacanis, Entrepreneur and Investor
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How to succeed in a consultancy:

1. Have a keen attention to detail

As a consultant, your clients place a tremendous amount of trust in you. Your job is to build and reward this trust. One excellent way to achieve this is to produce your deliverables in an error-free way. If your reports are littered with grammar and spelling mistakes or your calculations are off, the client will find it hard to trust you, and it will significantly undermine the advice you give. Knowing what to pay attention to is a skill you can develop. Before submitting a report, create a checklist of everything that needs to be in place. This can include making sure the page numbers are correct, and the font used is consistent, and so on. If you think this advice is basic and don't want to follow it, just wait until you feel the fallout of making mistakes due to being inattentive.

2. Be a team player

If you want to be a successful consultant, it helps to be ambitious and to push yourself. This will make you stand out and help you get noticed. It is also beneficial if you display leadership skills and show that you're comfortable and capable of leading. However, this is much less important than being able to work as part of a team. You'll often be in a situation where you're working in large teams of tens or even hundreds of people. If you're not supporting your coworkers and pulling your weight, then you will drag the team down with you. And it doesn't matter how much individual skill you display, if your motives are too selfish, then people will notice, and your career will not progress.

3. Be solution-focused

Your job will often involve carrying out large amounts of research and collecting a massive amount of data to help solve problems on behalf of your client. You need to be very analytical and possess a knack for spotting problems. However, you don't want to bring these problems back to your client. Your role is to think of solutions and find effective ways to solve these problems. This can involve spending extra time thinking through what needs to be done before diving into a project. Think critically about the business, and then focus on coming up with the right solutions.

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As a Partner at Roland Berger Digital, Ulrich Kleipass has worked at the intersection of business and IT for more than a decade. Discover how he has stayed at the forefront of the changes in consulting.
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