Learning to be comfortably uncomfortable

Having just completed a Master’s degree in Business and Management I thought I understood to a certain extent what a job in consulting would be like. The course equipped me with a foundation of knowledge in a wide array of subjects and whilst this certainly set me in great stead to enter the field, I’ve come to realise that nothing can truly prepare you for the work you’re going to carry out. This comes down to the inherent nature of the role; consulting leads you to be doing something wildly different each week (and even day)!

As a result of this, there’s been a lot to take in during the first month and a half of my professional life. Working on three different projects simultaneously whilst still being introduced to more has been a bit of a whirlwind, but if the last five years at university has taught me anything, it’s definitely how to prioritise work and allocate time. This practise has come to be extremely useful as time management is a skill I’ve found to be imperative when working in consultancy.

It’s been incredibly interesting to develop an understanding and undertake a role in how AAB manages and facilitates long-running programmes for clients, and it’s been equally as exciting to be included in new bids and proposals for future projects – especially those centred around sustainability and technology, which are two areas I have a strong personal interest in. As I’ve settled into my role and gained a greater appreciation for the breadth of work AAB undertakes, I can’t help but feel extremely lucky to be part of a company that cares about developing strong relationships with clients and seeks to help them on a deeper level than purely transactional. It’s this value that everyone on the team is dedicated to which gives us the privileged opportunity to be entrusted with aspects of our clients’ businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be shared, which is a part of my job I find especially fulfilling.

If I had to share one key takeaway from my first six weeks at AAB, it would be the importance of feeling comfortably uncomfortable (a notion I have to credit Mark with introducing me to). The comfort zone is called that for a reason: it’s a place of familiarity and somewhere you feel safe and relaxed. Whilst it’s important to remain in touch with this place, staying here for prolonged periods of time doesn’t leave much scope for growth. At the other end of the spectrum is being uncomfortably uncomfortable – this isn’t somewhere to stick around either as it can be a discouraging and disheartening place to work in when you can’t make sense of up or down. The sweet spot right in the middle of these two places is your comfortably uncomfortable zone: here, you may find yourself working through problems or tasks you’ve never come across that may initially leave you feeling stumped, but you’re not so wildly out of your depth that you feel at a loss. It’s in this place that you can draw upon the experiences and skillset you already possess and apply them to work through such challenges, allowing you to learn something new along the way and successfully come out the other side having gained a greater sense of accomplishment and newfound confidence in yourself.

Thankfully I’ve not come across the uncomfortably uncomfortable place, however I know that if I do, help is only a quick message or call away and the lovely team of people that make up AAB Consulting have gone out of their way to ensure this is abundantly clear. My first six weeks with the company has seen me take up almost full-time residence in the comfortably uncomfortable place and this has been characterised by a combination of excitement, no shortage of learning curves, and both personal and professional growth, so I can’t wait to see what my first six months will bring

Photo Credit to Gibbon FitzGibbon

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