If you’ve found yourself joining the ranks of corporate America, chances are, you’ll be scheduled to spend a few weeks at a training headquarters with swarms of fellow incoming analysts. With the sweet corporate swag, team camaraderie, and inevitable nights out with your new friends, training affords the opportunity to build strong friendships and a WhatsApp group text that’s active at all hours of the night (thank you international start classes & time zone differences). You’ll also spend some time learning the ropes of your new job and meeting mentors and managers who can help you steer your new career in the direction you want.
With two weeks of training under my belt, I’ve compiled a list of tips I’ve picked up along the way to make the most of this hella crazy ride.
Most likely, you’ll be required to wear some form of business/snappy casual during class and networking time at training. However, hold tight before you stuff your limited carry-on space with J. Crew. Here are a few necessities I recommend saving space for:
- A thick sweater – Regardless of the temperature outside, I can guarantee the training classrooms will be set to below freezing. Many of the Europeans in my start class got colds from being stuck in an ice box 8 hrs/day (I can’t even handle American aircon myself).
- Flats – Standing 5’ 1” on a good day, I’m no stranger to heels at work. However, for training, I recommend ditching the heels altogether. Moving classroom to classroom, participating in team building exercises, and running to class from lunch when you’re late in heels is enough to call in the orthopedic surgeon. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
- Workout clothes/tennis shoes – After working hard in front of a laptop all day, you’re going to want to stretch out and get active after class. My training facility has a gym, running trails, volleyball courts bikes, etc. to offset the 5 lbs you’re likely to gain if they feed you as much as they try to feed us!
- Your personal laptop/iPad – If you’re luckier than myself and get issued a 15” Retina MacBook Pro for work, you can disregard this one – but for the rest of us struggling with HP EliteBooks or (God forbid) Dell Latitudes, I recommend bringing in some backup. Personally, I do a lot of design work for training and personal use, so I appreciate having my MacBook on hand. However, after a long day of training, you may want to catch up on Netflix with some of your new friends, and my 12” work laptop with limited approved Chrome plugins just won’t cut it.
- Going out clothes – Most likely, you’ll either go to training in a metropolitan city or caravan into one from the suburbs on the weekend with your new co-worker friends. For some people, this will be their first time in this particular city (or in my case, a lot of people’s first time in the states), and they’ll want to go out! Anticipate a few sightseeing/dancing outfits so you don’t show up to the club in Ann Taylor 😉
Chances are you’re not as socially incompetent and introverted as myself, so you’ve probably already got a leg up on this one. However, I think the general consensus is that it’s awkward for everyone to make friends in the initial bit of training. Some people will already know each other from their home office, speak different languages, etc. and it can feel overwhelming to find your place in the group. Don’t worry, you will make great friends with everyone in a few days – living with anyone in such close quarters for two weeks is bound to create friendship. However, there are a few things you can do to expedite the process:
- Change tables – Usually, you’ll be assigned to a random group of 5-8 analysts from different home offices. While this is a great way to make some new friends at first, don’t get too complacent. Take the leap and eat lunch with a different team, you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll meet the rest of your class.
- Make a WhatsApp group – Ah, group messages. As horribly annoying as they are, they’re a necessity for breaking the ice and really getting to know everyone. They give your class a way to arrange after-class activities without leaving anyone out, and how else are you supposed to document the embarrassing late-night drinking pictures??
- Go to breakfast – This is a really tough one for me. With class starting at 8am every day and an average bedtime of 2am, early morning breakfast isn’t typically a priority for me. However, share the early-morning grogginess with your fellow analysts – you’ll bond over the smell of burned coffee and hangover stories.
We’re just here for the free food and partying, right?? Surprisingly, beyond the insurance plans, tragic ID pictures, and 401k matching, you will learn a lot at training. As an analyst in the Digital alignment of my consulting firm, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two weeks learning about wireframing & comps, agile methodologies, mobile app prototyping, and the many initiatives my firm is taking to stay at the cutting edge of digital disruption in the marketplace.
Whether you’re working more creatively or brushing up on your Excel skills, take advantage of this time to really dive into what you’re learning. I think it’s easy to take the learning aspect of training lightly when there’s so many other fun things going on, but you’ll be able to set yourself apart and add value to your project if you spend the extra 10 minutes taking notes or finishing the assignment well.
While it may not be as fun as drunken late-night karaoke with your co-workers, networking is an equally important part of training. But don’t worry, when done right, networking doesn’t have to be the selfish, superficial corporate activity it’s always made out to be. When done right, you can actually make great working friendships that add value in and out of the office.
If you’re lucky, your managers will offer to take you out for drinks after class, exponentially decreasing the stuffy corporate vibe. However, even if the formal networking dinners are a little cringe-y, they serve as a great way to meet people you normally wouldn’t at your level or home office. Grab a glass from the open bar, stick the nametag on your left, and go show people what you can do. This is your time to find the projects that will put you on the path you want.
- Be open – Don’t get caught up on only speaking to people in your department/alignment/career track. You never know who might have worked on a project you’re interested in, or know someone else who does. From analyst to managing director, everyone at your company has valuable insight that you’ll never learn unless you ask.
- Be honest – Don’t be afraid to tell people what you want to do. In consulting, oftentimes you have to put in work to get staffed on your dream project. Don’t wait until someone comes along and offers it to you wrapped in a bow – you have to ask for it.
- Build your personal brand – Spend some time figuring out not only what you want to accomplish in this role, but also what goals you hold for yourself in the future, both in and out of the work place. People like meeting other people with personality – be able to articulate who you are, what value you bring to the table, and how you stand out.
- Follow up – Don’t forget to take down the names and emails of people you meet. A long, meaningful conversation is less fruitful if you prevent it from continuing later on. However, don’t bother with mindless thank-you notes. Reflect on the conversation and follow up with legitimate questions, requests, or an insightful comment on one point of the conversation.
Tl;dr – Work hard, play hard. You’ll get as much out of training as you put into it. I sacrificed most of my sleep and sanity during training, but it’s so worth it for the “Ciao Monty!” pings and #Bali2017 reunion trip.