Reflection: A Year at Caiman

Photo of Alicia Cappelli

As a young professional, working somewhere for a year evokes a multitude of feelings. Aside from the excitement and pride of accomplishing that first milestone, a sense of anxiety or uneasiness often finds its way into our brains as we wonder both where the last year has gone, and where the next year will take us.

In an industry with a high rate of turnover, reflecting on your first work anniversary is critical. After one year in a role, you’ve surpassed the "I’m new" phase and begin to ask yourself, "Have I made enough of an impact on my employer and client, and how will I continue to make an impact in the future?".

Luckily, being a part of the Caiman community has helped me answer these questions as I reflect on the good and the bad, as well as wonder if I’m getting as much out of my role as a consultant as I am putting into it. Note that I’ve recognized Caiman as a community a group of people working towards a common goal, while nurturing and educating each other, both personally and professionally, along the way. At Caiman, I’m not just employed. I have a voice, resources, and most importantly, a place that fuels my learning and discovery.

So, after a year in this role, in this community, what are some of the things I’ve learned?

Control that which you can. Sometimes, projects become more complicated than you predicted. Unexpected deadlines and internal client changes may cause you to question your approach and strategy. In these situations, it is easy to think that you can’t handle everything you’re facing. Many fall victim to the urge to control everything, when in reality, you need to control what you can: yourself and your deliverables. Arrive at work on time, be respectful, and think critically. If something comes up that is out of your control, make sure you are not just playing defense. Be proactive, prepare for what may come, trust yourself, and learn to say “no” if necessary.

It takes a village.  Believe in the saying “strength in numbers.” Asking for help isn’t a weakness. If anything, recognizing where collaboration can help is a strength. Always get a second opinion on things when necessary including presentations, readouts, even important emails. You are never alone and as a member of the Caiman community, you have a small legion of consultants at your fingertips with different experiences and expertise to help you become better at what you do.

Time is your “frenemy”. It is easy to think that there is never enough time in the day. No matter how many times you get to work early or stay late, the work always piles up. In this sense, time is your enemy. I’ve learned in the last year, however, that time can be your friend if managed properly. Group similar tasks together, take regular breaks, and prioritize. Instead of walking into work unprepared for that day, take a few minutes at night to build a list of tasks for the following day to save time in the morning for your personal life, such as exercise, getting your morning coffee, and eating breakfast. Take control of your calendar and be able to say no to unnecessary meetings. Most importantly, make sure to free up time on your calendar for large scale strategy, planning, and brainstorming. It is easy to get caught in the day-to-day of your projects, but strategy is just as important, if not more important, than those small-scale deadlines and tasks. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to “work smarter, not harder”.

Honesty is the best policy. You weren’t hired because you are perfect. You were hired because of your skillset and your potential to do great work. Don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes and be honest with both your employer and client about your project, your workload, and if you need help. The only way you will grow is if you build lasting relationships with those around you built on trust and honesty. Keep an open dialogue and always ask clarifying questions to make sure you have all the information you need in order to deliver exceptional work.

Thankfully, Caiman has helped me discover the above and much more. After getting over the year one hump, I can now play an even more impactful role in not only the Caiman community, but also within my client group.