The Email That Changed Everything (#40)
A Career Change and a Return to Form
I'm thrilled to be writing to you again after so many months. I hope all you 🏡-ers are thriving. It's been a long few months and I'm excited to share what I've been up to. Before jumping into that, however, I want to mention that LWH🏡 will be following a different cadence until further notice.
Before my hiatus, subscribers received weekly essays loosely related to emotional intelligence, creativity, and self-discovery. Moving forward, I will be sharing one such piece every three weeks, with more sporadic, shorter pieces sprinkling the gap between these scheduled posts.
I want to lean harder into experimentation with this newsletter like I had originally set out to do. I want to give myself the freedom to post whatever kind of writing I want without worrying about breaching some sort of unspoken contract.
Often times, I want to share short bits of writing that might not be so fleshed out or multi-faceted enough to justify a 1500-word essay, and this is my interim solution for doing so until something more natural occurs to me. I would love your feedback as I experiment with this new cadence over the next several months.
Without further ado, let's get into what I've been up to these past four months.
The Email That Changed Everything
Starting compensation just north of 200k? I thought, that can't be right.
But it was.
I sat with my legs propped up in the recliner couch and re-read the email from an old friend from undergrad a few times before deciding to respond. He was asking if I was interested in hearing more about an open position at his management consulting firm specializing in the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, I had been making vague forays into the job market, initiated by a creeping dissatisfaction with my current role. This email from him could not have been timed more perfectly.
Upon reading the email, my knee-jerk reaction was dismissal. Any job that paid that kind of money couldn't be for me. There was no way I was qualified, nor was I smart or competent enough to be effective in such a role. Of course, money isn't the only thing that matters in a new job. In the lucky position in which I happen to be, it's not even the most important thing. But that number quickly filled every gyrus and cranny of my uninitiated brain. I figured I should at least have a conversation with him before discrediting his offer to apply for the role.
The two and a half-hour conversation flew by. The way he talked about the firm, the leadership, and the work excited me. He addressed my stereotype-fuelled assumptions that consultants slave away to obsessively manage metrics that communicate their value as employees to their superiors. I was fearful that if I were to pursue consulting, my worth would be boiled down to my ability to reliably produce high quality work within an allotted time frame, after which I was disposable. He reassured me this firm was different, staff well-being was leadership's priority, and the work was genuinely energizing given its real-world impact.
I applied for the job.
And I never even got an interview.
But it didn’t matter. The real reason that conversation changed everything was because my friend—a top-tier business school alumnus currently employed by this firm—told me that I, a graduate from a second-rate business school currently working for a public hospital, should be a shoo-in for that kind of role. He saw me as competent and qualified, so why didn't I see myself that way? What was it about how I saw myself that had me self-selecting out of opportunities like this? If he thought I could do it, why didn't I?
Thus began a four-month period of learning about the management consulting landscape through nearly thirty different informational interviews, lots of reading, and even more case interview preparation.
I kept returning to the same thought: If he thought I could do it, why didn't I?
The ensuing few months were challenging. Case interviews, typical when interviewing with elite consulting firms, are cognitively intense. They test your quantitative and qualitative mettle over a forty-five-minute conversation with a trained interviewer. Through asking a candidate to identify the specific reasons why a fictitious business might be failing, the interview tests the candidate's ability to think both creatively and hyper-logically, collecting and analyzing data in real-time, and exhausting possible avenues to explore in an easy-to-follow way.
If he thought I could do it, why didn't I?
I ended up getting past five interviews over three days to secure a healthcare consultant position at a firm I felt was only reserved for MBA grads from prestigious business schools. I more than doubled my salary, positioned myself to learn from extremely capable colleagues, and exposed myself to an entirely new world of business and influence. If all goes according to plan, I will have drastically changed my professional trajectory forever.
More than just patting myself on the back, I mean to share this journey to emphasize how the intimidating upper echelon of all of our disciplines (across each and every industry) are in fact much more attainable than we realize at the beginning of our respective journeys. Our most insidious enemy is our preconceived notion of what we're capable of and our belief that we don't possess the correct grades, backgrounds, relationships, or personality traits to achieve what we think would be best for us.
We count ourselves out long before we muster the courage to try. It's immeasurably harmful to ourselves, or families, and anybody else who could potentially be inspired by our achievement. The ROI on spending time invested in excising self-limiting beliefs from our psyches like a surgeon removing a tumour is incalculably high. We are laughably terrible judges of our own potential.
During those challenging months of informational interviews and case preparation, I came across a short clip of Russ, a multi-platinum award-winning recording artist, in an interview.
The interviewer asks, "What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?"
Russ responds, "What if it turns out better than you could have ever imagined?"
"And the worst?"
I haven't started my new position yet and I'm a spaghetti bowl of conflicting emotions. I'm nervous, excited, suspicious, and proud. I'm anticipating severe imposter syndrome, starting on my first day, and I'm expecting to not really feel like I belong for months. It turned out better than I could have ever imagined, mostly because I didn't allow myself to be realistic. Or rather, I dared to internalize what someone else thought was realistic for me.
If he thought I could do it, why didn't I?
Taking new clients,
P.S. Thank you to everyone who remained subscribed despite my radio silence these past few months. I’m so excited to get back into the LWH🏡 groove and discuss interesting ideas with all of you again.
P.P.S One of my favourite things about running LWH🏡 is getting responses back from those of you who read it. It feels like a tiny community in my corner of the internet. If there’s anything at all that you want to share with me, even if it’s a one-line reaction to the newsletter, I want to hear it. I make an effort to respond to every single email reply I get.