Don't Panic: What To Do If You Aren't Staffed Right Away

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Author : John Shaughnessy
Published: July 25, 2013

So you’re still waiting for that first staffing call.

You’ve waited anxiously for the last 2-3 Fridays. The guy who sits to the right of you got staffed at the end of the first week. The gal who sits to the left was on the bench for a bit, but now she’s staffed, too. In fact, during the week, there’s only one other colleague from your start class in the office—everyone else is on the road working on client projects.

So, you’re not staffed. What do you do now?

1) Take a deep breath

Though it might seem like it, this is not the end of the world. Far from it. Out of 27 new hires in my start class, I was the 26th to be staffed. I sat on the bench for nearly a month. That had exactly zero correlation to my career trajectory, and I was rarely on the bench again.

2) Talk to the staffers

Staffers live a crazy life those first couple weeks, too—because they’re responsible for getting your start class aligned with client projects. Around week three, their lives ease up. And during the week, they are far more accessible. So schedule a sit-down with your staffer.

3) Do your homework

Before you meet staffers, take a look at the most recent staffing sheet. Review upcoming projects in your industry or functional alignment. Pay attention to the staffing needs (e.g. 1 Manager, 2 Associates, 1 Consultant), project summary and any required skill sets.

4) Don’t lose your cool

Let’s be clear: staffers aren’t psychiatrists. Their job description doesn’t include hearing your sob story. Your current bench situation isn’t a crisis to anyone but you, so keep it together. Bonus note: under no circumstances should you even consider blaming the staffer.

5) Make the most of it

If you’ve been assigned to an internal project, treat it like a client one. Focus on adding to the strategic conversation, and ensure your work product is of high quality. Treat this as a dry run, so that when you are staffed, you’re that much more prepared to contribute.

6) Don’t get desperate

I’ve seen people volunteer for some crazy roles just to be staffed. For instance, one colleague claimed to be a database expert. Her lack of real proficiency, coupled with a demanding client on a tight deadline, led to two weeks of all-nighters. Don’t get in over your head.

7) Have perspective

This isn’t a personal attack. Consulting is a business. Your firm is in it to make money. From an economic standpoint, your firm has every reason to maximize your billability. Otherwise, it’s paying you a healthy salary to just sit there, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

8) Read this pep talk

Your life is good. So, you didn’t get staffed as quickly as you’d hoped. Shake it off. You’re clearly smart, you’ve got above-average social skills, and you’re going places, kid. One day, you’ll run [insert something to run here], look back and laugh at this. Go get ‘em, tiger.

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