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Be a nice Australian and Succeed (in the UK)

December 1, 2010

I’ve been at my new company for a couple of months now (I work as an IT consultant) and I’ve been finding myself getting booked up further and further in advance.  This is good.  Good for the business and good for me – I like to be busy and this makes me really feel like one of the team.

Then I discovered the ‘Consultants Diary’ on the company intranet where I can see my bookings in advance and also that of my colleagues.  To my surprise, I am pretty much the busiest consultant in the company right now.  There were also some cases where I was booked for something and provisionally booked for something else at the same time, i.e. double-booked.  This is bad.  This brings back memories of the last place I worked where I was so solidly booked in advance that there was little or no buffer to account for times when engagements took longer than anticipated, and there was no time left for training or even unforeseen situations like being sick.

Fortunately it’s not quite so bad here.  Yet.  So I sat down with the resource coordinators today to find out what was going on.  All they could tell me was that I was in high demand.  A few of the sales people had latched on to me and customers seemed to want me back.  I don’t mean to blow my own horn here or sound like I’m the best of the best… because I’m pretty sure I’m not that good!

I’ve been able to attribute my success (or high demand) to two factors that are somewhat related:

  • I’m Australian.
  • I’m nice.

On the first point it has really become obvious that they love Australians here in the UK.  They enjoy our ‘twangy’ accent, but more importantly, they seem to be impressed with our work ethics.  They find us to be very hard working and honest and willing to go the extra mile.  I find that quite amusing because I’ve never thought of Australian workers as the types to posses these qualities.  But next to the English, we look like freakin saints!  (No offense intended to any English readers – all I’m saying is that us Australians generally have a great reputation here, not that you have a bad one!)

So I’m nice.  I wouldn’t say that I’m extraordinarily nice.  I think I’m just professionally nice.  I’m nice when and where it counts.  Okay, so I’m not that nice.  But what I’m getting at is that I’m generally very approachable and mindful of the ‘game’ that one must play with professional colleagues and moreso with customers.  I listen and I’m agreeable but I’m firm and confident when I’m speaking about my area of expertise.  You could say that I’m equal parts customer-focused, commercially-minded and of course technical.  The value of this balance is something that I learned from my previous company and I have been preaching it to many of my colleagues at my new company.  So I may have been a little hasty in speaking ill of my previous workplace.  I picked up one of my best qualities from there and for that I am forever grateful.

If you’re a consultant of some variety (not necessarily in IT) or in a role that has an element of customer service or interaction then I may be able to preach some of this to you too.  And I’m not just going to tell you to be Australian and nice and you’ll do well.  You probably already know all this but I think the best way I can summarise it is with the following mantras that I always try to follow:

  • Pay attention to detail and don’t cut corners.  Someone will notice.
  • Be honest.  Accept that no one knows everything.  If you are unsure about something be upfront about it.  Lead with that but make sure you finish with some positives to reassure and instill confidence.
  • Be as friendly and positive as you can.  Even if things are looking grim or stressful – make a joke.
  • Set appropriate and realistic expectations for everyone – yourself included.
  • Listen.

So as you can tell I’m fairly pleased with myself here.  I measure my success not with money or status (I don’t have a great deal of either) but with a feeling of being important and needed and being satisfied with my job and enjoying what I do every day.  All I have to figure out now is to how play the game a little better so I can lessen my workload… or perhaps I should just angle for a payrise.

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