Homepage Heroes: Josh Sanderson

It's time to get to know Josh! He's a Partnership Lead for one of our client's Product Marketing Teams, and we had a fantastic - and truly eye-opening - conversation about working as a consultant with Simplicity.

Sara:  First, let’s talk a little bit about your career journey, the path that led you into consulting. What did you do before all of this?

Josh: My career spanned through a lot of different areas. I started in educational research as a salesperson and then went into marketing there, left that industry and moved to Chicago where, you know, I kind of I stayed in the educational area, but in a different role. Then I moved to LA, where I started navigating through the entertainment industry, and landed at William Morris Agency. I started as an assistant to some talent agents, and then moved into the music side of the business where they did touring. I found that I was really good at what I did, so I moved to management, where I was an assistant for a manager for various electronic acts. After awhile I started my own company and did music licensing for four or five years of that, and I got a call from a friend who was working at Microsoft who said I'd be perfect for a role opening up in her team. I didn't really want to move to Seattle, but my business at the time was really challenging for a number of reasons, so I took the plunge and that is what ultimately what led me here. I got laid off in 2014 and did some entrepreneurial things, and eventually started looking to get back in with Microsoft, but I didn’t really want to go back full time. I met a woman who was consulting and she connected me to the firm she was working with – when my last contract there came to an end in the middle of COVID I decided to take a three month hiatus before getting back to the job search. When I started looking again, I talked to people who worked with a lot of different consulting firms and Simplicity was one of them – and this opportunity came up that was perfect, and the rest is history. I'm actually really enjoying being back in partnerships after good entrepreneurial stuff and taking a ride through product management, which was fun, but maybe not the best fit for me.

Sara: This type of meandering is really typical for the consultants I’ve spoken to – you look back and you think - "Oh, I did all these seemingly unconnected things, but it just all comes together a lovely way that reflects continual learning and passion around supporting and building relationships." What are some of the things that you like about consulting?

Josh: As an FTE, I felt a little bit more like there was an understanding between the employer and me that I was going to work until the job was done, whether that was 40 or 50 or 60 hours. And when I would push back and say I'm, I'm overloaded and I can't do the amount of work I have, the feedback was always well, you know, how can you be more efficient? It wasn't about helping me reprioritize. What I really enjoy about consulting is the consulting firms have worked had been very supportive and saying the contract is 40 hours, and what you're being paid for, and that’s what you’re encouraged to do. Of course, there will be times when there are more deliverables, and more hours can be put in within a week, but there will be other weeks where you work less, so it’ll balance out. The work life balance for me has been much better than when I was FTE previously, and I really love that. I enjoy being I enjoy being in a position where I'm a part of a team - I feel very closely knit with his team – I’m not just another vendor. And I know that I might be here for years, and I might go on to a new project – there's a little fear in that, but there's also a lot of exhilaration in that. I can explore different interests, I can be parts of different teams, I can show up and, and be a problem solver and take on big tasks quickly and efficiently and know that I can deliver. I enjoy not having to do annual reviews and some of the other things that go along with being an FTE.

I really love the fact that I can just focus on the work because that’s what I want to do – I’m not super interested in plotting out my 5-, 10-, 15-year career goals. I just want to show up and be of service and enjoy my time enjoy my teammates, and focus on creating cool things.

Sara: A lot of people have also mentioned flexibility is something they enjoy. That's something that really helped me because I was homeschooling my kids for the last two years - those boundaries, they're easier to do to draw when you're consulting.

Josh: Absolutely, and I also get the sense that the team I'm on is taking a much broader view of flexibilities related to FTE; I don't think there's anyone on my team that feels pressured to work when there's something personally like they need to do. That's really reassuring to know, not only that I am being taken care of, but also my teammates are who are FTE. And I think it leads me back to this idea that I'm 40 hours, but I'm not expected to work in the night - put my kid to sleep and then work another three hours - unless I want to.

Sara: What would you say that some of your what are some of the soft skills you have, or have cultivated, that have helped you as a consultant?

Josh: You know, I have spent a lot of my adult life kind of getting over myself, getting over the fear and the stories I told myself as a child - maybe that I'm not cool enough to hang out with the cool kids. After having done all of this work, and learning to trust in who I am, and really liking the person I've become, it allows me to show up in a way that I can walk into any room in any situation with any level of person and feel comfortable - and make others feel comfortable. I think one my skills is the ability to show up with another human being and not be intimidated, and not be overcome by the parts of me that used to be fearful. As a consultant, that’s a huge gift because I'm always being put into situations with new and different people. Starting over with new teams, you just have to be you, and have a certain level of self confidence and the ability to adapt to different types of people.

Sara: Yes, and ask questions. You always have to ask strangers questions and not feel embarrassed.

Josh: Absolutely, and with maybe age and wisdom I find that I can ask a question without saying ‘this is a dumb question’ anymore. Because it's just a question. There's something I don't know, some knowledge I need in order to pursue what you have asked me to do. And I'm going to ask for that knowledge, whether you're the CEO or somebody else, and I'll do it appropriately. It’s wonderful to be able to be in a position where you can be curious and constantly learning. And I'm sure that's an FTE thing as well, but I really love that as a consultant, being in a position to always be learning.

Sara: That’s so great – it seems like a wonderful fit for you! So we're doing these homepage hero posts for a variety of reasons. We love to hear your stories, obviously, but it's also about showing people who might not be familiar with consulting or what it entails, or what kind of people are currently doing it – so they can start seeing themselves reflected in some of your stories.

Josh: When I used to think about a consultant, I thought I want somebody who went in and kind of got the lay of the land and then told people how to change their business or how to do something. It seemed more like being a coach or an advice giver. Now that I’m doing it myself, I can tell people that I really am hired into a role as if I were an FTE, but I work for a consulting firm, so its’ more like being a temporary employee; I act like an employee and I act like a standard teammate. That’s how I look at this type of consulting that I'm doing today, and maybe one day I might do a different kind of consulting where I am that person who just goes in and says you should do this, not that.

Sara: Yes, you’re basically there to support your manager and your team and help them be more efficient and do their jobs better – help them be successful! What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about consulting, but they're not sure they want to dip their toe in?

Josh: I would say if, if you value variety, and learning and constantly stepping into something new, in order to tackle a new opportunity, this is perfect for you. And if you're someone who really relies on a very deep stability, then it may or may or may not be for you, because you might find yourself in between positions for a month, or three or six or eight. One of the biggest things I say is that as a consultant, I have to focus on my personal finances; I don't spend my money that I make as if I'm going to make it every single month in perpetuity. I make sure that I have an appropriate reserve to make through six or nine months, so that if I hit one of those spots uncovered, I can continue to effectively pay myself a salary to cover my day to day expenses. In my opinion, that’s something that new consultants should know, especially coming from standard career paths.

Sara: I think it’s great that at Simplicity, as your contract is coming to a close, the talent team starts trying to figure out where you’ll want to go next, but you’re right – there’s no guarantee that you’ll find another good fit right away! I know we make an effort to put consultants with clients who are going to be a good match for them – not just skills-wise, but they look at personality and team culture fit too!

Josh: I know, that's become a one of the things I shared with each one of the consulting firms that I met with when I was looking for new work was that, certainly, income is important to me. But the most important thing for me is to find a good fit. I want to be in a team with people who respect and care for one another, a team that looks out for one another. I'm not interested in being part of a shop or a team that is anything other than that, really, because I spend 40 plus hours of my week with these folks, and I want to be a part of something that feels good.


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

Homepage Heroes: Martha Brent

Martha is one of our senior consultants - like many in our community, she brings her experience as an FTE into her roles with Simplicity, and we're so glad took the time to chat with us!

Sara: Tell me a little bit about the path that brought you to Simplicity!

Martha: If I look back, I can see three main forks in the trail that led me here. Early in my career, I sought the perfect FTE spot to grow, advance, and retire. That aspiration was disrupted by tons of turbulence in the telecom industry – mergers, acquisitions, and constant change. When I shifted to being an FTE at Microsoft, transformation and change were part of the culture and I adapted to that. Following a re-org, I took a chance on a consulting gig, to tide me over while I planned my next move. Much to my surprise, that side path opened up to huge possibilities. Instead of feeling like a temp, I became empowered to select roles that suited my skills and preferences. The third shift occurred when I realized that being in the right firm positioned me better to find the best gigs for me. That’s what led me to me to Simplicity.

Sara: What role are you doing right now?

Martha: Up to now, I’ve worked all over Microsoft but never in office of the CMO, which is where I am now. I was really attracted to being inside the marketing office, and it's fun to experience all of the tools and processes there. Also, this is a part-time role, so I now have the flexibility and time to do my board work, prioritize exercise and self-care, volunteer at the food bank, and have fun. I can be independent and have a great career at the same time. I will say that it was a little bit difficult to choose part-time instead of full-time, because I'm hard-wired to work, but allowing myself to ease into this new lifestyle has been an interesting challenge!

Sara: What are some of your favorite things about consulting - and with Simplicity in particular?

Martha: I like the control and the focus I get to maintain on doing what I do, very well. Simplicity has a great support system with recruiters and operational support. Most of my time and focus get to remain on my work and my client’s goals. I also like that it’s a women-owned business with an excellent reputation and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. I love knowing that I'm working with a team that works as hard as me.

Sara: What would you say to someone who's considering becoming a consultant but they're not sure it's for them?

Martha: Hmm… I would say, jump in. It’s a very low risk investment in yourself. You may find, like me, that what you thought was a little side path is actually your highway to more freedom, flexibility, and career growth. I would definitely tell them to research the firm they join to make sure its market specialties align to their own or where they aspire to be.


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

Homepage Heroes: The A Team!

We asked these three stellar consultants on the Global Brand Creative Team at Tableau Software the same four questions, and we got some fabulous responses - as always, we're #BetterTogether here at Simplicity!

Question 1: What is your current role?

Anya: I am currently a Project Manager on the Global Brand Creative team at Tableau Software. I co-manage the creative marketing assets for the annual Tableau Conference, manage the incoming requests for the Tableau Brand Blog, and I manage the Tableau Racial Equity Data Hub.

Alberto: I'm a Project Specialist on Tableau's Global Brand Creative Project Management team. I provide end to end PM support to the product team on product releases and other projects.

Aimee: My current role is a Project Manager on the Creative request queue for the Global Brand Creative marketing team at Tableau.


Question 2: How did you get here? Tell us a little about your career path.

Anya: My career path has been relatively all over the place! Fresh out of college, I got a job working with the City of Seattle and bounced around in different administrative roles. I decided about 3 years after graduating to go back to school to get my Masters in Finance. At that point, I didn't really know what I wanted to do but knew I would probably need a more specific degree (as opposed to my Bachelors in Business Management) and I had minored in Finance so it seemed reasonable. Just after starting grad school, I got a job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a Registration Manager on their events team. I graduated from grad school in 2020 (right at the beginning of the pandemic) and still had no clue what I wanted to do! In the summer of 2021, Reiko reached out to me because she knew my educational and professional backgrounds and thought I could be a good fit as a PM and told me to check out the Simplicity job board. I started applying and here I am! I am very thankful she put that bug in my ear because I absolutely love the work I do now.

Alberto: I've been consulting for around 2 years now. I studied at the University of Washington and was lucky enough to work as a consultant on a marketing contract for Microsoft with another firm during my Junior/Senior year. I loved the experience and decided to pursue consulting after graduation.

Aimee: What really helped me get to where I am today was my previous role as a consultant being an event coordinator for Microsoft's Go-To-Market One Channel Partner program. I gained most of my marketing skills in that role, which allowed me to have a seamless transition as a PM on the marketing team at Tableau. Before I started work full-time upon graduating from the University of Washington, I had studied journalism and was very interested in writing and producing news stories. My strong ability to communicate with all sorts of different people, tell stories, and engage with the media has enabled me to step into the marketing industry with my unique background and experience as a journalist. 


Question 3: What do you like/love about consulting and/or working as a consultant with Simplicity specifically?

Anya: I think my situation as a consultant for Simplicity is a bit unique in that I was lucky enough to find a position that has the end goal of a FTE conversion. But I think the great thing about consulting, even with that caveat, is the freedom. Knowing that you have the opportunity to be involved with different teams and get experience in different departments is really cool! And of course working from home lol I feel so comfortable in my home office and feel like I can really focus and get things done, believe it or not!

Alberto: Working as a consultant with Simplicity has been a great experience. Simplicity's vast network of connections allows you to keep work interesting, contract after contract.

Aimee: What I like most about consulting at Simplicity are the endless opportunities to explore the different roles and areas of expertise Simplicity has to offer. There are so many different types of projects you can work on and the opportunity to grow in your role in such a short amount of time is very rewarding.


Question 4: What advice do you have for someone who's thinking about becoming a consultant?

Anya: If you think you want to do, DO IT! It's a great way to gain experience in departments that you may not have considered for yourself before!

Alberto: If you're interested in becoming a consultant, my advice is to give it a try and see if you like it! One of the best things about consulting is the flexibility to work different roles on a variety of different teams. This makes the work always interesting. There are opportunities for everyone, regardless of what work you love to do! 

Aimee: The advice I would give to anyone interested in becoming a consultant is to always believe in yourself and to never downplay the experience you have on your resume. Create an elevator pitch if you hate talking about yourself and always express enthusiasm in wanting to learn and grow because consulting is essentially the power of owning whatever skills or expertise you may have to share with others!


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

Homepage Heroes: Mindy, Xbox Lifestyles & Pop Culture Marketing

Mindy's career path has been eventful to say the least - from full-time at Microsoft to SAHM to a bustling ER and back again, she's taken some really exciting leaps and figured out how to work her way! This conversation was so entertaining, and we're so thrilled to have Mindy in a dream role.

Sara: It's so great to chat with you today - thanks for taking the time! Tell me a little bit about your current role.

Mindy: For the past year and a half, I’ve been half of a two-person team, and we represent pop culture and lifestyles with Xbox. Our focus is on marketing to talent, celebrities, athletes (all sports – college and professionals), movie stars, pop music artists, to engage and entertain folks from around 17 to mid 20s.

We work directly with the celebrities, and with the movies, and different artists, and managers to get Xbox into their hands – not just to give them Xbox, but we want them to promote it on social and showcase it in fun and creative ways. For example, we worked with Ryan Reynolds when the movie Free Guy was being created, and with Disney to place Xbox within the movie. In fact, there are a bunch of different easter eggs in the movie that are Xbox-specific! Then we worked to promote Xbox outside, at the premier, and did giveaways with Free Guy custom consoles and kits that Ryan unboxed on social media.

We have also worked with The Rock – he ticks the boxes for all ages – he’s someone we work with a lot because he’s so invested with our team specifically - we coordinate with him on his work to support terminally ill and foster kids – and of course we promote his movies.

We also sponsored five NBA basketball teams – I was part of working the sponsors and the deals – and our team gets to plan the Xbox takeover days. We recently took over the Lakers Game and created special kits with a Halo 117 Jersey, we sold 117 kits with custom controllers - it was so fun. I get to help come up with those ideas, then work with vendors to create the kit and bring them to life, and go out to publicly see it through.

I've had so much fun learning absolutely everything about Xbox – I love the promoting, collaborating, and coordinating that it takes to see these projects through!

Sara: That sounds utterly amazing. I'm jealous! I'd love to know more about the path that brought you here.

Mindy: I worked at Microsoft from 1992 until 2005 – I left when I had my third child. I was going to be a SAHM, and after 6 months, I was going a little bananas, so I took over the soccer club, which was really fun (and I actually did that for 15 years). When my oldest daughter was going to college, I realized that I loved adding value somewhere, having time outside of my home, and I started to imagine what I would want to do next. At that time, I either wanted to deliver babies or drive an ambulance. I also love the ER, so I decided to find a job in the ER that I could do, so I went to Overlake and I became a per diem head unit coordinator, which is the person who sits in the middle of the ER as the hub. They place all patients in their rooms, manage the floor of the ER, and work with the head doctor and head nurse. From incoming patients to every ambulance, medic, I was in charge of coordinating all of that. I didn’t have to have medical training but my business training and people management skills definitely came in handy. This was the fast-paced exciting opportunity I had been craving, and I could pick and choose my schedule. I did that for 4 years until last year, and it was brilliant. Before COVID hit, I kept talking with husband about going back to Microsoft – being a part of that kind of fast-paced environment – but I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and we started talking about consulting, so decided to dip my toe in. I took a part-time project and it was managing the budget and finances for this team, and then I realized I LOVE THIS. So, we talked to the team about supporting marketing and lifestyles, and I was able to step right in! 

This role changes every day. Since there’s no end to the project, I hope I get to support the team forever. My word for this year is pivot – being flexible and keeping our palms open is important.

Sara: So true. What do you like about consulting with Simplicity?

Mindy: I’ve only consulted with Simplicity, so they set the bar really high. I love the flexibility that it lends, and I feel supported in my role – I feel the flexibility with my time and my hours, and I the of comfort knowing that I have a team that has my back as needed.

Sara: I felt that way too when I was consulting. What would you say to someone who's considering becoming a consultant?

Mindy: You have nothing to lose if you try. Dip your toe in, there’s literally nothing to lose except not trying. You can always say no if a project comes up and you’re not interested. You have the power to decide for yourself.


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

Homepage Hero: Greg, Project Manager

Sara: Thanks for chatting with me today! We love to share our consultants’ stories because you all come from such varied, interesting backgrounds, and you never know who will be inspired to try consulting because your journey resonates with them. Tell me a little bit about the path that led you to consulting with Simplicity.

Greg: I originally went to school for history and education, and one thing led to another and I ended up working at Disney World in Orlando. I thought that was going to be my career, and everything was going pretty well for me there, but something started building inside me. I started to realize that the work I was doing day-to-day didn’t really iterate on itself – it wasn't that the work didn’t matter (it did!), and I always did my best, but it was always the same. I started to think that maybe there could be more – a career where I could add more value. My girlfriend (now my wife), worked in video games at the time, and it was through her lens that I became interested in exploring gaming and production.

Sara: That sounds really fun!

Greg: I decided to go down that road, and took steps to find an entry level position in QA to get my foot in the door, and I ended up finding a QA position with a consultant company. I bounced around there, and eventually joined another consulting company, which gave me the opportunity to work on a game product, which felt like a real step up.

Sara: How did those experiences compare with your time with Simplicity?

Greg: Simplicity is really the only company that made any impact on me personally. To put that in context, that first consulting role I landed was absolutely fine - but the company culture had such a low impact that I don't even remember the name of the company. With Simplicity, even though I may not be working with other Simplicity consultants on a daily basis, I feel like I have a real and meaningful connection to a larger network of people. It feels like we're all relatively like-minded and in somewhat similar positions - not just in title, but in lifestyle. And working as a counterpart to the HQ Simplicity staff has been absolute perfection. I have nothing but the best of feedback there.

Sara: Has anything surprised you about consulting?

Greg: I didn't realize that PM work like this could be filled through consultants helping to make my favorite video games! It's just a different way that people can get involved with and pursue any industry they're interested in or passionate about.

Sara: That's so true. What would you say to someone who's interested in becoming a consultant? What are managers looking for?

Greg: The technical skills necessary for a role are obviously important, but 'soft skills' seem to be about 75% of what these managers and teams really need. To be successful, you need the ability to bring the right people together at the right time to have the right conversation, and you're often managing people's expectations and perceptions of different situations. It takes active listening, flexibility, empathy, and the capacity to engage with a variety of communication styles. It's almost like putting together a puzzle!


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

Homepage Hero: Doug Priest

An interview with Doug Priest
Senior Project Manager | Worldwide Public Sector, Critical Infrastructure

Sara: Tell me about your current consulting role!

Doug: Right now I am working in Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector on Critical Infrastructure. It’s exciting and impactful work, focusing on public utilities, transit, and cities. Right now I’m working on go-to-market efforts with several partners, account analysis and strategy, and communications. I’m about three months into this position and really enjoying both the day-to-day work and the positive impact I’m having.

Sara: That sounds amazing! Can you describe the path that led you here?

Doug: My career path has been winding and unconventional. I have a PhD in history, but also a throughline of technology work in my career, particularly in project and program management. Prior to joining Simplicity, I was working in government, and before that I had worked in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors - all with a focus on technology operations.

What really ties my path together is a desire to do meaningful, high-impact work that makes the world a better place. It turns out there are a lot of ways to do that, and that motivation has led me in a number of different directions. 

I actually think that the variety of experiences helps me provide a different and valuable perspective in the tech world. While I used to worry it was a professional weakness, it’s actually become one of my strengths. If you’re someone who, like me, has varied experience, consulting might be a good option because it can help you find just the right fit for your unique mix of skills and knowledge. 

Sara: What do you love about working as a consultant with Simplicity?

Doug: I really enjoy the sense of community among the consultants that work for Simplicity. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that when I started, but it’s been extremely welcome. Although we don’t work together on a daily basis, our monthly calls go a long way to building community, putting faces to names, and helping us all grow our professional networks.

Simplicity also offers a very stable and sustainable way to do consulting. Particularly as someone with a family, that ability to have an easier path to benefits than I was expecting with consulting makes a big difference. Both of those things are a bit different than I think most people would expect with a consulting gig. It’s been great!

Sara: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a consultant?

Doug: By its nature, consulting can be a lot of different things. I think it’s important to figure out what you want out of consulting first. You shouldn’t just necessarily take the first opportunity in front of you. What are your priorities both from a professional and personal standpoint? What do you want to accomplish? Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, seek out an organization that shares your personal and professional values. 


Are you interested in the consultant lifestyle? Please visit our consulting page to learn more and start the journey!

The Five Essentials for Success in the Future of Work

1. The future of work is flexible: Know how you want to work

When the pandemic started last year, millions of people found themselves working remotely whether they were ready or not. The number of remote workdays doubled in 2020, reports Gallup.1 Regulatory barriers to telehealth were quickly removed due to COVID, enabling Providence Healthcare to jump from 10,000 telehealth visits per year to 10,000 per day by the middle of the pandemic, according to a presentation on their cloud migration success during Microsoft’s Resilience at Work Summit.2 Harvard University migrated 20,000 students to online learning in five days.

Interestingly, 83 percent of employers say that remote work has been a success, according to a recent PWC survey.3 What’s more, now that they’ve gotten a taste of flexibility, 55 percent of employees surveyed by PwC want to work remotely at least three days a week, even after it’s safe to return to the office.  

Now that remote, flexible work seems to be here to stay, talent has more options than ever. The pandemic has further opened the door for those who want or need an alternative to the traditional nine-to-five office model. You have the power to determine how, when, and where you want to work: full- or part-time; remote, onsite, or some combination of the two; on-demand, project-based work or traditional salaried employment.

Also, at the Microsoft Resilience at Work Summit, Tsedal Neely, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Remote Work Revolution author, posited at the Microsoft Resilience at Work Summit that the “sweet spot” of a hybrid work model is 90 percent remote and 10 percent in person. Therefore, she said, it behooves all of us to understand how to maximize our ability to work effectively and successfully.  

To thrive in the future of work, you must know how you work best and define how you want to work.

Upcoming Masterclass

Ready to learn pragmatic best practices for digital transformation? Register for our digital marketing masterclass with Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau Software.

2. The future of work is on-demand: Know your personal brand and tell your story consistently

In the future of work, companies may increasingly move toward smaller core teams of employees, supplemented with on-demand external talent. In an on-demand world, managers need specific skills—immediately. Whether it’s SEO and paid search expertise to boost a startup’s visibility or program management chops to ensure the successful global launch of a new product, companies will quickly need to identify the right talent with the right skills at the right time.  

To succeed in this on-demand world, you must identify your unique strengths. But it doesn’t stop there: Success and happiness exist at the intersection of your strengths and passions—your personal brand.  

Find yours with my Personal Brand Playbook, and then tell your story consistently and regularly to stand out and attract the right roles at the right time.  

For actionable tips on creating brand integrity across your resume, LinkedIn profile, and pitch, I recommend this free on-demand workshop with career coach Julie Schaller.

3. The future of work is ever-changing: Know what skills are in-demand and embrace continuous learning and development

I recently spoke with Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy on the post-experience economy—the idea that we’re moving  away from in-person experiences in favor of convenient, instantaneous transactions devoid of social interaction. 

In this new world, said Dr. Krishnamurthy, marketers must adapt their tactics from broadcasting to narrowcasting. New tactics require new skills, such as marrying targeting and messaging to get the customer what they want before they even know they need it.  

183 million new jobs will emerge by 2022 through AI, predicted the World Economic Forum's 2018 Future of Jobs Report,4 and two-thirds of today’s primary school students will have jobs in the future that don't exist yet.5 The institution also noted that we’ll all require an additional 101 days of learning by 2022 to keep pace with the rate of change.  

In the future of work, continuous learning and upskilling is a necessity. Keep abreast of the latest trends and in-demand skills and educate yourself accordingly.

4. The future of work is intentional: Know what you want your life to look like

Technology and remote work have rendered location nearly irrelevant. After all, if you’re working remotely, does it really matter if you’re 20 or 200 miles from the office?  

This decoupling of work from location, said Neely, is going to play out in extraordinary ways. She predicts that people will begin moving out of traditional employment hubs or spending chunks of time working from beautiful places. In fact, it’s already begun.  

Spotify’s new Work-From-Anywhere program allows employees to do just that—while still receiving San Francisco and New York salaries.6

When Barbados offered visas to remote workers during the pandemic, Microsoft’s vivacious Dona Sarkar tweeted that she’d be working from the Caribbean island for three months just because she could.  

Know what you want your life to look like, and fit work to your life, not the other way around. 

5. The future of work is diverse: Know your worth and find a company that aligns with your values

Spotify’s global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Travis Robinson, believes that the company’s new remote work program will promote inclusion and support equity.  

"Black employees historically have been discriminated against when it comes to pay and growth opportunity, and it is likely the local market pay is lower than a comparable city with a large white population," Robinson told Business Insider. 7

The move will indirectly benefit customers, too, Robinson said: "With even more diverse experiences and perspectives, spread across additional communities, we have the opportunity to bring more stories to life, through original content and other curated audio experiences that resonate culturally.” 

Diversity and inclusion continue to be important focus areas for many companies. Find a company that aligns with your values and recognizes your worth.

Upcoming Masterclass

Ready to learn pragmatic best practices for digital transformation? Register for our digital marketing masterclass with Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau Software.

In summary, we are living in the future of work and the best way to thrive is to get clear on what work you love to do, where and how you want to work, and what organizations align with your values. You can create your ideal life so why not jump in with both feet and make it happen.

To learn more about how to thrive in the future of work, register for our digital marketing masterclass with Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau Software. You’ll learn pragmatic best practices for digital transformation and effective digital marketing.

6 ways to work your network to thrive as a consultant

The adage is true: You’ve got to network to get work. According to LinkedIn1, referrals are nine times more likely to get hired than non-referrals. Every consultant I interviewed for my upcoming book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, spoke to the importance of networking. Here are their top tips for working your network to thrive as a consultant.


1. Focus on them, not you

The term “networking” can have a bad connotation. Some people think of it as meaningless small talk and endless elevator pitches. But I approach networking with a different perspective, which is that it isn’t about me. It’s about building relationships, not selling. It’s getting curious and determining how and where I can add value to others. This is the secret of great consultants. They realize it’s about their clients, not them, and they keep their clients’ needs front and center.

2. Reframe networking as relationship building

Rupali, a communications strategist I interviewed for my book, reframed networking as connecting with others. “I love connecting with people,” Rupali shared with me. “I love listening to their stories, learning about what they’re going through, getting their advice and guidance, and finding ways I can help and support them.”

3. Always be connecting—not just when you’re looking for work

“Don’t just reach out when you need something,” Rupali told me. Make relationship building and maintenance part of your regular routine. For example, Rupali sets aside thirty minutes a week to reach out. “Set a goal for yourself, whether it’s weekly or monthly,” she advised. “Otherwise it’s one of those things that will slide.”

Deanna, a training and development consultant I interviewed, keeps in touch with her contacts when she comes across news or updates that they’d find interesting. For example, she emailed a former client after learning about a new e-learning platform. It prompted a quick virtual demo-date for them to test drive the new tool. It didn’t lead to a new project—yet!—but that’s not the point. Their ongoing communication cultivates a meaningful relationship that’s fulfilling and mutually beneficial.

When you do land that new project or role, send a quick note to update anyone who helped you along the way, Deanna recommends. It’s a great reason to reach out, and it shows that you appreciate their help and value the relationship beyond just what they can do for you.

4. “Never make the person across from you work harder”

When it comes to referrals, “Never make the person across from you work harder,” Deanna cautioned. That’s why I stress the importance of telling your personal brand story clearly and consistently, so it’s easier for others to remember and retell it. It also helps to provide the person you’re asking for help with a clear, concise description of who you are and what you’re looking for, so it’s a lighter lift.

5. Ask for referrals and intros

Rupali always asks for new connections, even when she’s not actively looking for work. To continuously expand her reach, she asks everyone she speaks with in her network if they know of anyone else she should connect with. It’s as simple as tagging, “Is there someone else you recommend I talk to?” to the end of every conversation. Rupali makes clear that in this introduction, she’s not asking her network to simply recommend her for a job.

6. Plant seeds

When it comes to networking, you have to play the long game. In fact, it’s rare to reach out to someone and find a project just waiting for you to find it. Focus on building relationships, adding value, and keep the faith that your efforts will yield results over time. I call it planting seeds.

Another consultant I interviewed, Christopher, told me about how he plants seeds, one lunch at a time.

He routinely schedules lunch with former colleagues or acquaintances just to catch up on life and work. He goes in without an agenda or expectations—he’s focused on relationship building. More often than not, when his colleagues do have a need months later, they’ll think of Christopher and call to see if he’s available.

Now it's your turn...

What’s one way you can activate your network that feels authentic to you?


Work, Your Way

Preorder my third book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder the book!

Watch my Work, Your Way webinar

Work, Your Way: Freedom

Flexibility, freedom, and focus are the three core reasons why professionals choose and stick with consulting. In the last of this three-part series, let’s explore the power of freedom. We’ll hear from three successful consultants who I interviewed for my upcoming book Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant.

Take a look at the first two posts in this series: Why flexibility and focus are key reasons why professionals love consulting.

The myth of security

There are no guarantees in life or work. Many still believe that full-time employee roles are more secure than consulting contracts, but layoffs have become commonplace. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example. Roughly one in six US workers, or more than 26 million people, filed for unemployment during March and April 2020 1, and the unemployment peak in April of last year (14.8 percent) was the highest ever recorded since the government began tracking unemployment in 1948.

Just as we saw in the Great Recession of 2008, a subset of these newly unemployed professionals with marketable skills and expertise will turn to consulting or gig work. For some, it will be a short-term stopgap. Others will embrace the benefits of the consultant lifestyle and never look back.

Loyalty is a two-way street

Deanna, a training and development expert, experienced this firsthand. Before she started working with me, a teammate’s layoff helped her realize that she was more loyal to her employer than they were to her.

“We had a round of layoffs in our group, and I shared responsibilities with a woman who’d been on the team longer than me,” she told me in a video interview. “They let her go. It was the first time I’d been in a group where someone was laid off. I realized that I wanted more control. I thought, If it’s so easy for them to let her go, why am I holding on?”

Deanna was tiring of her job for many reasons, but she stayed out of a sense of loyalty. Seeing her teammate let go—someone with a solid performance record and more tenure than her—was freeing for her. She realized that her loyalty wasn’t reciprocated by her employer. At the end of the day, as an employee at a global organization, she was ultimately a line on the budget.

As harsh as that sounds, it’s the truth. I have seen too many professionals shocked by an unexpected layoff. They never saw it coming, no matter how good their work was.

Creativity in full supply

For Alyssa, a longtime marketing consultant, consulting frees her up for creative pursuits. While her side hustles haven’t always taken off, they’ve been a creative outlet for her to try new ideas and skills—which she often funnels into her future consulting contracts.

As a military spouse and mother to an energetic two-year-old, the freedom and flexibility of consulting are essential to Alyssa. That flexibility enables her to work remotely and block out family time each afternoon. It’s also given her the freedom to fully embrace her new role as a working mom, thanks in part to her latest side hustle, Little Supply 2.

The company offers monthly “excuses to celebrate” in the form of ready-to-go activity kits designed with working parents in mind. Alyssa and her sister created Little Supply to give parents those memorable, Pinterest-worthy moments without the stress.

Her side hustle is at once rewarding and challenging. Alyssa is getting closer to her goal of having more quality time with her daughter while exploring new areas of marketing.

YOLO?

“Our generation has to be flexible because the world opened us up to the possibility that things can change at a moment’s notice,” said Hai when I asked him why millennials choose alternative career paths like consulting. “We have to plan for the future, but also plan for those plans to fall apart. Rather than scaring us from living to our fullest potential, those challenges made us realize that we need a plan B (and C) for everything.”

Most everyone I talk to has a before story—the career they had or roles they did before getting into consulting—so I was fascinated to learn that Hai doesn’t. A marketer at heart, Hai found a niche as a social and digital marketing expert with a passion for empathy. Consulting is the only way he’s worked since graduating from business school.
Hai has an interesting theory on why his generation is drawn to contract work.
“The collective challenges we’ve faced have shaped how we approach work,” he said, citing monumental events like the advent of the internet, 9/11, the Great Recession, and the global economic impact of COVID-19.

The pandemic has proved Hai’s theory. The New York Times recently reported on the “Yolo Economy”3 (as in, you only live once) in which burned-out millennials are realizing that life is about more than a stable job. “For a growing number of people with financial cushions and in-demand skills,” writes Kevin Roose, “the dread and anxiety of the past year are giving way to a new kind of professional fearlessness.”

Some are abandoning cushy and stable jobs to start a new business, turn a side hustle into a full-time gig or finally work on that screenplay. Others are scoffing at their bosses’ return-to-office mandates and threatening to quit unless they’re allowed to work wherever and whenever they want … a daredevil spirit seems to be infecting even the kinds of risk-averse overachievers who typically cling to the career ladder.

My hunch is that, as more millennials and Gen Zs take root in the workforce, there will be fewer consultants with before stories. It will just be the way we work.

Find your freedom

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

Work, Your Way: Focus

When’s the last time you got into flow while working? You know the feeling: everything around you fades away, time somehow warps, and you’re singularly focused on the task at hand. Do you have the ability to focus and dig deep on a project or area of expertise? If so, does it energize you? Ignite your best work self? And if not, how does reflecting on that void make you feel?

As I said in my earlier post on flexibility, there’s no right or wrong answer. But if your need for focus is unmet, I want you to know that you have options. In the new world of work, you can work differently—you can work your way.

In my upcoming book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, I spoke with a number of successful, long-term consultants. Their stories aligned with the many consultants I’ve worked with since starting Simplicity Consulting in 2006.

There are three primary reasons why people choose and stick with consulting: flexibility, freedom, and focus. Here we’ll explore focus.

Work, not politics

Kate is a writer. She quit her corporate job to raise her two young children and write the book that had been swirling in her head during her daily commute. Now, as a consultant, she lights up when talking about her communications projects and geeks out on the ability to lose herself in the topic du jour.

“I just want to do the work,” Kate told me when I interviewed her for the book. “I don’t want to have to worry about all that other stuff.”

That “other stuff” differs from company to company, but it includes things like performance reviews, office politics, administrivia, and endless meetings.
So many consultants that I’ve talked to share Kate’s perspective. They all just want to focus on doing the work they love and doing it well. It’s one of the reasons I chose consulting, too.

Kate not only likes doing the work, she likes the opportunity to get into flow. She recently spent eight weeks wading through accessibility materials—and she was thrilled about it. Her client hired her to refresh the company’s accessibility storytelling, an important project that her client didn’t have bandwidth to take on.

“I was able to completely focus and own it end-to-end,” she raved. That focus paid off. Within the first five minutes of her client’s annual summit, the company’s chief accessibility officer used Kate’s content on stage. “Thousands of people saw that,” Kate said. “It was great.”

Focus breeds success

Like Kate, I remember realizing the power of focus after my first consulting project. I had handed off my deliverables, and my client was showering the work with praise. While I was proud of my work, I couldn’t help thinking, I was successful because I could focus. It was my whole job to do that one thing really well.

Employees don’t have that luxury. Employees are pulled in a million different directions responding to incessant emails and requests. They manage multiple workstreams and competing priorities. Endless meetings. Company trainings. Management responsibilities and annual reviews. As a consultant, you are freed up to focus on meaningful work with impact and only that, without those other distractions.

Plate-spinning fatigue

Deanna is another longtime Simplicity consultant who started her career in corporate.
“I got tired of spinning plates,” she told me. “I was in meetings all day and ‘spinning plates’—moving things forward and not actually doing the work. I missed that part of it: being strategic and having a work product.”

Sound familiar? As professionals, our days are often packed with (virtual) meetings! It’s all too common to spend more time sitting in meetings than actually working—in fact, that’s why some clients want a consultant in the first place. While the consultant lifestyle isn’t entirely meeting free, it does have considerably less. When consultants do have meetings, they’re often relevant to the task at hand, freeing them up to focus on the outcome.

As a consultant, Deanna is empowered to call the shots in her life and work. “I’m the CEO of my own career,” she says … for better or for worse. It’s a non-traditional career choice filled with flexibility, variety, endless learning, and focus that she’s proud of.

Consulting has also enabled Deanna to focus on new and different areas. “I just really enjoy doing different projects and being exposed to new pieces of the organization,” she told me. “My last role was change management--I’ve never done it before and got really excited about that and learning about it.” As a full-time employee, Deanna wouldn’t have had the same ability to explore, dig in, and focus on a new area of the business.

In the third and final post in this series, we’ll explore why freedom is one of the top three reasons professionals choose consulting.

Focus, your way

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

In the third and final post in this series, we’ll explore why freedom is one of the top three reasons professionals choose consulting.

Check out the previous post in this series: Why flexibility is the number one reason professionals choose—and stick with—consulting.

Work, Your Way: Flexibility

Since starting Simplicity Consulting in 2006, I’ve seen it all. Professionals from all backgrounds, for all reasons, seeking out a new way to work. While every person and story are different, the reasons people choose and stick with consulting inevitably fall into predictable themes.

When I sat down last year to write my third book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, a number of successful, long-term consultants shared their stories with me. And, just as I’ve observed over the last decade and a half, those key themes emerged.

There are three primary reasons why people choose and stick with consulting: flexibility, freedom, and focus. Let’s start with the most commonly shared reason—flexibility.

Flexibility is queen

It is difficult to quantify the value of flexibility. Whether requisite, such as parents of young kids or caregivers of sick or aging parents, or a desire to own their lives and control their time, flexibility is queen. It’s consistently the number one reason I hear for why professionals transition to consulting.

Consulting, or contract work, is inherently flexible. You choose how and when you want to work. You can choose to work part-time, full-time, every day, or a few days a week, half days or full days, moonlight on the side of your current full-time job, or any combination of those. Contract work is expansively flexible and dynamic, and you are in the driver's seat.

Let’s hear from three consultants who I interviewed for my upcoming book—Jeannine, Allison, and Stephanie—for whom flexibility is non-negotiable.

On the road... again and again and again

Ten years ago, Jeannine took a leap of faith. She left her salaried, full-time role at a large tech company to work with her husband at his new business. Within a few years, she realized that she missed her old role, and so she returned, but as a consultant.

Three years ago, she leapt again. This time, she and her husband sold their home, bought an RV, and hit the road. Since then, they have crisscrossed the country—from the western US to the east coast and back again—jumping from National Park to National Park. Though they’ve hunkered down for much of the pandemic in the Sonoran Desert, they’ll soon resume their roving lifestyle, destination Montana. In the pursuit of their dreams, flexibility is everything.

Jeannine negotiated her contract wisely: 32 hours a week, remote, with Fridays off for travel. Despite trading her office and employee role for a workstation in her roving 42-foot home, Jeannine approaches work the same way she always has. It doesn’t impact the kind of work she does or the value she provides. It’s been a big change, but life is short, she says. Follow your dreams now while you can—create the freedom, even while you’re still working.

Kick the commute

Others take advantage of the flexibility to work from anywhere and move to places that feed their love for the outdoors or desire to live near family. Allison, a Montana native and marketing consultant, recognized this in her own lightbulb moment. One day, she realized that she didn’t have to keep putting up with a nightmare commute, far away from her family—she could live anywhere.

Allison traded her corporate job for a consulting contract, and a few months later she moved back home to Montana. She wanted work to fit into the life she desired, and she was determined to make it happen. To Allison, success is living in Big Sky Country, near her friends and family, doing work she loves for clients and a consultancy that share her same values. She’s been successfully—and happily—consulting for more than a decade.

The longest shortest time

Stephanie was tired. She was tired of rushing, tired of wasting hours each week commuting and away from her young family, tired of cramming quality time into the precious thirty minutes between her two-year-old’s daycare pickup and bedtime, tired of feeling like she was failing on all fronts.

So, like Allison, she decided to work her way, on her terms. Stephanie left her full-time-employee role and picked up a few part-time consulting contracts. She now shares the home office with her six-year-old remote learner. She spends far less time rushing from meeting to meeting and far more time doing the work she loves. And while she hasn’t fully found that mythical work-life balance, she is intentional about building each day’s schedule around her work, herself, and her family.

Flexible or...?

I’ve met with countless professionals over the years who loved their corporate careers but didn’t love the inflexibility. They tried to carve out the flexibility they needed to stay, but their employer wouldn’t budge. They weren’t willing or able to continue down a rigid path that didn’t allow for the fluidity of life, so they left and found what they needed in consulting.

Think about your own career. Do you crave more flexibility or does your role afford you the flexibility you need and want? Could you carve out more flexibility in your existing role? And if not, are you willing to compromise in that area?

There’s no right or wrong answer. Be true to yourself, your working style, and your situation. But if you’re not getting the flexibility you need, I want you to know that you have options. In the new world of work, you can work differently—you can work your way.

Want to work flexibly?

To hear more stories from successful consultants like these and actionable tips for how you, too, can work flexibly, preorder my latest book, Work, Your Way: Reinvent Yourself, Create the Life You Want, and Thrive as a Consultant, publishing August 2021 from Harper Collins Leadership.

Special offer! Receive a FREE download of the Work, Your Way Playbook when you preorder a copy of the book!  

Next up, we’ll explore focus in part two of this series.

Marketers: How To Thrive In A Post-COVID World

Marketers, consider this: How has the pandemic changed your daily routine? What do you do at home now that you didn’t do before?

If you’re anything like the average consumer, the list is long.

We’re cooking at home more and when we don’t, it’s restaurant take out or delivery. We’ve traded the gym for Peloton rides and virtual workout classes. Our homes have transformed into offices and classrooms.

In short, virtually everything changed in 2020. How we work, how we shop, how we learn, how we eat, how we socialize and communicate—everything.

Home delivery of groceries by Amazon Prime
Grocery delivery

Take retail.  Online sales in the US grew by 31% in 2020 from Q1 ($160.4 billion) to Q3 ($209.5 billion). Before COVID, a mere 12% growth occurred in all of 2019, according to this graph by Statista.

That, says Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, is the post-experience economy. And those sweeping behavioral changes impact our economies and businesses in a big, big way.

Here’s what Dr. Krishnamurthy, School of Business Dean at UW Bothell, has to say about what you need to know as a digital marketer to succeed in the post-COVID world.

Q&A with UW Bothell's Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy

Q: Let's jump right in. What is the post-experience economy … in 280 characters or less?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Many customers will permanently shift a portion of their lives away from in-person experiences. We’ll move from the service economy to a post-experience world where customers seek value without social interaction—everything now comes to us in a brown cardboard box from Amazon.

Q: What are some examples of this phenomenon?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Take the restaurant industry. To survive, they’ve had to move away from in-person dining to take-out and delivery service. How do they retain that experiential touch? How do they use social media to connect with customers? And how do they scale up? Traditionally, you need more space for more seating. Now it’s a bigger kitchen, more chefs, more efficient processes like food prep. Everything needs to change.

Technology undoubtedly plays a powerful role in this transformation. Microsoft, for example, saw a 33% jump in profits in the last quarter of 2020 which CEO Satya Nadella attributed to a “second wave of digital transformation.”

However, it extends beyond that. Iconic American brands are reinventing themselves for the post-experience. Starbucks is enhancing drive-thrus rather than building the in-store experience. McDonald's new growth strategy focused on speed and pickup centers on drive-thrus, smaller restaurants, takeaway, and curbside pickup.

Business owners still want to maintain curb appeal for pickup—it saves consumers money, gets them out of the house, and offers a little touchpoint—but that intense hedonism of experiences will be under pressure.

Or healthcare. It used to be driven by the idea that you need that physical visit with the doctor. That shift from in-person to online was only exacerbated by COVID—one expert estimated a “ten-fold” increase in virtual patient consultations once the pandemic hit, according to The Lancet.

IndustryExperience EconomyPost-experience economyBrand example
GroceryShopping at the supermarketFresh grocery deliveryAmazon Fresh, Instacart
RestaurantDining in an upscale restaurantDigital delivery serviceDoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats
BankingBanking at your local branchVirtual banking services
Capital One
CoffeeOrdering coffee in person from your regular baristaMobile app orderingStarbucks mobile app
ExerciseWorking out at your gymDigital-enabled exercisePeloton
Examples of the post-experience economy, by industry, provided by Dr. Krishnamurthy

Q: Finish this sentence: Success in the post-experience economy requires _____.

Dr. Krishnamurthy: Laser focus on your customer.

How well do you know your customer? What do they want? And how many? Why do they want it? Do they watch Netflix at 7pm or 9pm? Do they also stream Prime video? Do they like Colgate or Crest?

When you start thinking like this, it’s not just about having the right data, it’s also about having the right messaging. Digital marketers must marry targeting and messaging to not just get the customer what they want, but before they know they need it.

Q: Talk more about that marriage of targeting and messaging. As digital marketers, we’re always looking for ways to connect with and engage our audiences—what does that look like in the post-experience economy?

Dr. Krishnamurthy: People are much more interested in direct messaging. There’s still a place for storytelling, but people want to know what they can get and when.

There’s a shift happening. Look at the Super Bowl: Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi aren’t advertising this year. Rather than mass appeal broadcasting, we’re shifting to narrowcasting.

Let’s put the customer in control and focus on giving them exactly what they want. For digital marketers, instead of a single Super Bowl ad, it’s a thousand different segments—there’s so much data. You can’t write a thousand unique messages, so you need a system to think of three or four factors to change subtly for those audience segments. It’s targeting to the max.

Q: We're looking forward to your upcoming mini marketing course. Who is the session geared toward? What can they expect to learn? What do you want attendees to walk away with?

Digital marketers, both data geeks and non-technical. They’ll learn what the post-experience economy is and how they’ll need to adapt their skills, strategies, and tactics. We want digital marketers to think not just about raising the volume, but about evolving their capabilities to a point where they're getting people the value that they really want—leveraging AI and machine learning to predict what the customer wants before they even know it themselves.

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Replay: Learning and development: The Post Experience Economy: a mini marketing course

9 Ways To Communicate With Sensitivity In A Global Workplace

With the increase in virtual teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thoughtful communication is even more important. Whether you are working with a multicultural team or establishing your product or service in another country, these foundational guidelines will help you communicate respectfully across cultures and geographies.

You may be asking yourself: What do I need to be aware of? How do I make the right impression?

  1. First and foremost, do your research. Educate yourself in advance to avoid any missteps and, most importantly, demonstrate respect. Learn about the place where the teammate or offshore team is located. This may be as simple as looking up someone’s location in the address book rather than asking where they are from in the meeting.
  2. Familiarize yourself with cultural communication norms. Get the knowledge to embrace differences, read context and meaning, and avoid offensive language or behavior. Resources such as The Culture Crossing Guide and IOR Global Services Knowledge Center are great places to start.

    For example, in some Asian countries, such as Thailand, “Yes” may mean, “Yes, I follow what you are saying,” rather than, “Yes, let’s do that.” You can imagine how this can lead to confusion and frustration.

  3. Plan meetings to accommodate different time zones. Use a meeting planner such as timeanddate.com to pick a time that is comfortable for everyone. If that’s not possible, offer to alternate the off-hours time-slot. When working with more than two very-different time zones, it may make sense to offer two different meeting times.

  4. Be aware of regional holidays. Holiday calendars vary around the world. For example, not every country recognizes Chinese New Year and Golden Week. Some holidays are only observed by certain regions of a country, such as Fasching in Germany. Identify holidays to plan around and go over them with the team to make sure everyone is aware of upcoming holidays and time off.

  5. Communicate your global mindset. It’s not us and them—it’s we. Your company (or headquarters) isn’t the sole authority or center of the universe, and a perceived imbalance could lead to negative feelings about the team dynamic. Harvard Business Review contributor Tsedal Neeley shares a framework for leading global teams. As a leader, be conscious about calling attention to each group’s contribution to the overall goal so that the meeting remains focused and everyone feels recognized.

  6. Don’t assume to know where someone comes from. Anyone who has a French accent is not necessarily from France. In Europe alone, multiple other countries use French as an official language. This can be especially hurtful when there is a rivalry or unrest between the countries you are mixing up (Ukraine and Russia; India and Pakistan; etc.). You may sound arrogant or ignorant or both.

  7. Avoid colloquialisms. Refrain from figures of speech such as “put your best foot forward” or “barking up the wrong tree” to help non-native speakers better understand you. People who speak other languages may well have an equivalent for a colloquial expression, however, equating that to their own takes more time to process and takes the focus away from the conversation.

    For example, in the United States people say “the grass is always greener on the other side” to mean that one’s own situation always seems worse than everyone else’s. In Brazil, one says “my neighbor’s chicken is always better than mine,” but in Farsi, “my neighbor’s chicken is always a goose.”

    At any rate, it’s best to speak more literally so everyone can understand your meaning.

  8. Turn on your video camera during meetings, when possible. It can be difficult for anyone, especially non-native speakers, to follow someone’s speech without seeing their mouth move or their facial expressions, such as when talking on the telephone or listening to the radio. How many puzzling song lyrics did you unlock once you watched the music video? And how tricky has it been to understand the grocery store clerk when you’re both masked? It’s the same idea here. Turn on your camera to add visual cues and context to your speech.

  9. Be mindful of what your non-verbal communication is saying. Some gestures that are benign in your culture of origin are seen as offensive in other cultures. For example, the “OK” sign in the US—thumb and index finger together with other 3 fingers in the air—means something entirely different in Brazil and the same gesture means “money” in Japan.

    The Gestures Around the World video shows several more great examples. Once you’re past the basics, the less-extreme examples of non-verbal communication offer insight into what others are thinking. Resources such as Live Japan Perfect Guide can demystify more subtle gestures.

  10. Reflect your cultural awareness in email. Written correspondence, yet another step away from in-person communication that’s often sent hastily, also has great potential for misunderstandings. Darren Menabney provides excellent advice for email across cultures, such as adopting the right level of formality and being sensitive to the directness of your communication.

Now that you have a grasp of the basics, ask yourself: What will I do differently now that I’m aware of these nuances in language and communication?

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