My first office job as a teenager was a receptionist role. It included the duties you’d expect—I answered and transferred calls, took messages, and signed for packages. I performed those roles well and (plot twist) also found myself creating an operations manual for the administrative staff. It was essentially a knowledge base of best practices that outlined the administrative responsibilities and role expectations, complete with a training and onboarding guide. At the time, it didn’t seem like a demanding thing to do at all. And though it wasn’t part of my job description, I felt compelled to create it to help the office run more smoothly.
Flash forward to a couple of years ago. I was interviewing for a job and heard myself explain to the hiring manager that I’m the person people hire to help fix business problems using innovative and simple solutions. At that moment, I realized that none of my previous employers had ever actually asked me to “fix their problems”—it’s just something I intuitively did. I’ve had roles across marketing, finance, operations, and even event planning and loved them all, but I would eventually get bored. In every single role, I’d find myself looking for and creating better ways of doing what was already being done.
I realized that none of my previous employers had ever actually asked me to “fix their problems”—it’s just something I intuitively did...In every single role, I’d find myself looking for and creating better ways of doing what was already being done. — Rosy Van Horn, Consultant
Stepping into my natural role
I had no clue that what I’d been doing most of my career was operating as an internal consultant until I met one three years ago. It was then I realized: THAT’S what I want to be when I grow up! Is it possible to have pre-imposter syndrome though? Because I think I had it. I told myself all kinds of things over the next few years that kept me from applying to consultant roles: “You’re not good enough,” “Your work experience wouldn’t really count,” “You have to have a consultant title on your resume,” and the big one, “You don’t have an MBA.”
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But in those moments, I reminded myself that I had a lot of relevant experience and plenty of transferrable skills. I just needed to find the right opportunity and fit. So, I started doing research and asked for advice from my network. A friend told me about Propeller—a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. It was ranked nationally as one of the best companies to work for. I stalked their website for a couple of years, learning about their mission, ethos, and spent hours reading all their articles and case studies. I was especially drawn to their core identifier: “we are consultants, fixers, and change makers.” It almost sounded too good to be true.
In February of 2021, Propeller gave me the chance to prove to them (and to my doubting self), that I could be a consultant. I was interviewing at a couple of places and knew Propeller seriously considers applicants without a traditional consulting background. I remind you, I had pre-imposter syndrome and I really wanted to do this job well, so in the interview process, I made sure to ask about the support for folks like me. Across every person, they echoed the same specifics for how their colleagues and culture helped set them up for success.
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...in those moments, I reminded myself that I had a lot of relevant experience and plenty of transferrable skills. I just needed to find the right opportunity and fit. — Rosy Van Horn, Consultant
Never a lone wolf
True to form, over the past five months, I can say I’ve never felt more supported. Propeller offers free online self-paced learning paths for different focus areas, lunch and learn series, webinars, an annual $4500 budget towards learning and development, an internal coaching program, and every single Propeller employee has bent over backward to share their own resources, examples, and learning. As I engage in my client work here, what’s probably surprised me most is just how much my previous work experiences have helped me in my consulting role. I pull from my role as a department manager when I’m thinking about a communications strategy. I replicate some of the best practices I used as the leader of a new training and enablement service roll-out to 200 people—even though today it’s for 7,000 client employees. Every single project managed, change rolled out, and complex problem I fixed has taught me lessons I tap into today to be an effective consultant.
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Every single project managed, change rolled out, and complex problem I fixed has taught me lessons I tap into today to be an effective consultant. — Rosy Van Horn, Consultant
Books & Resources I Highly Recommend:
“Getting Naked: Shedding the 3 Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty” By Patrick Lencioni
This book helped me understand consulting a bit more, as well as help me define what kind of consultant I'd be and what kind of company I'd want to work for. Additionally, I also took plenty of classes on LinkedIn learning by Mike Figliuolo.
If you’re thinking of stepping into consulting from a different industry or non-traditional career track, consider checking out the Propeller Careers page for information about an opportunity that might be right for you!