Professional Development, Fels R&C Style
By Tess Mullen, Associate Consultant (MPA '13)
Fels Research & Consulting has a multi-faceted purpose: it aims to complete high-quality, high-impact projects for its clients, and it seeks to provide Fels students who work as associate consultants with a quality, educational experience. If you spend two minutes looking at the list of Fels R&C’s current projects, you will clearly see that it provides top-notch consulting services. What may be less apparent is just how valuable an educational experience it provides as well.
There are a number of reasons why I have loved working for Fels Research & Consulting over the past year. I have been blessed with supportive bosses, interesting projects, and talented (and fun!) colleagues. One of my favorite parts of the job, however, has been the professional development opportunities that Fels R&C Director Lauren Hirshon has built into the associate consultant experience. Over the last year, I have learned the art of crafting a meeting agenda and how to facilitate a meeting effectively. Equally as valuable, I have learned how to produce a comprehensive work plan that can break a complicated, six-month research project down into a manageable, step-by-step process.
Some of my favorite Fels R&C lessons have come from the various professional development sessions our team has had this summer. At the beginning of the summer, Lauren Hirshon conducted a great session on how to establish healthy team norms (i.e. how to set, and agree, upon ground rules that can help you get your work done and preserve your friendships with your colleagues in the process). Having sat through a number of team building exercises in the past, I will freely admit that I entered this exercise with skepticism. I was amazed however by how effective it was. At the end of our discussion, the Fels R&C team had agreed upon a number of helpful team norms covering topics as diverse as how to reconcile disagreements to explicitly agreeing to always start team meetings on time. While our R&C team has always gotten along well, setting these norms made us that much stronger by encouraging us to discuss and clarify what we need from one another. As I look ahead and consider running my own organization one day, establishing team norms is definitely a skill that I hope to put into practice.
Given how valuable our professional development sessions have been thus far, I am excited for sessions to come. In the next few weeks, outside experts are coming in to teach us how to conduct interviews effectively and how to do economic impact analysis. My colleagues will be stepping up to the podium as well, sharing insights on how to increase web traffic, formulate business plans, and manage one’s time effectively.
As I approach my one year anniversary as an associate consultant, I am struck by the degree to which Fels R&C’s professional development component truly has developed me as a professional. By improving my ability to craft an agenda, manage my time, and create a work plan, Fels R&C has enhanced my ability to serve my current clients and my future employers. In short, it has exemplified the three P’s which the Fels Institute of Government itself strives to embody: it has been purposeful, it has been practical, and it has equipped me to pursue endless possibilities.