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Twenty four months that have changed the way I work: Fiona’s anniversary insights

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Copper Consultancy’s Senior Account Manager Fiona Woolston reflects on an eventful first two-years with the company and her transition from in-house roles to consultancy life.

 After a headhunting drive to find suitable candidates for our expanding Midlands division back in 2018, one of our hires, Fiona, has recently celebrated her second year with Copper. Despite having never worked at a consultancy before, Fiona quickly accelerated from Account Manager to Senior Account Manager and is now preparing to take on greater levels of seniority within the team.

Before joining Copper, Fiona worked in the charity and higher education sectors in multiple in-house communications roles, as well as undertaking several editorial positions. Although her previous projects were reflective of the sectors in which she works today, there are some key difference between in-house roles and consultancy life. Nevertheless, with the right professional approach and traits, the transition can be a career-making move.

As we continue to expand our team to support our agency’s growth, we are dedicated to strategic hires based on an individual’s skills, knowledge and character, rather than simply hiring based on a candidate’s previous roles. We asked Fiona to reflect on her transition from in-house roles to Copper and discuss her favourite elements of agency work. If you’re considering a move to a consultancy, and have questions, Fiona’s insights will help inform your next steps.

Securing new business

Having never worked for a consultancy previously, the concept of securing your own clients and projects was completely alien – in-house you had one client and your projects were secure and periodically recurring. Despite this, I have found chasing down new business leads one of the best parts of being a consultant. I have no inhibitions about striking up a conversation with a stranger at a bus stop, and at Copper, I have used this trait to build a network of potential clients from across the development and construction sectors.

To date, I have brought several new clients onto Copper’s portfolio through simply striking up conversations with individuals at events and via LinkedIn. These experiences have resulted in me building relationships with some fascinating people, who truly care about the progress of the Midlands and who have introduced me to a range of opportunities beyond my day-to-day activities.

If you have the ability to genuinely listen and take an interest in people, and you enjoy sharing stories and ideas, you will thrive at networking events regardless of whether you have trained within a consultancy.

Implementing your ideas

In a large organisation with strict roles and responsibilities attached to hierarchical approval processes, it can be difficult to initiate innovation and change from the bottom up. Although this is not a clear-cut representation of all large organisations, there is an inherent challenge for such organisations due to their size and need for consistency that can stifle people running with good ideas.

When I made the move to a smaller organisation, I was surprised by the opportunities that individuals had to share ideas and influence operations up and down the ladder. Like many of my colleagues, I have capitalised on Copper’s desire to identify people’s unique talents and embraced the chance to champion those throughout the company. For example, with my successes in new business and LinkedIn networking, I have hosted lunch & learns, and coached junior and senior colleagues on business development top tips.

If you are a self-starter brimming with good ideas, or want to help shape your organisation’s operations and policies, you may just thrive in a consultancy environment.

Developing your career

Copper puts great emphasis on its consultants building their own professional brand and cultivating a long-term career in the wider sector. This has resulted in me becoming an active member of regional associations, featuring in local business publications and my blogs on Birmingham infrastructure and construction trends regularly feature across Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce channels. Being able to build my professional identity has also led to me being invited to be a panellist at roundtables and events led by prominent city businesses, CIPR Midlands and the BPS Birmingham Property and Infrastructure Committee.

Earlier in the year, Copper also nominated me to attend the Major Projects Association’s Rising Stars Programme. I have now been selected to sit on the Association’s Programme Committee and most recently, supported the creation of the MPA’s first Rising Stars Network. All this experience is ensuring that when I take my next professional step, I have the greatest chance of achieving my ambitions.

For a consultancy, having a team of talented, well-connected and knowledgeable individuals is imperative to attract top clients. This means that it is in their interest to invest in and champion you.

Serving your community

I am a proud Brummie. I grew up in Birmingham, and my family have worked for generations in some of the city’s key industries. Following university, I returned to Birmingham, inspired by the rate of regeneration and the opportunity to positively contribute to the city’s success. Part of my reason for joining Copper was to encourage city developers to bring local communities on the development journey, to ensure that changes in the city were happening for them and not to them.

Copper also gives members of its team the opportunity to directly support their community through a programme of volunteering days and flexible working policy. To date, I have helped manage my local park with the Friends of Ten Acres voluntary group, and supported young people in Birmingham. I mentor aspiring PR professionals studying at the University of Birmingham (UoB) and Birmingham City University (BCU), and in late 2019, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture at BCU to its third-year Public Relations and Media BA (Hons). I will be returning to deliver a number of activities during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Different consultancies will offer different enrichment packages, but if you can find somewhere that aligns with your passions and values, your working life is going to be greatly enriched and enhance your wellbeing.

Final thoughts

From my experience, there are pros and cons to both in-house roles and working for a consultancy, and there are obviously differences between consultancies themselves. Nevertheless, I have certainly found a style of working that suits me here at Copper, and I look forward to what the next two years will bring. If you’re considering making the move to consultancy life, do not be put off by your lack of experience in that environment. If you have the right professional approach and traits, you’ll thrive. Most importantly, do your research and find a company that aligns with your values and ambitions.

If you’re considering a move to a consultancy, and have questions, please contact me at Fiona.woolston@copperconsultancy.com, and I will be happy to help.

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