Your potential is not for sale

When I was working in Ernst & Young (EY), I always got offers for jobs from clients, prospects, and other top companies through headhunting.

When I was working in Ernst & Young (EY), I always got offers for jobs from clients, prospects, and other top companies through headhunting. Some brands are so good that once you have them on your curriculum vitae, opportunities keep coming. EY is one such brand.

At EY, you work with some of the best professionals as peers, managers, and partners. You spend a lot of your time with folks that have been outliers in their respective schools especially academically. Many people who join a firm like EY have a track record of success, and the staying power to see through projects.

One of the characteristics of people at EY is a self-initiative and positive attitude. You are not only expected to do a lot in a short time, you must keep scanning the market for any opportunities.  If you see an opportunity in the daily newspapers, you must inform your manager about it and assess the firm’s chances of winning it. In consulting, everyone is expected to win consulting projects. For that reason, every staff is required to write proposals. While at a client implementing a project, consultants or auditors are advised to stay open to exploring the client’s worries, pain points, and pressures in other departments. For example, if EY is implementing say a Tax Planning project working closely with the finance department, the staff on the project must keep their ears and eyes on the ground. Visiting different staff in their respective offices to create rapport and networks with insiders in other departments.

During my time at EY, it was common for us to request the project coordinator to introduce us to managers or directors in other departments to brief them about the current projects and the kind of support we might need from their office. This always worked. Even if you are working on an ICT security review, you want to have a one-on-one with the HR “to brief them about the project.” You have to find a way to connect the “project” to their department to justify the meeting since most of the time these people are busy and may easily refuse a meeting or set a date that is too far.

“We are here for an IT security review. One of the pillars of effective cybersecurity is user awareness. I want to make sure that we consider all your initiatives to implement a robust cybersecurity framework. Do you have a cybersecurity training program? If yes, is it possible to look at it? Are employees required to undergo basic cybersecurity training as part of their onboarding training? Let me know your convenient time to speak in case I need to clarify some things.”

It was during one such assignment, a bank HR told me about an available opportunity and whether I would be interested. When you are working at EY, it is a global brand you are always proud of. I told her instantly, “I am not interested. Thanks.” Let me know in case you have a person who is good and could be interested. I said, yes sure. “What is the pay? I asked.”

It is the US $1,500, take home. Plus, many benefits.

My heart skipped a bit at the mention of the salary.

“That is quite a generous pay.” The HR lady responded with a smile.

You know. It is a human condition to want to progress.

But we had been warned as part of induction training at EY about work ethics. “Never to be vulnerable. Avoid accepting jobs while on the project at any client as such speaks poorly of the brand and about your integrity.”

But the amount of US $1,500 kept ringing in my head. I started comparing with my current salary and the difference US $1,500 would make in my life. It was fantastic. As I drove back home that evening, I started seeing the kind of apartment I would move to with that kind of monthly salary and the car I would drive. “Opportunity knocks once. This here is mine. God has finally heard my prayers.” Such messages of excitement suddenly took over me and I drove with that optimistic mood.

When I reached home, I told my wife about the opportunity that had arisen.

“Good news sweetheart.” What is the good news? She asked.

The client I am implementing the ICT security review has a vacant position while they have approached me about and it pays the cool US $1,500 net. That is Ugx. 5.7m. With that kind of money, it would solve all our problems.

My wife has a gift of listening. She looked at me as I tried to defend the offer.

“I don’t think that it is the best decision to leave EY for that bank.” She said.

“Your potential is not for sale. When you joined EY, you have got several opportunities and be exposed to so many clients. You are still young. You need the experience at EY to thrive. Do not let the good get into the way of the best. You may be working long hours, and earning a little salary, but the firm is investing in you. every day is a new challenge. You visit new clients. Don’t leave such opportunities to work with the best and be exposed to several businesses early.

In a bank, for example, you will be probably ahead of the department but you may lack exposure to other businesses or sectors which could limit your growth potential.”

She made sense to me.

I decided to ignore the job opportunity, which I had over 90% chances of getting and continued with my work.

That is called a long-term game. The ability to forego short term opportunities and benefits for long-term success. And indeed I gained lots of skills and confidence that have enabled me to start and run Summit Consulting Ltd where we have been blessed to work with many great companies in the region.

Every day, you are faced with different choices to make. Some choices help you win in the long term (the long term game) while others help you to survive the short-term (short term game). Are you making the right choices?

Your purpose and dream are not for sale. Do not get a big salary offer get into your way to become the best version of yourself so that you may achieve your potential.

At Summit Consulting Ltd, we have introduced a Monday morning staff transformation hour to provide premium training to our staff at zero cost. This not only gives our people a sneak peek into what we sell to our clients, but it also helps empower them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

We know, this is a long-term game for them. And with such opportunities, they cannot sell their purpose and dream for a big salary which our clients or admirers could offer and can afford because they don’t develop their staff to do what they would want them to do.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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