April 2010 Archive

Ugly Consultants

April 26th, 2010

The Ugly Consultant

Consulting is very diverse. It has to be. We make money from understanding our clients, no matter their cultural background or heritage. It pays us dividends to have a diverse employee body – we can sell that multicultural workforce and boiling pot of language skills to help up our utilisation rates.

There’s no inequality or racism in this industry (fascism don’t pay so well)– which is something I’m truly proud to say. However – and you will laugh at this – however, I implore you to find an ugly consultant.
That’s right. There are no ugly consultants.

The graduate intake this year had people every hair and skin colour you could imagine and all 200 of them magically avoided getting a good hard slap with the ugly stick on their way into the world. I don’t mean that the welcome day was like standing backstage at Milan fashion week but there was no one could could really say was unfortunately featured.
The women were all generically medium height and build; no one had much in the way of a few pounds to spare or any outstanding body morphs like immense breasts or stubby legs or double chins. The men are all well built and fall neatly into either ruggedly handsome or soft-middle-manager foppish -you know the type, drinks cocktails and likes cricket. Everyone has good teeth, skin and hair and a big friendly smile. No dodgy haircuts, bad makeup or tasteless clothes on show either. Demure suits, understated accessories and an all over natural look was the key trends being rocked at the newstarts induction event. It was quite refreshing, really, to escape the plethora of orange faces and skinny jeans.

Where to they get this seething mass of “normal” people? It all starts at the interview. I’ve often pondered what the optimum brains:sociability:looks ratio is for the interviewees. There’s the clear specification of having exceptional school grades, a “good” degree from a “good” university and buckets of life and work experience but I wonder what the unmentioned appearance specifications are. Do they score down a first in a maths degree with being overweight with bad skin? Will they take the person with the less technical background because they look more presentable and has a gleaming smile with no fillings? Maybe you’ve never worked a full time job in your life but it sure sounds like you can sell snow to the Eskimos so we’ll take you.

At first, I felt it was hugely unethical until I remembered that consultants are essentially salespeople. You bid for a piece of work, you send your photo in on your CV, you attend an interview for most client projects you go on. The client is paying an arm and a leg for your services and whether we, them or anyone else wants to admit or not, they want to feel that they they’re getting a premium rate service and that means looking that part. When I pay for a top of the range business hotel in the heart of the city I EXPECT more than the three star sun, sea and sand resort I stayed in last summer with the late deals of teletext. At the end of the day, the client wants us to help them with a piece of work, and at the end of the day I want a bed to sleep in. Beyond the transactional level, I’m not only expecting my expensive hotel to not only serve my needs but it has to have tea and coffee making, padded walls, a fitness suite, room service. Needless to say, the client is also expecting the bells and whistles of a friendly, sociable, confident and approachable person who doesn’t come with hidden surprises like a spliced snake tongue or tattoo sleeves or the worst eyeliner since 1986.

We are here to sell work and sell the company and like it or lump it, there’s a huge body of literature out there saying that ugly people are percieved differently from non ugly people. It’s part of our sad human condition that we automatically assume attractive people to be happier, smarter and earn more regardless if this is true or not. It’s not morally “just” but it is true.


April 19th, 2010

Travel is not luxurious. I promise you. Unless you’re flying trans Atlantic with the pretend crew of Virgin airlines from the advert and things like check in services, waiting lounges and delays have mysteriously disappeared don’t even let that thought cross your mind. I know you do though – you sort of want to commute via aeroplane to work. And I know why.
Films are great at presenting the romanticised version of travel. Sleek looking people in sharp business suits stepping of the plane and striding through the airport talking on tiny phones; tall women in sunglasses and trolley cases clicking their fingers at PA’s and rich looking middle aged men in top to toe tailoring who always seem to know where they’re going and how to get there.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s consider a travel diary I noted down last week whilst catching a domestic from my home town to the client:
2200h night before.
Pack suitcase. Remember to bring antibacterial cream, painkillers, laxatives and anti diuretics. There’s nothing like travel to mess your internals up. Fold all clothing into small balls and sit on suitcase to make it close.
2400h night before
Try to sleep. No chance. Go over the contents list of suitcase again and again. Check alarm clock is DEFINITELY set. Definitely.
Wake up. Phone taxi, get dressed (and I mean full makeup/hair/business attire – can’t be seen to be letting the side down!) and throw coffee in the general direction of your face.
The check in machines at the airport have went down. Join the long, long check in queue of boredom death. Talk to annoyingly chipper attendant who sings when she says thaaannkkkyyyoouuu.
Join the security queue
Still in the security queue
Arrive at the scanner, panic as you attempt to remove belt and trip over your shoes, rip your stockings, kick the man behind you and drop your boarding card. Haul your laptop out of the bag and empty the contents of your pockets into a tray. Realise that you forgot to put the laxatives into the little plastic bag which is now the sole repository of your cleaning essentials. Check in guy insists in checking your bag and putting the laxatives in the plastic bag before making it go through again. Congratulations, your bowels have held up the airport.
Start redressing yourself.
Arrive in waiting lounge. You’re not a manager so can’t use the business lounge. Sit in the cattle class coffee area and pay three times the high street value for coffee and a muffin. Feel too ill to eat it anyway.
Check the board. No delays. Yet. Fat guy shuffles in beside you and snorts whilst reading the paper.
Boarding commences. Time to stand in another line of morose business people and watch the plane being refuelled and de-iced. Get confused over whether the crew want to see the boarding pass or passport or what. Get a snarky look when you hand them both. This one only wanted boarding cards.
Listen to the safety announcement AGAIN (you still don’t know it and quite frankly know the chances of surviving a plane crash are slim to ha-ha-ha) and fall asleep with a jumper over your head and your mouth open.
Land. Try to pull yourself together. Check reflection in the terminal building. Baggy eyes-check. Greasy skin-check. Lank hair-check. Realign cuffs with jacket sleeves and drag weary body to rail station.
Fight for a space on the train. Annoying man is loud on the phone. You imagine jumping on the phone and nailing his ear to a wall. Smile to yourself and get a funny look because people don’t smile whilst commuting.
Arrive in the office. Your manager is snarky because you weren’t there before nine. He can get there before nine apparently.
…and that’s a good day. That’s when the flight isn’t cancelled and delayed, the guy beside me on the plane isn’t trying to talk about the weather and I have remembered all my essentials.
Yet I still get people telling me that it’s so cool to travel as part of work. I don’t understand it. Genuinely. You get to spend a week away home in a generic business hotel, get whipped into working even longer hours because “you’re not going to be doing anything else,” abandon your friends, family and relationship several hundred miles away and eat sandwiches from the supermarket because you don’t know where the nice restaurants are.
I’ve heard some arguments to the contrary. Some people who simply refuse to hear that travelling for work is like a knife to the soul.
“You can go to the gym”
Really? After being up for eighteen hours and working twelve of those you can go to the gym? Even if you have time for the gym you have to find a gym. A public gym you don’t have to join or complete inductions for. You have no car, don’t know the transport links, opening times or area. Good luck to you, sir.
“You can go to the cinema”
With who? Your manager?
“Go for a drink”
Because it makes getting home in a strange city even more interesting.
“Don’t you get expenses?”
So I get my flights and hotel and transport covered. I get a generic amount towards one meal a day. Yes. “Expenses”. I can feel another rant coming on about the expenses myth. Hmm.
The best thing that can happen to a business flight is it that it’s cancelled (unless it’s the one taking you home). Next time someone tells you that they travel with work spare a thought for them. When you’re just about getting up and thinking of getting up to go to work they’ll be half way there on a 500km commute and the content of their lives in a rattley trolley case. Not cool.

Proportion of Breakfast Items per Breakfast Type per Food Group.

April 19th, 2010

A logical breakdown of the different food groups present in three standard breakfast types to assist you in conducting a dietary gap analysis.