Flight Risk

Thoughts + Opinion

Within the first year of my consulting career I was labeled a ‘flight risk’ by the department leadership team. I know this because several managers I was close with told me so.

A ‘flight risk’ is someone who has a high probability of leaving the firm for another job. Not passively if offers come up, but actively seeking other opportunities with leaving the current firm being a driving force. This is typically brought on by a trigger event. It could be a very frustrating project, working with an incompetent manager, or even a few discussions with leaders in the department who notice the energy is “off” – any multitude of things can lead to being added to the flight risk list.

My situation stemmed from the experience on my first project. Within a month of starting my job I was staffed on a large project with a great team dynamic and work-life balance. After a few months, the situation rapidly deteriorated and the model of the perfect project became a much more intense situation. Missed deadlines, long work hours, misaligned expectations – all the hallmarks of a contentious consulting project.

That experience went on for about five months. A few weeks after it wrapped up, reviews for junior team members were coming up and I was told about the flight risk situation.

At the time, I clarified what that meant and assured the manager I was catching up with that there was nothing to worry about.

I left the conversation puzzled why they would think I was a flight risk. Sure, I absolutely hated that past project and didn’t want to do that ever again, but now that it was over why would I leave? The thought of going through the interview processes, deciding where to go, and starting over within a year of starting my first real job was out of the question to me. I just got this job, why would I want to find another? Who would even hire me?

Looking back, I laugh about that flight risk designation now. The people around me scared I was going to leave had significantly more confidence in my value and ability to find another job than I had. What seemed an implausible task to me, was a potential inevitability to them.

Perception and relativity are tricking in that way. Only looking back do I realize how highly they thought of me and how little I thought of myself. Not that I needed to find a new job, projects go sideways all the time, but that I didn’t have the confidence or open mindedness to even entertain the idea.

It’s easy to realize this from a point of reflection. It’s a good reminder to think of the other perspectives at hand when making a decision or analyzing the dynamics of a situation you may find yourself in.

See you tomorrow.
Nick

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