A career in consulting is exceptional. If you want to know how to get into consulting career, this primer is for you. Use this as your go-to resource to understand:
A consultant is a guide possessing vast knowledge within a particular industry and using that knowledge to help clients draw the best decisions. The purpose of a consultant is to analyze and advise.
For example, a client searching for business assessment will seek a strategic consultant at Mckinsey or a client search for risk mitigation options will seek a regulatory compliance consultant. Consultants exist in every field such as financial, management and technical departments.
High earning potential, wide business exposure, the opportunity of travel, leadership networking, freedom to make decisions, time flexibility and the chance to work with highly knowledgeable team members are some of the perks of a consultant career.
It’s important to categorize and understand different types of consulting businesses to put your job choice in perspective.
These are lone rangers. Much like a freelancer, the job of the consultant is to seek clients and offer consulting specializations which could be about anything. From web marketing strategies to financial analysis, there are consultants for every aspect of a business.
The self-employed consultants maintain total creative and business control. Starting from scratch, the business is built from ground-up and as such, it’s a learning experience for the consultant. There is a direct working relationship with the client and all the profits are of the consultant business owner.
A major drawback is a problem with convincing clients to get hired. Sometimes work experience and talent falls short.
The consultant has to market and sell services simultaneously and sometimes, the whole process of managing a consulting business becomes overwhelming.
Companies like Oracle and IBM maintain consulting divisions for their major and associated products and services. These consulting divisions follow well-defined training programs, offer good career paths and use well-developed and proven methodologies to prosper consultancy services.
A major drawback for the consultant is the lack of decision control. Keeping aside lame policies, political machinations, and other bureaucratic workings, sometimes the consultant has to force-fit products into a consulting solution which is ethically not the right solution for the customer.
The “boutique” strategy consulting firms are those working with a small number of expert consultants and servicing selected industries. Working with them gives new consultants direct access to senior consultants who act as mentors and share industry insights. There are less bureaucracy and more opportunities.
A major drawback could be the lack of broad industry exposure and less infrastructural facilities.
Management consulting firms like Accenture and Price Waterhouse Coopers come under the “big” consulting firm bracket. They work with Fortune 500 companies on global projects.
These firms have well established consulting methodologies, well-defined career paths, training programs and preference towards young workers.
A lot of bureaucracy and rampant company politics is a major disadvantage. New entrants are often made to work conditions that leave much to be desired.
No matter what which consultant field and business type you choose, you need to have the 4 key consulting skills.
A management consultant needs to possess interpersonal skills in order to relate to people within and outside the organization. Trust and credibility is an important asset in the consulting business.
You need to build rapport with other members of the organization in a compelling and professional manner.
Whether you’re the lone ranger or working somewhere as a consultant, you need to be excellent in comprehending and interpreting new data. Consultants come across new data regularly and they can’t afford to spend days analyzing them.
You have to possess the art of synthesizing any amount of data into effective presentations, and that too in a short amount of time.
A lot rides on the opinion and advice of the consultant. When a client acts on your advice and it doesn’t work out, you’re held responsible. At such times, you can’t shirk responsibility or play the blame game.
Clients pay handsomely as consultancy fees and they want it to be worth the amount in value-based opinion. Therefore, keep two things in mind. First, have faith in your ideas and second, be willing to accept your role in case if something goes wrong.
A large or medium business organization has various layers of operation and it is important for the consultant to understand where each ‘piece’ fits and how it contributes towards the organization as a whole. This is called systems thinking and you can learn more about it here.
Moreover, an organization functions based on its manpower and as such, it is useful to understand how the manpower reacts to change, be it to management changes or internal company policies. Check out the guide on change management.
Whether you’re employed or self-employed as a consultant, avoid these three mistakes at all costs.
Consultants working within the purview of an organization should be mindful never to attach themselves with a particular client that makes other colleagues doubt the authenticity of the consultant’s advice. This distorts the consultant’s reputation within the organization and shadows career growth.
Secondly, self-employed consultants should not depend on a single client ever. You never know when the client pulls purse-strings and leaves you high and dry!
The ‘I-know-everything’ is the death knell to any career in consulting. We see many consultants walking with the air of someone who is indispensable or rather a God walking among mere mortals! The attitude is totally at fault.
As a consultant, you should also exhibit the desire to learn new things, a questioning attitude and receptive to changes.
You will be surprised to know that most consultants think that the prime agenda of consultants is to create presentations!
However, are the presentations actually useful to the clients they were intended for? Barely! The clients want actionable information, not long PowerPoint presentations.
People like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki suggest that business communication should be simple.
The purpose of consulting is to offer timely advice that helps an organization. We recommend keeping presentations simple but the decision also depends on your consulting firm and their demands.
Launching yourself as a self-employed consultant requires only a single thing – good contacts.
All the education, skills and experience is nothing if you don’t have good contacts to get clients.
Depending on the chosen consulting field, find ways to connect and network.
If you’re a finance consultant, having contacts with bank employees, investors, insurance agents, bank human resource personnel is good.
Launching yourself as an employed consultant calls for additional steps.
Be doubly sure before you break into consulting industry. If you like advising, this can be the right option for you. Make sure you’ve the necessary skills and industry-related knowledge to become a consultant.