Fancy yourself as a consultant? Author Samir Parikh knows when the time is right to advise others
Consulting can be a very rewarding profession. It offers exposure to diverse and often leading-edge issues, the opportunity to work with a wide variety of client stakeholders and offers an accelerated career path paralleled by few other professions.
Consulting attracts both fresh graduates who tend to look towards the larger consulting firms, and seasoned professionals who have worked in industry for some time and aim to leverage their knowledge in making a logical career change.
At the same time consulting is not for everybody, and some factors should be considered before taking the plunge. The most fundamental relate to your proposition as a consultant, your ability to engage effectively and the lifestyle associated with consulting.
Refine your proposition
As a consultant you will need a proposition. This is what will get you hired by a consulting firm and will ultimately be the main reason that clients want to work with you. Your individual proposition will be based upon two elements: Expertise and experience. For younger people the driving element tends to be expertise quantified by educational achievements whereas those who have worked for some years are likely to offer a mixed proposition leaning on the experience that they have gained in their field. With this in mind consider your potential profile as a consultant. What makes you qualified to consult, and how would you explain this to others?
Ready to help
Whether your proposition is expertise or experience weighted you will need a set of skills to put it into action. This is something that consulting firms pay a lot of attention to when recruiting. Consultants are expected to engage with confidence, communicate in a structured way, solve problems analytically, resolve interpersonal conflicts and formulate recommendations creatively. Those who are new to consulting are not necessarily expected to have fully mastered these skills, some of which are personality-related, but should be able to demonstrate clear evidence of them. Consider how these capabilities resonate with your own profile and ambitions.
Day in the life
Day-to-day life as a consultant will depend upon the firm that you join and the type of consulting that you are doing. Having said that, consulting is an industrious profession for industrious people.
There will be ups and downs in your workload, but often more ups than downs. From time to time you may need to work long hours and crunch to tight deadlines.
An element of travel may also be required for client-facing engagements, which are often conducted at the client’s premises. While this type of lifestyle calls for a degree of flexibility it is certainly not dull. In fact it is often savoured by those who thrive on challenge and yet are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. So, having considered these factors, are you ready to be a consultant?
Samir Parikh is the CEO of SPConsulting AB.
His new book The Consultant’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to Delivering High-value and Differentiated Services in a Competitive Marketplace is published by Wiley and provides practical guidelines, supported by real-life examples related to the consulting profession.
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