In times of recession, a consulting business can be one of the most secure workplaces. When businesses are in trouble, or seeking more efficient and economical ways of operating, they turn to consultants for assistance and advice. Senior executives recognize that someone from outside the organization, who thinks strategically and is familiar with their marketplace, can often pinpoint areas that can be improved or streamlined. The objectivity of a consultant is as valuable as the skill and experience.
Consulting is big business and consultant careers are proving a popular choice among young graduates, who aim to join a top-notch consulting business and work their way up from being a humble analyst to becoming a senior consultant. Increasingly though, they may have to compete with experienced business gurus who move sideways from operational positions.
So what are the characteristics you need to succeed in a consultant career? With few exceptions, the best consultants are people who:
- Really want to help others to achieve, and often step back from taking credit themselves.
- Get a real buzz out of making a difference.
- Are analytical and academic rather than hands-on.
- Generate lots of ideas and think up new ways of doing things.
- Are good at evaluating problems and finding possible solutions.
- Can cultivate good working relationships and get the best out of people.
- Are good listeners and are generally liked.
- Work well within teams but can step up and take control if necessary.
- Think logically and are able to keep tabs on the big picture while dealing with the details.
- Can keep a strategic focus.
- Have plenty of stamina and keep going as long as required.
They will, of course, also have the practical skills needed for writing readable reports and making impelling presentations. And they are usually highly computer literate, with experience in many software applications.
So you think your character and temperament fits with this list, and you have or can acquire the practical skills. Now you need to find the right consulting business niche for your consultant career.
The largest sector in consulting is information technology, so if you are a computer whizz kid, that’s the way to go. Marketing is another aspect where consultants are used, sometimes as an outsourced department, more often to advise and coach an in-house team. Some consulting businesses specialize in Change Management. Others advise businesses or organizations in particular market sectors, such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, and so on. There are consultants to the water industry, the oil industry, the railways and haulage businesses. The list can seem endless.
A major consulting business will employ a range of skilled consultants, so the opportunities for consultant careers are wider. A smaller consulting business is more likely to specialize and rely on its reputation in a well defined area.
Look carefully at your interests and experience, so you can aim to position yourself where you will be able to enjoy the work you get, and are most likely to succeed.