Becoming a Consultant 101: 5 Common Questions


By Dennis Casey

Guest Blog: Dennis Casey, VP of Operations

Ever wonder if positioning yourself on the highway to consultancy is the “right” career track? You’re not alone. Consulting jobs are exceptionally competitive yet in high demand, primarily because consultants bring an incredible amount of value to the table.

Here are the top five questions consulting candidates should ask themselves.

 

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Why would I want to pursue a career in consulting?

1 | Varied project scopes: Consultants have a natural itch to expand their breadth of knowledge in the way businesses are run. Rather than being limited to learning the ins-and-outs of one organizational infrastructure or industry type, consultants get the opportunity to understand cross-market business process best practices and the teams that are responsible for delivering those processes. The possibilities behind playing the evergreen role of “student” are virtually endless and are ultimately really rewarding.

 

2 | Fast skillset development: Because consultants are typically expected to perform their work across a multitude of industries, they are challenged early and often to expand their knowledge base and provide solutions that meet business needs effectively. In this way, a consultant’s ability to communicate, facilitate, problem-solve, trouble-shoot, analyze and innovate becomes quickly refined. Therefore, the evolution of a consultant’s skillset matures faster compared to other occupations and can take on challenges like acquiescing to demanding deadlines or hurdling over level-setting expectations around project results. Again, individuals who are passionate about assuming the forever role of student, should consider consulting as a future career.

 

3 | Unique work environment: Similar to the way that consultants service different businesses within different industries, a consultant’s internal work culture is bound to be comprised of a unique talent pool that has an inherent interest in avoiding corporation well-to-dos, and instead feel comfortable with long hours, fast-paced environment and taxing timelines. Not to mention, the opportunity to build relationships with counterparts like Business Analysts, Project Managers, Senior Consultants and Developers makes for a tight-knit, all hands-on-deck, cross-collaborative effort.

 

4 | Degrees don’t apply: Mastering the craft of consulting is a process that takes place independent of the textbook subject matter one chooses to devote their attention to in college. In essence, the type of undergraduate (or in some cases, graduate) degree received doesn’t necessarily matter. Degrees and consulting expertise aren’t mutually exclusive – consultants grow into senior-level positions based on accumulated experience and success. Earning your stripes in the consulting world doesn’t require specific academic criteria. Consultants come from all walks of professional and educational backgrounds.

 

5 | Social responsibility: Successful consultants have an organic need to drive change and support organizational transformation. The best consultants are those who have a natural inclination to help companies grow and help the people grow with those companies. When it boils down to it, consulting isn’t building software solutions or drafting organizational flow charts, consulting is becoming a trusted resource and agent of change.

 

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What characteristics do consultants typically have? Who are they as people?

1 | Honed expertise: Based on wide-ranging experience, consultants have formulated a knowledge pool that is as extensive by breadth as it is by depth. They gravitate toward sharing industry best practices with companies and enjoy helping businesses uncover new growth opportunities, identify challenges and become instrumental in guiding teams through organizational change.

 

2 | Knowledge seekers: Consultants are constantly hungry for facts and information. They veer toward furthering their theoretical and practical understanding about the businesses, technology and people they encounter and are champions at staying abreast with shifts in marketplace trends on a by-industry basis. They are born with an innate curiosity about the world and desire to crack the code behind real-world puzzles.

 

3 | Supremely flexible: Consultants are readily adaptable to changes in work environment and team dynamics. And when a consultant is thrown into entirely new business scenarios, they are naturally successful at thinking on their feet. Not to mention, their ability to empathize, nurture, advise and establish situational clarity and objectivity for their clients to make mission critical business decisions. They put people first and know how to shed light and demonstrate the native need for foreign perspective and potential solutions.

 

4 | Born-and-bread synthesizers: I wouldn’t go so far to say that consultants are human computers or encyclopedias, but they truly have a unique capacity to intake massive amounts of data and information while simultaneously identifying growth opportunities that require best practice recommendations.

 

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What type of prior experience does a person need to become a consultant?

In layman’s terms, the broader and deeper your experience, the better. Of course, this is solely dependent on your focus. Whether your intention is to become a pro at understanding the way organizational components interact and produce an outcome or to design and implement various technological solutions to streamline a business’s operations, depth in these areas will help prepare a person for becoming a consultant. Regardless of lessons learned, the bucket of knowledge developed from real-world experiences will eventually translate into the way an individual shapes their consultancy profile.

 

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What happens after I become a consultant?

1 | Stay rooted: Never forget the professional challenges that armed you with irreplaceable experience. Make sure you remember the skills and mentors that you’ve encountered on your professional (and personal) path and continue to pay that forward. Continue to ask questions about the hows, whats and whys.

 

2 | Be open to other careers: Always be ambitious but never to the point of fault. Avoid becoming too narrowly focused and rigid in your endeavours to be a consultant. If a position opens up that sparks your interest but slightly diverges from the consulting world, explore it. Keep your mind open to change.  

 

3 | Be yourself: When competition to perform (and perform really well) is fierce, it’s hard to shake off minor failures or create a work image of yourself that screams perfectionism. Your best bet is to be the best professional version of yourself that you can be – let your personality shine through. People (namely work peers and clients) enjoy working with consultants that are unapologetically themselves and that provide a substantial amount of value to their business.

 

4 | Keep the flame lit: Navigating through uncharted business territories can be fulfilling but it can also be exhausting and, for lack of a better term, soul draining if you aren’t in it for the right reasons and neglect pursuing passion projects outside of the workplace. Do things that make you feel happy to be alive in order to protect your energy levels and drive at work.

 

5 | Take the time to teach: Knowledge sharing, no matter how junior or senior one is in their career is one of the primary ways clients and coworkers will engage with you. Not to mention, you become an instantly valuable go-to resource. Taking the time to educate others is a great way to find purpose, especially in the consulting world.

 

6 | Patience is key: When you boil down the gist of doing what it takes to becoming a consultant – know that it takes time. Embrace the journey and acknowledge that experience won’t unfold itself overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a consultant. Be patient with your progress.

 

7 | Thought leadership is necessary: Consultants don’t assume the role of passive participants when engaging with clients and coworkers. They are instrumental in establishing quality control over conversational directives. A job title doesn’t define the success of a consultant, tapping into layers of experience does.

 

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What happens if I become a consultant and don’t love it as much as I thought I would?

This is a major reality check for any person that’s ever had a job. Consulting isn’t for everyone, especially for forever. Life happens, so take solace in the fact that just as you became passionate in becoming a consultant, you’ll recover the same enthusiasm when it’s time to reconsider a new set of career options. The world is always your oyster.

 

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Want to pick the brain of a Canpango consulting expert? Contact our talent team today at awesomejobs@canpango.com.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis is an experienced business and consulting executive having spent the last 20+ years in the technology sector, most of which was with emerging companies. Utilizing his diverse experience Dennis is often the “go to” guy when it comes to navigating change, establishing operational imperatives, or just plain getting something done. He gets no greater satisfaction than helping staff progress in their careers and mentoring new managers as they emerge as leaders.

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