Management Consulting Glossary

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Consulting concept on Dry Erase Board

If you’re planning to pursue a career in consulting, start learning the terms used in the industry as early as now. Professional consultants use expressions that might confuse you. If you want to blend in smoothly, you have to understand what they truly mean.

A

Added value – The value added to the production cost of a product in terms of either price or worth. For example, a one-year warranty on an electronic device is a value-added feature that conveys the quality of the product.

AOB – Acronym for Any Other Business, a phrase referring to topics not listed in the meeting agenda but that attendees would like to discuss after the main concerns have been covered.

Assignment – A project a consultant undertakes for a professional fee, which usually consists of analyzing a business situation and coming up with recommendations for a solution.

At the end of the day – A phrase used to introduce a summary or an important point of concern  after everything else has been discussed and considered.

B

Bandwidth – The resources required to finish a task or project including the amount of energy and level of skill needed to do things efficiently.

Benchmarking – A method of comparing a company’s set of policies, strategies, or systems in relation to the best practices within or outside the industry. This allows the company to develop plans for improving the business.

Best of breed – The top product in a given industry. It receives the most investment because of its superior quality as evaluated against competitors’ offerings.

Best practice – An organizational technique, method, or procedure that consistently produces the most effective or superior results. It is used as a benchmark by companies that want to improve their systems and processes.

Big Four – Refers to Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG, the four largest international companies offering accounting and professional services.

Big Three – Refer to MBB

Bird’s eye view – Looking at a situation from a wider perspective.

Blue-sky thinking – A business phrase for thinking outside the box. It means being open-minded, ingenious, and innovative during meetings, brainstorming sessions, or problem analyses.

Boilerplate – A standard text or graphic that can be easily modified for future use. For instance, an employment contract may serve as a boilerplate if it is used every time a new consultant is hired. The recruiter can simply edit the personal information of the new hire and retain the terms of the contract.

Boil the ocean – Jargon that describes efforts to resolve a task that is too complicated to complete regardless of the person or group’s time and resources.

Bottoms-up – A problem solving approach that begins with an analysis of the details (or with low-level employees) and ends with an examination of the highest conceptual value (or top management). Compare to top-down.

Boutique firm – A consulting firm that offers a limited number of specialized consulting services to specific types of businesses. Examples of boutique firms include LEK and Marakon.

Bring to the table – To provide something (e.g., ideas, plans, skills, knowledge, etc.) that will create value or benefit a company.

Business model  – Description of how a business creates and delivers value to its target market. It includes strategies, organizational structure, processes, and policies.

Business-to-business – See B2B

Business-to-consumer – See B2C

Buttoned-down – See Buttoned-up

Buttoned-up – Thoroughly planned, accurate, and supervised. Also called Buttoned-down.

B2B – Abbreviation for business-to-business, an online transaction between two organizations or businesses.

B2C – Abbreviation for business-to-consumer, an online transaction between a company and consumers or end users.

C

CAGR – Acronym for Compound Annual Growth Rate, the number used to calculate the average return per year.

Campus hire – A candidate who is hired directly out of a university or business school. Compare to experienced hire.

Charge code – A project code to which consultants charge work-related costs.

Circle back – Discuss, follow up, or review the progress of an issue at a later time.

Close the loop – Jargon used by consultants during meetings to close a thoroughly discussed topic or issue that has been resolved.

Core client – A client who has established a time-honored relationship with a consulting firm.

Core competency – A key strength that adds value to a company. It can consist of knowledge, technical capabilities, commitment, skill sets, or production techniques that enable an organization to introduce unique products and services to the market that will give their business a competitive advantage.

D

Deep dive – An in-depth analysis or discussion of a particular topic.

Deliverable – A task, usually part of a larger project, that has been promised to a client. It can be tangible, such as progress reports or a market study summary, or intangible such as a presentation.

Due diligence – A comprehensive organizational research and analysis conducted prior to a business transaction or agreement with another party.

E

EBITDA – Abbreviation for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization, an indicator of a company’s operational profitability.

Elevator pitch – A brief yet encompassing speech which is delivered to introduce one’s background and qualifications for a consulting job during a networking event or job interview. It refers to an imaginary situation in which one finds him or herself in an elevator with a key person in the consulting industry.

Elevator test – A challenge of one’s capability to explain a concept within 60 seconds or less. It originated from the hypothetical situation explained in elevator pitch.

Entrepreneurship – The pursuit of starting and managing one’s own business. It is one of the most popular exit options of management consultants as their consulting experience and exposure have prepared them for the challenges of running a business.

Experienced hire – A candidate with previous consulting experience who is hired to fill a high ranking position. Compare to campus hire.

F

Fact pack – A set of information that includes the necessary details of an assignment.

Frame – To discuss the project and define its scope with a client.

G

Gantt Chart – A horizontal bar chart that displays the project’s work breakdown structure and  start and finish dates of each category. It was named after Henry Gantt, the consultant who introduced it in the early 1900s.

Granular – Detailed or exhaustive; often used when referring to project studies and analyses.

Going forward – A phrase synonymous with “in the future.”

H

High-level – Viewing a project or situation from a wider perspective or involving the participation of company executives and managers.

Hit the ground running – To start something enthusiastically and at a fast pace.

I

Internal assignment – Specific company projects that are not paid for by the clients.

K

KPI – Acronym for Key Performance Indicators, a set of measurable goals or objectives that signify satisfactory performance if achieved.

L

Leverage – To use any resource to improve or enhance a product or service.

Low-hanging fruit – The low-hanging fruit is the easiest to pick from a tree. When this phrase is applied to business, it refers to the goal that can be achieved without difficulty, the task that can be finished readily, or the opportunity that can be grabbed quickly.

M

MBB – An acronym that stands for McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, the three most renowned international consulting firms. The MBB firms are also referred to as the “Big 3.”

MECE – An abbreviation for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive, a McKinsey principle that refers to creating subcategories to ensure that all relevant facts and details are considered. These subcategories must be mutually exclusive (they cannot occur at the same time) and collectively exhaustive (at least one of the events must occur). MECE is often used when performing market researches.

O

On board – Currently working on a case or project.

Off the bench – Description for a consultant who is working on a billable project. Similar to On the clock.

Off the clock – See On the bench

On the beach – A term that describes consultants who do not get billable projects from clients and therefore have sufficient time for recreation.

On the bench – Description for a consultant who is not working on a billable project. Similar to Off the clock.

On the clock – See Off the bench

On the same page – Having the same information or thinking in a similar manner.

Opportunity cost – The cost of an alternative product or service a company chooses to forgo in order to pursue another. For instance, if a retailer decides to sell bags, the opportunity cost refers to alternative products (e.g., school supplies, clothes, etc.) that could have been sold.

P

Paradigm shift – A change of intellectual viewpoints or perceptions that create a huge impact on a business. An example would be a shift from manual to digital documentation within an organization.

Ping – To contact someone about a particular issue or matter. The word is generally used in reference to emails, but it can also be applied to mobile phones, instant messengers, and other electronic forms of communication.

POA – Acronym for Plan Of Action.

POOMA – An acronym for Pulled Out Of My Ass. See SWAG.

Progress review – A meeting conducted on a regular basis to review the progress, concerns, and accomplishments of the preceding period.

Pushback – Any real or anticipated concern brought up by company executives regarding the analysis or recommendations of a consultant.

Q

QC – Acronym for Quality Control, a method that ensures the accuracy of documents and calculations.

R

Re-frame – To re-discuss the purpose and scope of a project with the client.

Run the numbers – To make calculations in order to determine if the quantitative data supports a given business endeavor, investment, or transaction.

S

Sandwich method – A three-step feedback method that starts by reviewing sound points of the project or idea presented, followed by corrective comments, and ends with praise. This approach serves to soften the impact of the criticism.

Scope – The area covered by a consulting project, including its purpose and limits.

Scope creep – When uncontrolled changes in the project requirements lead to longer project duration. It often occurs when the scope and definition of the project are unclear.

Slopey shoulders – A term used to describe someone who passes on responsibility to another to avoid blame or boredom.

Sniff test – A term that refers to evaluating the feasibility or rationality of an analysis.

Stand up call – A brief meeting in which team members provide general updates of their work progress.

Strategy consulting – See Management consulting

SWAG – An acronym for Some Wild-Ass Guess, an idea, answer, or opinion without supporting facts or valid basis. It’s synonymous with POOMA (Pulled Out Of My Ass).

T

Takeaway – Refers to key points, conclusions, insights, or lessons learned from a presentation or during a meeting. If a consultant effectively delivers his or her message, the recommendations are usually implemented.

Time poor – A term used to describe people with busy schedules.

Think out of the box – To think creatively, freely, or unconventionally in order to come up with innovative ideas that are not confined by structures, practices, or rules.

TOIL – Acronym for Time Off In Lieu, the hours or days one may take in exchange for working overtime on a certain project.

Top-down – A problem solving method that begins with an analysis of the highest conceptual level (or with the top management) and ends with an examination of the details (or low-level employees). Compare to bottom-up.

Touch base – To get in touch with someone in the consulting industry.

Transparency – The dissemination of company information such as market studies and financial reports. It can also mean being open to team members when it comes to work-related activities.

U

Up or out – A policy in which an employee is either promoted (usually within a period of time) or discharged.

Upward feedback – Feedback given by lower level employees to higher ranking  employees.

Upward management – Communicating your needs to your supervisor to establish a strong relationship of cooperation and understanding in the workplace.

Utilization – The number of hours billed to clients, usually expressed in percentages.

Utilization target – The number of yearly target billable hours a firm sets for each of its clients, usually expressed in percentages.

V

View from 30,000 feet – Seeing a situation from a wider perspective after considering all relevant factors and thinking strategically.

W

Work-life balance – Working without sacrificing one’s relationships, interests, spirituality, growth, and other personal needs. Achieving this balance is a common problem for most if not all consultants due to the long work hours required in the industry.

Workstream – A set of tasks that comprise a project.

Miscellaneous

80/20 rule – The Pareto principle that states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. In business, it implies that managers need to determine the critical factors that require  more attention. In terms of time management, it implies that fundamental issues should be addressed before less vital tasks and concerns.

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Social Life and Lifestyle of Management Consultants

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At a restaurant

What is a typical day like for a consultant? Well, one thing’s for certain—no two days are the same. Management consultants are no-nonsense, objective-oriented go-getters. Their knowledge and experience are highly valued across many industries. Because they carry many responsibilities on their shoulders, their day-to-day lifestyle is packed with challenges and rewards.

Let’s begin by discussing some of the common rewards and benefits of a management consultant’s lifestyle.

Lifestyle Perks of a Consultant

Below are some perks management consultants enjoy:

Competitive Salary

Compensation in the elite consulting firms is very attractive compared to jobs in other industries. Consulting is a popular and potentially lucrative industry. In fact, an analysis from Harvard Business School reveals that the consulting industry in the U.S. alone generates around $100 billion in annual revenues. Many consultants earn a high and steady income—associates are likely to make a six figure salary or more.

Laptops and Smartphones

While this perk is not unique to management consulting, it’s pretty great nonetheless. Consultants are given a top-of-the-line corporate laptop and all sorts of related devices such as a wireless mouse, portable USB drives, etc.

Most firms also provide smartphones to their consultants and cover a significant percentage of the monthly phone bill. Some like this perk; others, not so much. While connectivity is a great benefit, it also means the inevitably frequent work-related updates.

Business-class Flights

If you’re the type of person who enjoys traveling, consulting offers plenty of opportunities to see the world. Most consulting firms, particularly the top ones, provide their consultants with business-class flights for long trips. The benefits of flying business class are obvious—  better food, better service, and better seats. And that’s just for long domestic flights; when you travel international business class, the flight instantly becomes a vacation in itself.

Points!

Earning points is one of the best consulting perks. Because consultants travel on a regular basis, they earn points (free room upgrades, flight upgrades, priority access, etc.). From hotels, to car rentals, to flights, you’ll benefit from a variety of points programs; you may  even rack up enough points to cover personal vacations.

Team Events and Team Dinners

Consulting projects are teamwork-intensive, so firms dedicate a great deal of money and energy into helping teams develop working chemistry and camaraderie. Planning and executing events may mean extra legwork for junior consultants, but it also means dining at some of the nicest restaurants in the city. And that’s just for team dinners; team-building activities usually consist of an entire day of fun!

Office Events and Off-site Training

In addition to team events, consulting firms place a great deal of importance on office camaraderie, which means plenty of company events. Consultants can expect regular office happy hours as well as sponsored meals, holiday parties, etc.

Moreover, off-site training events are common in the consulting industry. There are plenty of periodic weekend-long off-site conferences and training events. Regardless of which consulting firm you work for, several times a year you’ll get to attend weekend-long parties which are masquerading as training sessions or skill building workshops.

Challenges of a Consultant’s Lifestyle

Now that we’ve covered some of the rewards, let’s take a look at the challenges of a management consultant’s lifestyle.

Exhaustion Due to Demanding Hours

The physical effort in terms of working hours is demanding. Most consultants consider a 60-hour work week a normal schedule, and some even put in an 80-hour work week. As a consultant, you’ll have to work hard to meet the demands of the profession. Getting four hours of sleep in order to meet the deadlines of a particular consulting engagement is sometimes necessary, and although this isn’t always the case, you can expect to suffer from exhaustion on occasion.

The consulting industry is known to take a toll on a consultant’s personal and social life. Given the demanding hours, you may not be able to have breakfast with your kids or return home before they go to bed. In all likelihood, you may not be able to make any commitments in the evening outside of work. And even if you do, you better forewarn your family, significant other, or friends that your plans could change due to the immediate demands of your job.

The Work-life Balance Issue

Most recruiting presentations given by consulting firms include a lengthy section about work-life balance. The presentations showcase a consultant who has an overwhelming work schedule but still manages to spend time with family and friends. Do you also feel that this is a bit strange, as most industries don’t make such an effort to hard sell?

This pre-emptive sales pitch is a clue that your work-life balance will likely suffer. You’ll have to work long hours and endure stressful deadlines. You’ll also spend most of your time away from home. So despite what the sales pitch may try to tell you, a consulting career can take a toll on your personal relationships.

For young aspiring consultants, this isn’t a deal breaker. Many are willing to compromise their social lives for career advancement. However, as you get older, the sacrifices you make become greater.

Relationships and Consulting Lifestyle

A consultant’s lifestyle can be tough, and not just for the consultant, but for his or her friends, family, and relationships in general.  Being away from home means missing out on a lot of important family events—birthday parties, impromptu lunches, anniversaries, and more. Your friends and family may feel like they’re not on your list of priorities because you don’t make time for them, or worse, they may stop inviting you to events all together.

Many consultants have troubled relationships because they’re inadvertently disconnecting from their personal lives because they’re tired. Although you’ll have the end of the week to spend with your friends or family, you may not want to make an effort to reach out because all you want to do is relax. That’s when relationships start to fade, and troubled relationships will negatively impact your happiness.

Maintaining Strong Relationships

Although the reality is that the demands of a consulting career may greatly affect your relationships, it’s still possible to maintain strong personal relationships while continuing to fulfill your consulting responsibilities. All you have to do is be proactive and deliberate about how you nurture and maintain these important relationships while finding ways to be more efficient.

Assess Your Relationships and Manage Changes

With any consulting project, you need to know where a company is, where it wants to go, and what is needed to develop a solid strategy. Your relationships should be no different. Accept the fact that things will change or have changed and assess what you can do about it.

Some of the initial questions you might want to reflect on include: Who do I need to see each week to feel connected or recharged? Who needs my attention the most? Who could I distance myself from?

A prestigious and demanding career means that your time at home will be limited, so understanding where you really want to spend your time can help keep your most valuable relationships in tact.

Consistently Find New Ways to Stay Connected

After you’ve identified your different groupings of friends, make an effort to look for new ways to foster the relationships. Determine how frequently you can connect with them and how you want to interact.

You’ll likely recognize that how often you keep in touch with someone might need to change, which is ok; after all, if you’re only home three days a week, you can’t possibly see all your closest friends and get everything done. That’s why you need to be aware of your inner circle—those who you really want and need to spend quality time with each week or every other week. For others, you may not be able to stay connected as regularly; however, as they say, if there’s a will, there’s a way. There are ways you can keep in touch without giving up all your time. You just have to be creative!

Some great ideas include:

Set quick Skype dates You can do this wherever you are, at your most convenient time! A quick Skype conversation can make someone feel that you still care about him or her.
Once-a-month dinner groups This is a great idea because you can see multiple friends at the same time.
Five minute AIM/Yahoo/Skype break In between meetings or at lunch you can say hi to someone you haven’t seen for awhile. A thoughtful “just checking in” message can definitely go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships.
Call or text to say hello on your way to or from work If you find yourself really busy and constantly on the go, you can send a short text or make a quick call to someone on your way to work. Of course if you’re driving, you should use bluetooth technology.
Comment on Facebook updates If you have the time to visit your social media accounts, particularly Facebook, use this as another opportunity to stay connected to your friends and family, especially those who aren’t part of your inner circle. Comment on their status, pictures, and other updates. This will show them that you’re interested in what’s happening with them.
Find ways to let your friends into your life You can blog or tweet to let them know what you do. This will make them feel that you’re not becoming a complete stranger to them.
Good old fashion email You may have forgotten that emails are not strictly for business purposes. You can send out short, personal emails to your friends to let them know you still care about them.
 

Keep Yourself on Track

Yes, consultants get really busy and forget some important things once in a while. However, if you want to maintain a work-life balance, find ways to keep yourself on track. Schedule things on your calendar to serve as reminders. Being more organized will help you stay on track and your relationships will improve.

Tell Them What to Expect

You may have a solid plan, but the reality is that your plan can change due to the immediate demands of the job. It’s important to talk with your family, significant other, and friends about what they should expect. When people know what to expect, they won’t feel bad if you are unable to attend an event or when there is a sudden change of plans. Avoid messy misunderstandings. Explain that things may change which are beyond your control, and share how your consulting position greatly affects your lifestyle and what their relationship means to you.

Prove to Them That They Matter

What people perceive becomes their reality. If your friends and family perceive that you don’t have time for them, they’ll eventually write you off as not caring about them. What can you do to avoid this? In general, be proactive and never stop trying to prove to them that they do matter (even in your own little ways). Schedule standing events or take advantage of flexible travel and bring your loved ones with you one weekend. These things will reassure them that even if your work is demanding, making time for them is still a priority.

Learn More

The lifestyle of a consultant is filled with challenges and rewards. To learn more about the pros and cons of the consulting profession and determine if it’s the right career choice for you, download our free career guide today.

References

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Top Level Consulting Firms Support Women in Senior Positions

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Businesswoman smiling

In the consulting industry, it is a known fact that fewer women are promoted to partner. However, the reasons may surprise you. Many top tier consulting firms are raising awareness and starting programs to encourage the promotion of women to senior positions.

According to chief operating officer at Catalyst, Deborah Gillis, an equal amount of men and women enter the consulting industry. So why don’t we see that many women in the higher ranks?

The Consulting Lifestyle

The consulting lifestyle isn’t a walk in the park. What you see in movies is not a proper depiction of the daily operations of a firm. Sleepless nights, meeting deadlines, followed by days on the road (or skies) spent traveling and catering to the needs of demanding clients are factors that even men have trouble juggling.

But perhaps the job scope isn’t to blame for why we don’t see enough women making partner. Another element to take into consideration is personal priorities, primarily when it’s time to start a family. Most women that hit this fork on a road will choose to take some time off to slow down and play the motherly role at home.

Because a consulting position takes uncompromising dedication, it is nearly impossible to have both at the same time. Many women that try to cater to both may find themselves on the same fork on a road, choosing between one or the other.

Women and Senior Positions

There are many core programs started by large consulting firms to increase the value of women in the workplace, with hopes to even out the number of females in senior positions. Accent on Women network, Accenture’s initiative program, is providing a venue for female executives and women leaders to come together and support each other’s future career goals.

In partner roles, how do women fair when compared to men? An article by Sarah Stewart in FT.com indicates the following statement:

“Research by Catalyst has found that companies with the most women board directors outperform those with the least by 16 per cent on return on sales and by 26 per cent on return on invested capital.”

In conclusion, with programs that urge the promotion of women to senior positions, we may see fewer men dominating the boardroom. Additionally, we may see an increase in the performance of such firms that are successful in supporting the career goals of women due to their positive impact on the operations of a firm.

Learn More

Are you interested in the consulting lifestyle and wondering what it takes to make it in the consulting industry? Our consulting career free guide can give you a detailed glimpse of the job interview process. This can be very helpful for individuals who are looking into a career as a management consultant. We cover topics related to writing a comprehensive cover letter and resume, personality tests and case interviews.

Reference

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McKinsey Set for Expansion, Opens Third Office in China

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McKinsey

McKinsey & Company is opening its 3rd office in Shenzhen in order to meet the needs of its growing clients. This branch will focus more on private firms. McKinsey currently has an office in Shanghai and Beijing.

The prestigious firm first opened its services in the 1926 by founder, James McKinsey. Since then, the management consulting firm has expanded globally, across key cities in Europe and Asia. McKinsey is known to be a foundation for some of the most successful CEOs in the world today including Vittorio Colao (Vodaphone), Ian Narev (Commonwealth Bank of Australia), James P. Gorman (Morgan Stanley) and Frank Appel (Deutsche Post- DHL)

Why Shenzhen?

It’s no surprise that McKinsey is opening an office in Shenzhen. The region currently has one of the largest GDP in the country, coming in at 4th overall. Shenzhen’s economy currently supplements 12% of China’s GDP. That is quite impressive due to the fact that its neighbors (Beijing and Shanghai) had a head start in the development of their economy. Needless to say, Shenzhen is closing the gap at a consistent pace.

Global Rankings and Growth

How does Shenzhen’s economic status rank globally? When it comes to emerging markets, they currently rank 17 out of 370. McKinsey will have their work cut out for them, as most of the businesses in Shenzhen are service oriented (59%).

Over 33% of McKinsey’s clients who are based in China are private enterprises. Shenzhen is home to 27 companies that have reported over 1 billion US dollars in yearly earnings. Furthermore, the firm’s average growth per annum in the China market is currently at 7-10%, making the move very “low-risk”.

McKinsey & Company isn’t the only one expanding its services in the Greater China area. Ernst & Young announced last week that it has opened another office in Shenyang, making it the 16th branch in China alone. With over 40 years of experience, Ernst & Young’s focus is spreading its services to reach out to fast growing companies.

To conclude, China’s market shows no sign of slowing down, which can have a direct effect on how high caliber firms such as McKinsey & Company chooses to cater to the demands of their clients. It is clear that emerging markets are in need of new and effective strategies to sustain growth, which is exactly why we have seen other firms expand further into Mainland China.

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Exit Options for Management Consultants

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Difficult choices of a businessman due to crisis

The management consulting industry isn’t for everyone; some consultants move on to another profession or launch a successful business. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t good at what they did; they may have discovered new opportunities for attaining their life goals.

Needless to say, management consulting is a great stepping-stone for other careers or business endeavors. Individuals who have worked in a top consulting firm know what it takes to be successful in the business world due to their experience working in highly competitive markets. They have knowledge in business areas such as applying for permits, drafting contracts, forecasting, and creating organizational charts. Even a basic understanding of these concepts will help ex-consultants with their entrepreneurial activities.

Benefits of a Management Consulting Foundation

As mentioned above, some consultants use the industry as a stepping-stone for startups. Because of the stability of the industry, professionals who perform well use it as a fallback or safety net if their startup doesn’t work out or unforeseen circumstances threaten its feasibility.

In addition, experience working at a top-tier management consulting firm builds  credibility. Well-known firms that have a reputation founded on integrity and trust impose the same qualities on their employees. An individual with superior management consulting credentials can use the popularity of the firm for personal gain without exploiting the firm’s status.

Starting a business can be costly—many individuals can’t afford to pursue their dream of owning their own company. Finding investors for a startup requires a strong network—but not just any network. One needs contacts who have the extra cash to invest in a business, and because companies that hire management consultants have a large budget, working in the industry provides more opportunities for locating partners and pooling capital.

Startups

It’s not unusual for consultants to gravitate towards entrepreneurship after leaving the industry. Professionals who have experience in day-to-day business operations may find the transition to be smoother than those who specialize in hedge funds and mergers. However, most consultants make great business owners because they have the competitive drive and motivation to run a business. Long  hours and busy schedules are not new to management consultants. Adjusting to a “big-picture” mindset is fairly simple due to prior experience in forecasting and applying consulting frameworks. It’s just a matter of knowing the right information and finding the right niche.

Running a successful business includes managing the requests and needs of clients, which is also a key role of consultants. These are skills that usually take years to develop and will give consultants an edge over their competition.

Graduate School

Another option that consultants have when leaving the industry is graduate school. An MBA can serve as a reliable fallback when shifting careers. Some firms offer to pay their employees’ tuition if they agree to stay with the company for a specified period. Professionals may choose this option as a way to get away from the hectic consulting lifestyle for awhile. Alternatively, a consulting background can also help individuals get into top universities, which can then serve to advance their consulting career. And some alternative professions hire ex-consultants who have a proven track record of experience and educational attainment.

Freelance

Not all management consultants choose to start their own company; some begin as freelancers and eventually open their own firm. There are some advantages to this shift. First, you set your schedule, so you don’t have to be at the office at a specific time. This allows for more flexibility in meeting with clients and completing daily tasks. Second, you have the potential to earn more. However, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to maintain a steady flow of projects. If you are a highly motivated individual, you should be able to make a profit. Finally, if you’ve build a strong consulting network, it shouldn’t take long to build a client base with those who you’ve forged a professional bond with and who trust your services. Moreover, your contacts will be able to recommend you, which is invaluable considering that you need more clients to keep your practice going.

Corporate Positions

Depending on their interests, ex-consultants can take on key corporate roles in reputable organizations. Fortune 500 companies hire consultants and add them to their team of strategists. Other corporate roles include coordinators, researchers, and operation management. Consultants may choose this new career path because of the slower work pace and less stressful environment, not to mention the lighter workload.

Government Roles

Although not as common as the options listed above, some consultants choose to pursue a political career, usually transitioning into an advisory or a strategist role. While the work hours are generally longer and the pay is substantially lower, those who choose to go into politics feel that it’s their calling, despite the drawbacks. If properly planned, a career shift into a leading government role can solidify one’s network, which will come in handy in the future.

Making a Clean Transition

Planning an exit strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Those who plan to leave the consulting industry usually prepare years in advance. There are points to consider when preparing to switch to a different, more desirable career path. In order to maximize the consulting experience, it’s recommended to specialize in order to make the transition smoother. For example, if you want to work as a pharmaceutical strategist, then you should take on projects in the pharmaceutical industry. You will be able to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the new industry and start building a network of clients. In addition, a recruiter will able to ascertain from your resume that you’ve planned to change careers and have taken the initiative to acquire quality experience.

The Importance of a Solid Network

A reoccurring theme of this article is building a solid network. If you’re planning to exit the consulting industry, it’s vital to maintain and expand your network—it’s one of your biggest assets. Your network will provide you with business leads, partners, funding, and if it doesn’t workout, a way back into the  industry. Before you leave the world of consulting, it’s essential to maintain relevant contacts and make a lasting impression on them. This may mean taking additional time in providing consulting services or going out of your way to deliver outstanding results.

In conclusion, there are plenty of exit opportunities for a management consultant. You should begin preparing for this phase as early as possible in order to decrease the risks involved with the transition. The two most important aspects of an exit strategy are maintaining a strong network and accumulating relevant experience through projects related to the next chapter of your professional career.

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Top 5 Management Consulting Internships

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Business team working on stairs and smiling at the camera

Many highly motivated graduates and professionals are attracted to the management consulting industry due to the appealing benefits it offers. These perks include high monthly salary, rich business experience, skills improvement, and wide professional networks.

Getting a consulting job, however, entails conscientious preparation because of the tough competition. For students, this means working hard to get a high GPA, being involved in extracurricular activities, joining case competitions, practicing case interviews, and participating in professional events where they get to meet recruiters and other people in the industry.

Why Take an Internship Program

Another smart move students take is applying for an internship program, a period in which students get real-world consulting responsibilities and work hand-in-hand with professional consultants. This opportunity allows them to be spotted by firms through their work output, communication skills, and dedication they put in their job. Some successful interns even get a full-time employment contract at the end of their internship program.

Where to Have Your Consulting Internship

Most major and boutique consulting firms offer an internship program to promising students, but for a satisfying experience, you may want to consider Vault.com’s internship survey results. The website summarized the responses they heard from 7,700 interns who gave feedback on more than a hundred internship programs. The respondents rated their experience on the following areas:

  • Quality of life
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Interview process
  • Career development
  • Full-time employment opportunities

The top five consulting internships are the following:

#1: Bain & Company

Bain, one of the renowned Big Three consulting firms, has consistently ranked in the first place. Interns get various tasks but are generally assigned to gather and analyze data, conduct researches and interviews with clients, customers and suppliers, and summarize their findings for the project team. Interns learn about business issues as well as Bain’s tools and strategies.

#2: Bates White Economic Consulting

Founded in 1999, Bates White offers economic consulting services to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and law firms. During its 10-week internship, participants are assigned to a specific assignment. They will work under the supervision of a senior staff, and they are expected to receive their share of both qualitative and quantitative challenges.

#3: Plante Moran

Plante Moran is a tax, audit and business-management firm that caters to private organizations, governmental entities, and financial institutions. Their internship program, which usually lasts for three to six months, provides interns in Midwest offices valuable experience and practical exposure to accounting profession.

#4: The Boston Consulting Group

BCG’s rank moved down from second to fourth. This reputable firm hires summer interns for 10 weeks and assigns them to a case similar to what professional consultants and associates work on. This entails business analysis as well as communicating with clients and BCG partners. BCG interns receive extensive training and structured coaching from the firm.

#5: PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

PwC facilitates a training program for all its interns to develop their technical skills and prepare them for relevant assignments. Interns will work side-by-side with PwC professionals for performance coaching and project guidance. At the end of the program, interns will learn the various services of PwC.

Learn More

Download our ebook on how to break into the consulting industry. It elaborates strategies for resume writing, networking and acing interviews. The guidelines you’ll learn can also be applied to your internship application.

Reference

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How Important is an MBA in Climbing the Management Consulting Ladder?

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ladder

Many new graduates and professionals aspire to break into the billion dollar consulting industry, and most of them think that an MBA is a necessary part of achieving that goal. But is it really?

Yes, pursuing an MBA can definitely help accelerate your future career progression as well as your perceived market value; however, not all MBA’s are equal, and not all MBA holders reap the career benefits they expect.

MBA Benefits

An MBA provides several advantages, some of which include:

Improved practical business knowledge and understanding of business issues Obtaining an MBA will help you increase your ability to solve different business strategies and problems.
Expanded network One great benefit of having an MBA is the opportunity to extend your network. This new network could be invaluable to you in the near future. You’ll be able to make some great connections in your MBA program—people who are likely to become leaders, experts, and business owners in their own industries.
A well-respected credential Generally, an MBA is a valued credential on your resume. An MBA from a prestigious school, like Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Darden, and Wharton, among others, will provide you with a variety of opportunities that would not otherwise be available to you.
Recruiters can easily find you Top consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain recruit plenty of MBA candidates through efficient recruiting systems. They generally target the most prestigious and well-known schools because the success ratio of these university’s MBA programs is reported to be higher. Thus, firms spend less time and resources on finding the right candidates. If you’re already an MBA candidate at a target school, you’re instantly part of the recruiting pool!
You’re validating your consulting skills Earning an MBA from a top-tier school can demonstrate that you have the baseline skills and traits necessary to perform the responsibilities of a consultant. For instance, you can establish your ability to multi-task, prioritize, and that you’re results-oriented.

MBA Admissions and Consulting

Many people think that the relationship between top business schools and top consulting firms is like a revolving door, i.e., people from McKinsey get into Stanford Business School, and people from Stanford get into McKinsey. Well, that may be true to some extent, but it’s not that simple.

Yes, business schools perceive consulting as great work experience; however, they also want a diversified student body. In general, top business schools don’t admit more than a third of ex-consultants into their MBA programs. As a result, a paradoxical situation exists: consultants wish they had other work experience and non-consultants wish they had some consulting experience. So, what should you do? Granted that you still want to get an MBA, the best thing to do is stop worrying, and focus your time and energy on improving your application.

If you’re not a consultant, emphasize your business experience, and explain how an MBA degree, combined with your experience, can help you become a successful business leader. If you’re a consultant, focus on your accomplishments and why you’re more well-rounded than other admissions candidates.

Is an MBA a Requisite for Landing a Consulting Job?

Although an MBA can be an advantage in landing a consulting role, it doesn’t guarantee anything. To succeed as a consultant, there’s another important factor to consider— experience.

While many consultants hold MBA degrees, not everyone who consults for top-tier firms has an MBA. Yes, education is important, there’s no question about that. However, it doesn’t mean you have the ability to solve complex problems—that’s something you learn from experience. Believe it or not, successful consultants rarely go to business school in order to land the job.

Moreover, firms usually offer MBA-like training to their staff. They send many of their non-MBAs to mini-MBA boot camps to learn the most important and up-to-date business tools and concepts. Once you’re hired by a reputable consultancy firm, you’ll be able to take advantage of these training opportunities.

Why do Some Consultants Choose to Get an MBA?

Some consultants with years of real-world experience choose to get their MBA degrees for several reasons. For one, an MBA on its own warrants a higher salary; an MBA degree plus real-world experience allows for both better monetary benefits and a position higher on the corporate ladder.

Also, if a consultant wants to move to another firm, an MBA may make sense. This is particularly true if you’re targeting a firm that’s more selective than your current firm or if your target firm places heavy emphasis on an MBA. Some top firms, like BCG, even sponsor their high performing associates who want to pursue MBA degrees.

If you already have a consulting background, an MBA is usually unnecessary, but it could help you garner the respect of those unfamiliar with the industry. Moreover, clients will be more confident in your abilities if they know you have both experience and education.

In Which Cases is it Actually Better to Get an MBA First?

Let’s face it—real-world experience usually outweighs theory. That’s why you can break into the consulting industry even without an MBA. Remember, getting an MBA can be really expensive, so you should be absolutely certain you need an MBA before you apply.

In some cases, getting an MBA before applying to a consulting firm may be a smart option. For instance:

  • If you have additional long-term goals aside from being a consultant that require an MBA.
  • If you’ve already applied to a number of consulting firms and were rejected by all of them. If you seem to have no luck with your consulting application, even after writing a great resume and properly preparing for interviews, then maybe an MBA can help you.
  • If you feel that your past experience and credentials would qualify you to get into a top business school but not a top consulting firm.
  • If you’re extremely passionate about learning the advanced management theory that an MBA can offer, whether or not you plan to use it. Of course it would be great if you could use it, but there are also people who just love learning for learning’s sake, whatever the cost. Keep in mind that many MBA holders say that they only apply a portion of what they learned in school toward their actual consulting projects.

So, How Much of What is Taught in Business School Actually Helps in Consulting?

Well, this really depends on the school and curriculum you choose. Each consultancy firm will train you on management frameworks and other tools that are directly related to the job. So you really need to be selective about the school and curriculum. Good business schools can help you develop different perspectives to approaching business issues, as well as help improve your general teamwork and leadership skills, which are critical for a successful consulting career.

How to Break into Consulting without an MBA

Many jobseekers mistakenly assume that an MBA is needed in order to land a consulting job. The truth is, you can break into the consulting world if you have relevant years of experience as well as notable accomplishments related to business or consulting.

To help you get started, you should do or have the following:

Improve Your Job Application Documents

Update and polish your resume and cover letter. Your cover letter and resume are your primary weapons in your job search. Consulting firms are greatly impressed with well-structured resumes that efficiently convey the skills they’re looking for. They place the most emphasis on the following: solid education credentials, relevant functional expertise and accomplishments, and a proven track record.

Most firms are tolerant of “career changers”; however, it will be challenging to provide a rational story about why you wanted to shift careers. When perfecting your resume, place more importance on conveying your experience, enthusiasm, and skills (leadership, analytical, and communication). Don’t stress over formatting— just make it simple, concise, and professional.

List and Research

Make a list of 10 to 15 consultancies that you’d like to work for, then research each firm. Visit their websites or, if possible, talk to someone who’s associated with the firms. Before you even send your application to your chosen firms, it’s critical that you’re familiar with their preferred methodology, projects they’ve worked on, and most important, the people who work for the company. Based on your research, you’ll be able to narrow your list down to a few firms.

Determine Your Qualifications

Brainstorm over the reasons you’re suited for consulting, even without an MBA. To help you, create a list of traits that successful consultants have in common, then write out in specific detail your experiences that demonstrate each trait, including the results and what you learned. This will help you build your confidence when interviewing with recruiters.

Network

Quality networking can take you places. Learn how to properly connect with influential people in the industry. Who knows, you may be able to connect with current or former McKinsey or Bain consultants. Use online tools, like LinkedIn, to help you build a strong network of professionals who can help move your career forward. However, keep in mind that your goal isn’t to ask them for a job, but for relevant advice such as recruiting insights, resume feedback, and other information that you can leverage. Your networking efforts may even connect you with consultants and recruiters who can refer you to one of your target consulting firms.

Work on Your Educational Qualifications

An impressive undergraduate education can also help you achieve your dream of working at a top-tier consulting firm. To be successful, you’ll need to demonstrate the following in your application:

University Ivy League or other prestigious school, like Stanford and UC Berkeley, never fail to attract consulting firms.
Degree A degree in economics, business, finance, or other concentration that can demonstrate your analytical and qualitative abilities. Alternate degrees, such as those in the social sciences, can be harder to sell.
GPA A high GPA is a big asset to a consulting application; you might not be considered if your average is below 3.5.
Leadership Proven leadership skills through impressive roles, such as Student Body President, or receiving prestigious awards and honors for notable social involvement instantly attracts consulting firms.
Expertise A specific area of expertise you will make more valuable to consulting firms. While a Harvard Business School degree goes a long way, deep industry knowledge can compete with it. Having a background in a specific industry increases your perceived value and can help you land a role with a specialized team of management consultants.

Remember, consulting firms hire candidates based on their demonstrated traits and skills. With or without an MBA, you can make it in this prestigious industry. If you enjoy problem-diagnosis, problem-framing, and problem-solving, and have a genuine passion for client service and effecting positive change, all you really need to do is write a great resume and cover letter and ace the interview process.

Learn More

Want more insights on how to break into the prestigious and lucrative world of consulting? Download and read our free consulting guide. It contains valuable tips that can help pave your way to becoming one of the next top consultants.

For additional information about getting an MBA degree, check this article of Consultants Mind.

Reference

PricewaterhouseCoopers Buys Out Booz & Company

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PWC-and-Booz

One of the “Big 4” consulting companies has confirmed that a merger will take place. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) is set to purchase Booz & Company. Sources say that the buy is one of the more notable moves by PWC due to the large financial transaction.

Merger Details

One of the concerns that their clients have raised is the conflict of interests from both firms. As a temporary solution, Booz & Co. will let go some projects that may cause issues with the merge. While talks are currently underway, a vote on the matter won’t happen until December 2013. PWC is expected to keep most of Booz & Company’s partners and clients.

Out of the two key consulting firms, PWC has the larger fiscal capacity due to its reported earnings of 32 billion dollars for 2013. Analysts estimate that Booz & Company’s earnings were at 1 billion dollars. Over the past 10 years, PWC has been busy heavily developing the consulting side of its operations after a deal with IBM in 2002. By purchasing Booz & Co, the firm hopes to fast track the growth of the firm. Currently, PWC’s consulting operations contributes to over 25% of the company’s annual earnings.

Plans of Expansion

In the 3rd quarter of 2013, PWC announced that they would prioritize the expansion of operations globally. Actions for this plan will happen over the course of 3 years. The firm has allocated a 1 billion dollar budget for the expansion. How PWC will integrate the merge with Booz & Company in its plans is still yet unknown.

Deloitte, one of PWC’s main competitors, has previously done the same thing and bought out firms such as: Altos Management Partners, AJM Petroleum Consultants, Jackson Browne, Access Economics. Clear Carbon Consulting, and DOMANI Sustainability Consulting. This time, to the public’s surprise, Deloitte did not follow after PWC after their purchase of Booz & Company.

Concerns About the Merger

There are several concerns that the public has about the merger. Most of these issues are related to auditing. SEC former chief accountant, Lynn Turner, mentions the following in an interview about the merger:

“Mergers like this do raise a serious question: are the auditors going to serve management, or are they going to serve the best interests of the investing public?”

Later in the interview, Lynn further expounds on this matter:

“If the combined firm agrees not to do consulting for companies it audits, “then you eliminate the conflict,” (said in a doubtful tone). Do you honestly think Booz partners would turn around and vote for this deal if they gave up all of their clients that PwC audits?”

While the details of the merger still being developed, it is certain that Booz & Company is unable to compete with its larger rivals such as McKinsey and Bain & Co. For the mean time, before the votes take place, both firms will continue to work with their clients and provide consulting services.

Reference

How Important are Computer and Internet Skills in Management Consulting?

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Businessman Typing on Computer Keyboard

These days, there are many tools a management consultant can use in order to maximize productivity and time spent on a project or case. Many top-tier consulting firms place a high emphasis on a candidate’s computer skills. Of course, you need to be proficient in Excel and PowerPoint as a consultant, but it will help your career if you are also tech-savvy.

Software and Internet Skills

Most professionals have a difficult time maintaining their consulting network because of the demanding workload. But with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it’s relatively easy to keep in contact with other management consultants, classmates, clients, and former colleagues. This method has become increasingly popular in the past few years because of its flexible features, which allow individuals to stay engaged with their professional network from home or on the road.

Apart from social media, there are numerous online applications that increase productivity. Many consultants rely on these various programs and applications to boost their careers. Below are some examples:

PDF Files

The process of combining, compressing, and downloading is something that every consultant should know. Consultants work with a lot of documents and knowing how to properly and quickly edit and create PDF files is extremely important.

Task Management Skills and Tools

Task management skills and tools are effective in boosting productivity, in both an individual and team setting. Allocating assignments and information using a task management system can be done with a few clicks. Tracking the progress of projects can be done in real-time instead of waiting for end of the day reports. Lastly, using a task management system can lower the error rate within the firm.

Basic PhotoShop Skills

Photoshop may not sound like an important consulting skill, but it’s definitely helpful. It has a few more features than PowerPoint and other similar office applications and can be used to shrink, edit, or convert an image file. Photoshop is also extremely useful in customizing templates creating presentations.

Safe and Secure Data Sharing

Cloud applications are becoming increasingly common in management consulting firms. Cloud programs, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, make sharing documents incredibly easy and quick, and security settings enable the safe transfer of private and confidential documents across these types of applications. It’s recommended, however, to verify the consulting firm’s security policy before sharing information.

Research is a large part of a consultant’s responsibility. In regard to online research, the resourcefulness of an individual depends on how well he or she can use a search engine. Entering the right keywords and knowing which websites provide credible and up-to-date information can make a world of a difference when compiling necessary data about a client or its competitors. Online research can also save a consultant time. Instead of leaving the office to interview company representatives or digging into the archives, a quick online search allows room for other tasks that need completed.

PowerPoint, Excel, and Word

Management consultants rely on computer software programs, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, when creating documents and presentations. To some extent, many professionals have an above average knowledge of these programs. Let’s take a closer look at how these programs are used in the consulting industry.

It’s common for consultants to use Excel to graph data analysis. Employing the  proper formulas can streamline computing and input, which can be used for forecasting or evaluation. Excel is also a more organized way of arranging numbers and information in tables. While it’s true that a professional can get by with basic Excel skills, going beyond the beginner level can make a consultant’s work faster and more precise. For example, consultants can customize and store multiple equations, enabling them to quickly utilize numerical data. It’s a great way to crunch numbers without the messy manual computations.

Word is primarily used for drafting documents and reports. A consultant with a thorough understanding of this program may only spend a fraction of the time drafting a proposal compared to a beginner. Although viewed as the simplest of all the Office applications, Word actually has numerous options that can be used to make the drafting experience smoother. Spacing, indention, track changes, and comments are features that can enhance the professionalism of any document. This program can also be used to create newsletters. A management consultant may find this option useful for providing the team or company with  weekly updates. In addition, converting a Word document into various file formats is relatively easy and can be done with just a few clicks.

Perhaps the most overlooked and unused program is PowerPoint. But this program can be extremely helpful in creating professional presentations, and looking professional is part of a consultant’s role. Consultants frequently present their findings to CEOs, the board of a company, or senior staff. While it’s true that the quality of information is more important than the actual color scheme or theme of the presentation, adding these elements can certainly enhance the delivery and how it’s received. More importantly, PowerPoint can be used to compress information. Consultants may need to review a few years of data, but the client doesn’t need to know what’s on every page. A summary of findings is best presented using slides and graphs. A great PowerPoint presentation makes use of an easy to follow structure, which helps convey complex messages to a client. Many consultants use a template to display the framework they applied using tables and graphics. This can be very helpful for professionals who are presenting a very complicated solution. Consultants must also consider the quality of the slides and content when making a PowerPoint presentation. Avoid using stock clipart or 3D images. Blurry or irrelevant photos can also lower the value of a presentation, as these small details can confuse clients.

A versatile management consultant knows how to use all of these programs. One may start compiling data using Word, and then input his or her findings in Excel using the formulas to create charts. Lastly, PowerPoint is used for presenting the proposal in a very eye-catching and direct way.

How Can I Hone My Computer and Internet Skills?

There are a few effective ways that a consultant can hone his or her computer and Internet skills. The key thing is to stay updated with the latest software and online application trends. There are hundreds of productivity applications available in the market today. Sadly, not all of them are useful, and some may even do more harm than good. On the other hand, applications that combine the features of various productivity programs may boost a consultant’s adeptness and competency.

The Dangers of Inadequate Computer Skills

Lack of computer knowledge can hurt a consultant’s career. A consultant works with sensitive and confidential information on a regular basis and regularly shares this information through email, cloud storage, and cellphones. Without the proper security settings in place, data leakage could have a negative impact on a consultant’s integrity, and a client may get discouraged about supplying private information in the future.

As mentioned earlier, without the proper computer skills in place, a consultant may find him or herself trailing behind. Most consultancy firms implement their own set of computer programs within the company and require employees to use them for correspondence and reports. At the very least, these applications often necessitate basic computer skills. The faster an employee learns how to  use these programs, the better he or she will be at performing other tasks within the office because the computer programs a company uses are integrated to seamlessly work together.

In conclusion, as technology finds its way into today’s offices and companies, the more computer and Internet skills will become essential to management consultants. Learning these skills can be as simple as using the applications  mentioned in this article on a daily basis. Finally, more and more high caliber consulting firms are looking for this skill set in prospective applicants. It’s important to keep an open mind about how these applications can increase a consultant’s productivity level.

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What are Some Things that Management Consultants Know but Most People Don’t?

Written by . Posted in Consulting Industry

Multi-ethnic business people disscussing a budget plan

The consulting industry is perceived to be both prestigious and lucrative, and consultants are reputed as leaders and experts in the field. Many business organizations retain the services of consultants to help them assess areas of opportunity, develop strategic plans, and implement change in order to achieve desired growth or surpass specific hurdles.

With such extraordinary responsibilities, it’s no wonder many people aspire to work in the field. In fact, according to CNN Money Magazine, consulting jobs ranked third in their study, “50 Best Jobs in the United States,” which was based on relevant criteria such as satisfying nature of the position, potential position growth, flexibility, median salary, and stress level.

As consultants are expected to offer innovative solutions and recommendations, wouldn’t it be interesting to understand how they think and tend to see things in a different perspective? Understanding what consultants know and how they perceive things will help  jump start your consulting career.

Data are Just Useless Numbers Unless They Tell a Story

Any set of data is useless until it tells a story. That’s why consultants dedicate a generous amount of time to creating and analyzing charts. Great consultants have the ability to identify relevant details in a massive amount of information. They are so obsessed with data that they can uncover the valuable story behind it. Consultants have that special ability to translate vaguely interesting data into useful insights and recommendations. Not all people have the natural instinct to uncover the story behind any set of given data. But consultants know how to recognize relevant facts and organize numbers and present them in a way that can be easily understood by their clients. Consultants are paid well because of their ability to see the big picture. They are extremely good at connecting the dots and bringing their clients the utmost value.

There is Always More than One Solution to a Problem

Consultants know that a different perspective can work. Great consultants have original ideas yet welcome other options. They listen, analyze, and solve. A critical skill of consultants is the ability to look at things differently compared to the average manager. They know that in order to put it all together, they need to consider every possible angle.

Consultants are hired to solve problems. It’s their responsibility to evaluate situations, identify the problems, and propose the best solutions. They know how to examine an issue from all sides and analyze how the different aspects of a particular situation interrelate. Thus, they can come up with more than one approach to solving an issue. But of course, they keep the best option first on their list.

Things are a Lot Simpler When You Break Them Down

Many organizations become overwhelmed by their problems because they lack the expertise to strategically break down the areas that need addressed. Consultants have the ability to break down business operations into a series of process steps in order to reveal the underlying problems. Great consultants know that the best way to figure out the problem is to split up its subcomponents. A consultant’s mind works like a diagram or flow-chart, making it easier to solve a problem, as every fragment of it is clearly defined.

Listening is More Powerful than Talking

Share your ideas

Having a solid education is great but it’s not enough. In consulting, being an active listener is an important trait. Consultants recognize that good listening skills are powerful in gathering crucial information. Consulting isn’t just about speaking your mind; before you can make an intelligent recommendation about an issue, you need to listen. This means being able to encourage others to talk freely as well. The information shared by the people you talk to can contribute to positive results.

In order to be successful in consulting, you need to have the ability to hear and genuinely understand the people you’re talking with. Great consultants recognize that listening is the key to connecting with people on personal levels, which is critical for successful project implementation.

Curiosity and Skepticism Should go Hand in Hand

Consultants are naturally curious and skeptical. They always ask the right questions, listen carefully, and are professionally skeptical. Great consultants recognize that some of the most important details aren’t immediately presented to them, and know that asking tough questions will generate value for their clients.

Being inquisitive may sometimes be annoying; however, if done properly, it can facilitate the desired results. Consultants have the ability to see issues differently than their clients see them. They can also easily make objective evaluations which aren’t clouded by politics and other perplexing factors surrounding a problem. They tell their clients what they need to know in a straightforward manner.

Team Dynamics is Extremely Important

Consultants are known to have a thorough knowledge about the industry, and as such make monumental decisions on behalf of companies. However, being an expert doesn’t mean rejecting other ideas. Consultants know that teamwork is essential for any successful project.

Consultants recognize that although they’re primary responsible for solving a case, a collaborative relationship with their team members is vital to achieving the goal. Good consultants credit other ideas and are willing to learn from their peers. Valuing others’ input is a mark of a true professional.

However, bringing together different people with large egos to work on a project for a client may not always be an easy task. Great consultants understand how to effectively optimize the working styles, personality types, and abilities of their team members in structuring a project. These tricks are key to efficient teamwork.

“I Don’t Know” Is Not an Option

Saying “I don’t know” is considered a mortal sin in the consulting industry. These three words are detrimental to the reputation of any consultant. Although they may not immediately know the answer to every question, their minds continuously work to find the solution. Consultants are expected to have a broad expertise; that’s why they stay current on news, innovations, and trends through reading informative materials and networking with colleagues.

However, it’s also true that even the most experienced consultant doesn’t know everything. In this case, saying “I don’t know” is still not an acceptable answer. They know that the best way to convey their lack of knowledge about a problem is to say, “I don’t know, but I know someone who does know.”

By the Book is Not Always Applicable

Successful consultants don’t always follow what they’ve learned in books. They’re aware that there should be a balance between knowledge gained from books and knowledge acquired from real life experience.

Models and frameworks are great, but sometimes consultants need to bring things down to a more practical level. Their main priority is to design and implement the best solutions for their clients. In order to do this, they look at things from all angles and consider every possible solution, whether conventional or not. They know how to devise a practical approach coupled with applicable theories.

Logic Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Numbers

Consultants are known to be analytical thinkers who are good at solving quantitative problems. However, these professionals recognize that logic doesn’t necessarily mean excelling at quantitative computations. You can be a great mathematician but a terrible consultant. Great consultants know that an understanding of quantitative subjects can be advantageous but doesn’t guarantee anything.

Other professionals, such as lawyers and historians, are also extremely analytical, yet their ideas are not merely founded on quantitative elements. This is because logic entails one’s thought process. Great consultants are aware that the ability to correlate the gathered data is more important than mere quantitative computations in generating useful insights.

Not All Days are Created Equal

We all have bad days, and even the greatest consultants can hit a brick wall. But they’re resilient and have the ability to pick themselves up—they know that predictability isn’t in their job description.

The consulting industry isn’t for the faint hearted. There will be days that entail a higher  level of stress than most. But successful consultants are aware that part of their job is to motivate their team to carry on until they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some problems may be more difficult to solve than others, but a good consultant embraces the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.

Network Requires Brainwork

Networking is critical in consulting, not only at the beginning of your career but also as you progress. In order to build a strong network of professionals, you need to think and strategize in order to maximize the potential benefits.

Consultants have limitless opportunities to make new contacts and successful consultants take advantage of this. However, it’s not enough to simply ask for business cards or add new online contacts; you need to understand that networking is an active process.  Consultants know how to effectively build and maintain strong relationships with key people in the industry.

Feedback is Critical

Consultants are used to being evaluated as they undergo a formal review every six months. They’re rated based on a set of metrics after every project. Some even have weekly feedback sessions and are corrected even for moderate slips. This may be unsettling for most people, but the process is incredibly valuable. Great consultants value feedback and are always willing to talk through what he/she can do differently. As with any profession, you need to be aware of your strong and weak points in order to improve.

Word of Mouth Advertising Goes Far

According to Nielsen’s “Global Trust in Advertising” report, people don’t trust advertising as much as they trust recommendations from friends and consumer opinions. The company surveyed more than 28,000 respondents in 56 countries and found that 92% of consumers trust endorsements from friends and family above any other form of advertising.

Consultants are acutely aware of this and provide valuable services as a marketing tool. They understand that growth can be achieved through persistence and foresight. Successful consulting professionals effectively demonstrate humility and satisfaction in helping their clients. And in the end, people will find ways to give credit where it’s due.

The consulting industry remains one of the most sought after industries today, and only those candidates with brilliant minds and fresh and unique perspectives are able to break in. No wonder professionals in this industry know things that most people don’t realize.

Learn More

Want to find out more about management consulting? Download our guide, How to Get a Management Consulting Job, and learn how you can break into this prestigious industry. We will teach you how to write an impressive application, pass the tests, and ace the case interviews.

References

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