Soldier on a mission, doctor on duty, double-timing, a phoenix, in the race of survival are some unlikely phrases to put forth the emotions of being a consultant. These are not good or bad adjectives but a personification of some qualities this profession demands. This article is a collection of my observations as a consultant and the collage below really sums it up! I hope this sheds light for the people who are still trying out to figure out the intricacies of this profession.
Consulting has become one of the most popular professions, particularly among graduates and young professionals. And rightly so, as it offers exposure across varied sectors/domains and thus a steep learning curve. The work ranges from advisory, i.e. defining strategies or implementation such as executing transformation programs/operational improvements, etc. In most cases, a client hires a consulting firm to provide expert advice that ultimately should resolve an issue within the client’s organization or help build internal capabilities to enable self-sufficiency.
Inherent ability to slowly transition from being an outsider to a trusted “insider”, opportunity to move forward with advances in time & technology, breadth of transferable skill sets, army-like discipline, and professionalism are some of the qualities that a seasoned consultant would imbibe over the years. In addition, proficiency in public speaking, appropriate articulation of thoughts in written and verbal communications are some other qualities that consultants acquire. This profession also allows you to explore industries and areas until one finds their passion while also providing job security in the most challenging economic times.
It is expected of a good consultant to provide professional advice in a particular field and make things happen for their clients. However, to arrive at this point, the consultant needs to wear various hats of a detective to identify the root cause, a politician to be able to influence the correct stakeholders to make the right call, an architect to design the solution that might work for the client and a soldier to accomplish the mission. Easier said than done!
After all, it takes considerable time to build trust. A consultant has to start every project navigating through the complexities, understanding relationships, adapting to different cultures, identifying who’s who but under the pressure of timelines and immediate results. As you grow, managing a client is not enough. You need to pay equal attention to the housekeeping activities of learning/mentoring new analysts, getting new business, thinking of growth targets for the firm, keeping a close tab on the invoices and revenue, advising on another client project, phew!
And because the clients are mostly paying a bomb for each hour of your service, it is next to impossible not to bring your best to work every-SINGLE-day. It often means that right from the junior analysts to senior managers, everybody is in the race of getting things done without being able to catch a breath while foregoing the thought of slowing down for their well-being.
Therefore, creating a successful career in consulting would often feel like riding in (at least) two boats at once. It is a gold mine for the knowledge worker, with enormous opportunities to learn and grow. With the excitement of every new project and new people but the familiarity of the parent organization, it sure gives you the comfort of being settled without actually settling in. Each consultant will feel differently about their experiences, but amidst all its glory and hardships, with the closure of every project, it does feel like leaving a little bit of your soul.