You may have observed that the consulting industry is filled with high achievers from prestigious colleges with impressive academic credentials and employment experience. So, what does it take to succeed among the top of the best in such a competitive industry?
From our experience, there are a handful of attributes that top performers possess that are significantly more important than having a résumé that sparkles. Consider how you can build the following attributes that will help you become a great consultant, whether you’ve just begun a consulting job or are contemplating it as a career option.
Being a Reliable Partner
This signifies that you will accomplish exactly what you stated you would do, at the time you said you would do it. This may sound elementary, but it is the most important trait for building trust and confidence among your staff and clients.
In the early stages of your career, for instance, your team will rely on you for support in the more routine aspects of consulting work, such as creating PowerPoint decks, taking notes, and organizing projects, and you must be able to complete these tasks accurately and with minimal oversight from your manager. Ensure that you follow your promises, maintain consistent quality, and understand the fundamentals of Excel and PowerPoint. The more credibility you establish early on, the more opportunities you will receive later on.
Being Attentive To Specifics
This is such an important consulting ability since one of the ways we create confidence with customers is by generating error-free deliverables, which demonstrates our thoroughness and the strength of our suggestions. Importantly, ensuring that your work has no grammatical, spelling, or calculation-related errors reflects on your entire team.
Congratulations if you have a natural attention to detail! But if you, like me, are more of a big-picture thinker, I’ve learnt a few ways to help you develop this crucial talent. First, when it comes to mathematics, demonstrate your work. This may seem like your high school teacher, but it helps to guarantee you’ve considered everything and allows you to demonstrate to your management the processes you took to arrive at your response (and find any errors before it reaches the client).
The second phase, which has made me rather obsessive-compulsive, is to construct lists of items to double-check before submitting anything. Among the items on my PowerPoint checklist are adding page numbers to each slide, recalculating all numbers, and ensuring that a consistent font is utilized throughout.
Being the “go-to” Source for Something
Your first few years as a consultant will likely be spent bouncing between industries, fields, and clients. Despite your extensive experiences, you should create a skill that allows you to distinguish yourself from your rock star contemporaries.
While proficiency in all Microsoft applications (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint) is required, the most effective consultants have a specialty that is in high demand and that no one else seems to possess. Take the time to determine what you can become the go-to person for, whether it’s complex financial modeling, communication abilities, or particularly in-depth understanding of an industry.
Being Able To Think Before Acting
As previously said, the vast majority of consultants are A-type personalities with sufficient desire to last a lifetime. But what truly separates a decent consultant from a great one is not just the ability to focus on the duties at hand, but also the capacity to think critically about the work.
For instance, a client may request that you uncover cost reductions in a supply chain; but, you must first determine why this is crucial to the firm. Are earnings falling? Are product prices being lowered by the competition, thereby compelling your client to compete? Knowing how to think in this manner can assist you in generating superior insights and solutions for your client. Try devoting a bit more time to planning before beginning a task, analyze the figures you’re crunching (don’t just be an Excel monkey! ), and question your manager’s requests (when appropriate, of course).
Capacity for Resourcefulness
In consulting, you may be tasked with resolving problems that are unfamiliar to you or even to the industry. And when confronted with these difficult challenges or demanding standards, your resourcefulness will help you achieve. While this is not quite Outward Bound, you should gain the capacity to handle issues swiftly and creatively.
When you need assistance, you should approach your team and manager first, then your peers and internal experts, and last other external resources. There is undoubtedly someone who has done what you are attempting to do previously and can help you find the solution or at least help you consider alternative approaches to the issue. Be sure not to give up too easily, be inventive in your research, and demonstrate to your colleagues that you are willing to do whatever it takes.
Having No Fear of Asking (Good) Questions
The foundation of a consultant’s job is asking questions, so much so that I sometimes feel like Sherlock Holmes! Questions help ensure that you comprehend the task at hand and the challenges your client is facing, and they also allow you to demonstrate your comprehension. Never be scared to seek clarification; doing so is preferable to doing something incorrectly. Even if you don’t have a question, restating what you’ve been told to clarify your comprehension can instill trust in your management or client. Ensure that you ask inquiries in a useful, non-intrusive manner. Send many requests in a single, structured request rather than addressing your management or client repeatedly. Also, ask your peers or Google simple queries regarding issues like as acronyms or Excel formulas.