consulting career

Consulting Skills: What Clients are Looking For

With the consulting industry being as vast as it is, there are certain consulting skills that firms are always on the hunt for. Fortune 1000 execs, in particular, have a list of requirements when searching for a consultant to assist in eliminating their company's woes. Quite obviously, the knowledge and experience of each consultant will vary according to their area of expertise. However, while industry expertise will vary from one consultant to the next, there are certain skills that are sought after across the board.

It goes without saying that consultants must be intelligent and energetic enough to cope with high client expectations. Intensely busy travel schedules and tight deadlines are also part of the package.

Successful and sought-after consultants always display an eagerness for learning. Each new consulting assignment presents its own set of challenges, and therefore requires the consultant to be able to retain information. While consulting firms endeavour to screen heavily for intelligence and enthusiasm when hiring employees, the firms hiring these consultants on an individual basis tend to be even more thorough.

The following consulting skills require constant work during a consultant's career:

Communication Skills

Because consultants work in many different service areas across various industry sectors, they need to be able to communicate clearly, effectively, and persuasively. Consultants are responsible for collecting information from employees, obtaining client buy-ins,and  ensuring that proposed solutions are truly feasible.

People skills

It goes without saying that consultants often work in teams. Generally, they work closely with the client’s senior management team. Being personable, therefore, is an important skill that all consultants need to master. Of course, it isn't all about being agreeable. Consultants need to be assertive, displaying the ability to affect certain outcomes.

Quantitative Skills

Consultants need to be able to work with numbers and they need to be comfortable using popular programs like Excel. While it is true that some people are better at maths than others, it is entirely possible (if not completely necessary) for applicants to improve their maths skills through regular practice.

Analytical Skills

Collect and synthesizing large amounts of information are the very foundations of a consultant's career. Management consultants need to develop a hypothesis about their clients' problems in order to discover how best to procure relevant data and to analyze the data to uncover particular insights. They need to employ strong analytical skills to come up with pertinent recommendations.

Organisational Skills

Consulting assignments can seem chaotic due to their multifaceted and fast-paced nature. Consultants need to be able to juggle more than one of these demanding assignments at one time. Strong organisational skills are an absolute must.

Initiative

The ability to take action when necessary and to ask for help when issues arise is of the utmost importance in a consultant's career. Consultants need to be intuitive enough to know when to show initiative and when to take a graceful step back.

How to Go From Student to Management Consultant

While it may be a highly competitive field to work in, information on becoming a management consultant is relatively thin on the ground. Going from undergrad to consultant requires several smart choices and no small amount of hard work and effort along the way.

List and Categorise Potential Target Firms

Knowing where you'd like to work takes you one step closer to setting a solid goal for yourself. Take a good look at the firms you could see yourself working at in the next few years. Figure out whether your ultimate goal is to work for a boutique firm like MCK or Bain, or whether you want to aim high and work for one of the giants like Deloitte. Perhaps you would prefer to keep it local and work for a smaller firm for that "family business feel".

The great news is, no marketing consultancy firm is too big or small. Each one brings to the table a set of values that might be in tune with your own career and life goals.

Work your Network

This is one of those industries where your network counts for a whole lot more than you would expect. If your aim is to get your foot in the door of one of the major firms, submitting your resume online isn't necessarily the way to go about it. Remember, these firms probably receive hundreds of applications daily. You don't want to simply blend into the crowd.

If you don't have a "side door", make one. Reach out to current employees through a well-written email. Ask for a casual chat over a cup of coffee and let them know you'd like to pick their brain about joining the company.

Obviously, this isn't an interview but you do need to keep the hint of one in the back of your mind. Don't be too awkward or formal but watch your step. You don't want to be painfully casual either. Remember, this is your chance to make a good first impression. Mention that you're aiming for a career in management consulting and think of a good reason why. Be memorable. Get taken seriously.

Keep boring, generic responses to a bare minimum. Instead, think up some fabulous questions about the person's experience working at the firm. While you're at it, ask for tips on how to move forward and keep your potential application process in motion. What you're aiming for, is to get your resume passed on upwards to the people who really matter.