Becoming a Consultant
Consulting, in the business context, means giving advice to help companies solve their most challenging business problems. Consultants offer their advice and skill in solving problems, and are hired by companies who need the expertise and outside perspective that consultants possess. Some consulting firms specialize in giving advice on management and strategy, while others are known as technology specialists. Some concentrate on a specific industry area, like financial services or retail, and still others are more like gigantic one-stop shops with divisions that dispense advice on everything from top-level strategy, to choosing training software, to saving money on paper clips.
But consulting firms have one thing in common: they run on the power of their people. The only product consulting firms ultimately have to offer is their ability to make problems go away. As a consultant, you are that problem-solver.
Consulting is the business of providing advice to firms in trouble, on the move, or trying to do what they do better, faster, and more cheaply. It is one of the fastest growing industries in today’s corporate world and one of the most popular career choices for new MBA’s. It is also an industry that is complicated to define because the term consulting is so broad and has different meanings to different people.
Besides Consulting at consulting firms there are also “internal consultants” at non-consulting firms. Companies such as IBM, 3M, Alcoa, Bayer and Bank of America all have internal consulting groups that act like traditional consulting firms but only serve clients within the company. Additionally, many companies such as Liberty Mutual, Heinz, Eli Lilly and Giant Eagle have internal strategy groups that offer roles similar to consulting positions. Often times internal consultants work fewer hours and have less travel than traditional management consultants.
Work of A Consultant
A consultant may be a noted researcher contracted by a corporation to help solve a problem using the most advanced techniques. A consultant may be a young professional who helps develop intricate computer systems for a corporate client. Many undergraduate students began their career in this type of role. However, when undergraduate students discuss consulting, they usually have a particular role in mind. This is the role of a professional analyst who assists major corporations in understanding complex business issues and developing and/or executing an action plan to address them.
Types of Consulting
There are a wide range of services that consulting firms provide. It is difficult to clearly categorize consulting firms since nearly all of them engage in a wide range of work, and change frequently to capture shifting client needs. Some of the most prevalent areas currently are:
- Strategy Formulation (Markets, products, channels)
- Systems Implementation (SAP, Siebel, Internet)
- Change Management (Organizational design, HR policy)
- Operations (Supply chain, warehousing, distribution)
- Marketing (Research, Coaching Leadership, one-on-one)
- Merger & Acquisition (Valuation, negotiation)
Work Life Balance
Consultants work a lot and travel a lot. However, expect to have the weekends to yourself. An example firm may have a “3-4-5″ program, which means 3 nights from home, 4 working days away from home and the 5th day in your home office. This means you leave to your client site Monday morning and return home Thursday night. Consulting firms know that work life balance is a major issue for most employees and this is a frequently mentioned reason for the high turnover. So there is quite a lot of attention to this issue. However, there are big differences between the firms in regards to this issue.