It seems like you can’t throw a stick nowadays without hitting a few consultants. But though consultants seem to be quite in demand, by reputation they are less popular. Is it true what they say about consultants?
Spoiler alert: it is not.
Consultancy has gained popularity in recent decades, but the roots of business consulting actually go back more than 130 years. MIT chemist Arthur Dehon Little founded the first management consulting company as early as 1886 in Boston, Massachusetts. Today, Arthur D. Little is an international management consulting firm headquartered in Brussels, with 1,500 employees spread across 45 offices worldwide. So it’s safe to say Mr. Little had a good idea when he thought he needed to bring some diversity to the field of business.
Today, a consultant is officially defined as a professional, specialist or expert who provides advice and other purposeful activities in an area of specialization. Unofficially, a consultant is often referred to as the guy who will steal your watch and tell you the time, meaning that consultants don’t tell you anything you don’t already know, leaving you none the wiser but a lot poorer after they finish their assignment.
This is obviously untrue. Actually, we hear a lot of talk about what it’s like working as a consultant that doesn’t align with our own experience. Here are 7 myths about working as a consultant that we’d like to rectify.
It’s true, as a consultant you come into a company as an outsider to fix a problem they need help with. Some people may be a bit hostile to you at first. After all, they probably know more about their business than you do, yet you’re being paid to come in and tell them how to do things. But if you remain humble about what you don’t know, and confident about the added value of what you do know, those initial resentments will soon fade away. In no time, people will start to see your value too.
Maybe you don’t know all the intricacies of a company coming into it, but that’s actually a good thing. As an outsider, you can offer a fresh perspective, and lots of experience and expertise that isn’t available to the company internally.
You may be reluctant about a career in consultancy because you believe it is a highly competitive environment with everybody fighting for their piece of the pie. Also, you might worry that you won’t be able to bond with anyone at your assignments because you’re not around long enough to develop a relationship.
While it’s true that consultants are usually highly ambitious and qualified people, they are your peers. When you’re surrounded by people who are just as ambitious and talented as you are, chances are you will make some pretty great friends who will provide you with a support network that will help you succeed and love what you do. At least, that’s the case at Projective Group.
You may have the idea that consultants travel all over the world, flying first class, eating fancy steak dinners and sleeping in five-star hotels – but this is (un)fortunately not the case for most of us. Consultancy is a lot more than traveling, fancy dinners and flashy function titles. In fact, at Projective Group, we don’t have function titles at all. We have roles and responsibilities. Our organisational structure is very flat – we don’t do pyramid structures, we consider all bricks equal. Our leadership doesn’t even have dedicated offices. They sit with everyone else.
Disclaimer: yes, there will be times when a project demands you putting in a few extra hours. But that won’t be every day of your career. We can’t speak for other consultancy firms, but at Projective Group, people are our number one priority. We value happiness. So of course we are respectful of your life outside of work, and we strive to incorporate fun into our day-to-day as well.
Consulting can be a work-hard-play-hard environment. So we encourage you to focus on impact and not on timesheets. At the end of the day, don’t ask yourself how many hours you’ve logged, ask yourself what you have done with the time you spent, and what the impact of that was, both professionally and personally.
Some people think that a consultant comes in, produces a few pretty PowerPoint presentations, and then leaves without actually doing anything. This isn’t true at all. Of course it’s helpful to get advice and recommendations from a consultant, but the real benefit comes from the effective implementation of those benefits.
As a consultant, you will work on ideation, but you’re also the expert in charge of implementation. You make sure the team has all the necessary tools and training to be successful after you’re gone off to your next client. And when you take your job seriously, you’re even available to clients after your assignment is finished to help out when they run into an issue. That’s just good service.
Anyone can call themselves a consultant, but not everyone has what it takes to become a successful consultant. Your success and value as a consultant comes from your ability to foster results, solve problems and add value for the organisations you work for. That takes experience and skill that isn’t given for free with every box of cereal on the supermarket shelves.
To find the right consultants, we look at soft and hard skills and personality traits. You can’t know everything about everything, so get specific. As a consultant, your level of specialism and expertise is your greatest asset. One exception to this rule: project management consultants are probably better off being generalists, because of the variety of their tasks.
It seems to be a popular opinion that when a consultant is brought in, the ship is already sinking. It’s true that as a consultant you will enter the occasional Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg, and you’re there to salvage what you can and see if you can turn the tide and save the violin players. But more often than not, consultants are hired by strong, leading companies who are seeking new ways to become even better and grow ahead of the competition.
So don’t think that by being a consultant, you’re doomed to fight lost battles all the time. You can thrive on making an impact and helping to write success stories.
Do you think you may be a Projective Grouper at heart? Why don’t you have a look at our job page? We’d love to meet you!
Established in 2006, Projective Group is a leading Financial Services change specialist. With deep expertise across practices in Data, Payments, Transformation and Risk & Compliance.
We are recognised within the industry as a complete solutions provider, partnering with clients in Financial Services to provide resolutions that are both holistic and pragmatic. We have evolved to become a trusted partner for companies that want to thrive and prosper in an ever-changing Financial Services landscape.