What actually is a consultant? And does it matter when you’re hiring one?

What actually is a consultant? And does it matter when you’re hiring one?

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We’ve all heard the old adage – a consultant uses your watch to tell you the time! Quite a few of us have equally seen the reaction when you’ve told someone you’re a consultant at a social event (eyes glaze over, and you can almost hear the “oh, another one!”). However, for what has become a rather ubiquitous job, it’s often very misunderstood.

 

At movemeon, we see this most when we’re speaking with clients who are not used to hiring consultants (think start-ups, non-strategy corporate teams, etc). We, therefore, wanted to write a short piece that explained some critical components of consultants jobs, and as such why they can be a great fit for various roles. The points made below should be relevant to both consultants thinking about how to market their experience, and for employers who are considering hiring a consultant but aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves in for!

 

Consultants are highly competitive -> they are a great pool of driven high-performers/“future leaders”

 

Consulting has great PR. Given the high turnover of very driven people, each firm boasts alumni on the Board of some of the most well-known global companies. Consultancies are therefore recognised as a great place to start one’s career, making it extremely competitive to get into. This has been furthered with the increased anti-banking sentiment among recent graduates, leading more of them to choose consulting instead.

 

What does this mean for consultants when they are leaving? I remember being sat down on my first day of consulting and being told that we were “insecure overachievers”. Despite not really enjoying this “tag”, what it concisely explains is that consultants are a group of very driven individuals, and as such the alumni provide an exceptional pool for high-potential “future leaders”. We often have employers approaching us exactly for this reason.

 

Consultants excel at problem-solving, analysis and insight -> they bring a great toolkit relevant to all roles

 

Consultants are tasked with solving very complex problems; they are often brought in because the business itself can’t solve them. They are therefore trained in, and constantly develop on the job, a toolkit to solve these problems.

 

This toolkit helps in any job – it’s relevant to all sizes of problems and ensures consultants remain focused on delivering impact. It’s also the most transferable skill in today’s workplace. When employers look to hire consultants, they know they are getting someone who’ll be able to make sense of huge amounts of data (qualitative and quantitative) and drive to clear insight and recommendations. On top of this, they are able to communicate these recommendations clearly, increasing the likelihood of the businesses actually making changes. As businesses get increasingly complex, and there is a growing amount of data, this toolkit is essential.

 

 

Consultants are experienced at stakeholder management -> they can work with senior management and executive teams

 

One of my key motivations for going into consulting was for the client access: being able to see how senior business leaders operate at the top of their game is the best way to learn. I was also delighted to see this happen – within 4 weeks I was presenting to a Private Equity board about potential acquisitions they could make. And my experience was not unique.

 

Consultants work with some extremely senior people very early in their careers. They are often feeding into a Board making a decision and therefore know how to communicate with senior management. This skillset is hugely helpful in the corporate world, especially for those who will be leading the business in years to come.

 

Why it doesn’t really matter what consultants do

 

I remember being told as I left McKinsey that the most valuable part of the BA programme was the training. At the time, like any fresh-faced recent graduate, I was dubious. I could put my hands on some skills I’d developed but I wasn’t convinced that I’d developed a hard skill-set. It’s only with hindsight that I’ve realised the toolkit that you get from the first two years in consulting is indispensable in any job. In addition to the toolkit, understanding how senior management make decisions (and how you can support them) ensures consultants fit readily into a huge array of roles. Their ability to get up to speed on an industry also helps!

 

So, as a consultant looking to market yourself to a company, make sure you are evidencing how your skills align to each job. Ensure you look in detail at what responsibilities the role has and what exactly will be required of you. Given the breadth of work in consulting, there will definitely be relevance in your experience – but you’ll need to draw it out.

 

And if you’re looking to hire consultants, you’re guaranteed to hear from extremely high potential future leaders. This, partnered with their training, means these “future leaders” can help to drive/transform a company. Whilst it can sometimes feel a risk hiring a consultant over someone who’s already in a similar job, the return on investment is worth it.

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A big thank you to MoveMeOn again for helping me find another unique and exciting role. You genuinely have the best roles out there for those who enjoy variety and trying something new!

Sophie

New right-hand to the CEO, Sharestyle/AllBright

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