As the Senior Client Director of Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, I bring over 20 years of consulting experience to the job, driving IT initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. At Gartner, I help businesses understand IT at an executive level to solve internal and external needs utilizing data and analytics.
That probably sounded like a whole lot of tech talk, without explaining exactly what I do. Consulting is a vital aspect of many businesses and you’ve probably heard of it before and know it has something to do with giving advice in a certain field. Some consultants are self-employed, while others (like myself) were hired into a consulting position for a company. As important as consulting work is for companies across all fields to help them increase revenue and cut costs, consulting can be somewhat difficult to define because it encompasses different industries. It also, as Forbes explains in the example of a beauty consultant contestant on The Bachelorette, sometimes gets a bad rap. There’s a famous saying: “Consultants take your watch and tell you what time it is.”
I can assure you, consulting work is much more complex than the stereotypes make it seem, and it’s also one of the most important and lucrative professions in the United States. A survey from the Association of Management Consulting Firms reported that entry-level consultants earn an average annual salary of $58,000 while senior consultants can earn up to $259,000, on average. Even when the economy is in decline, there will always be a need for consultants.
So, how does one become a consultant? Consulting isn’t one of those jobs that perfectly aligns with a given college major. There is no one, straight path to becoming a consultant. However, if you think you want to get into consulting, here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Evaluate if this is the right field for you. I have found consulting to be a rewarding and fulfilling career path, but it’s not for everyone. Consulting is a lot of work, but if you really enjoy what you do, it won’t feel like work. You should be aware of the demands of the job though. Consulting will most likely require you to travel often, and you will need to have a flexible schedule and work ethic to adapt to whatever the job requires. As Forbes explains, “ The job also requires you to share ideas, explain concepts, and present findings almost on a daily basis.” So you should be an excellent communicator. In consulting, you shouldn’t shy away from an occasional late night at the office. If you want to get ahead in the field, you’ll have to do whatever it takes to get the job done. If you’re someone who enjoys challenging yourself and pushing yourself to new limits, consulting could be your key to a successful and happy life.
- Make sure you have the required skills and attributes. I’ve touched on some of these already, but certain personalities are better suited for consulting work than others. You don’t need an MBA to break into consulting; skills and ambition are the most important factors when it comes to getting the job. You should have demonstrated leadership skills, an ability to work well under stress, and excellent problem-solving, management, communication, and computer skills.
- Know what to expect and become an expert in the industry. You should come across as informed and invested in this field if you want to ace your interview for a consulting job and begin a career. Read up on the typical trajectory for consulting jobs, the job titles and descriptions, the responsibilities, and how to prepare sample proposals for clients.
- Decide if you want to work as a consultant for a firm or company, or be self-employed. Plan accordingly. There are two main paths to a career in consulting- you can either apply directly to a consulting firm or a consulting position within a company, or if you’re an entrepreneurial type, you may want to offer your own services on a freelance basis. Your strategy will be different depending on which path you decide to take; for instance, you should familiarize yourself with the interview process if your goal is to work for a firm, and you’ll need to come up with a gameplan if you plan on going solo, such as advertising and pricing your services.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to evaluate if a career in consulting is right for you, and if you find that it is, don’t be afraid to go for it! The first step to accomplishing any goal is having the drive and motivation to do so, and from there, you start planning for your future.