Three years ago I was sat exactly where you are today, with a copy of the Inside Careers Guide to Management Consultancy asking the same questions you are. Primarily, ‘is consulting for me?’. If you want a challenging career with lots of exposure, opportunity to develop a diverse range of skills and meet lots of new people, then yes – consulting is for you.
I first came across consultants in my role as a Senior Supply Chain Development Analyst at Morrisons. We engaged a consultancy to help us improve our supply chain operations and I was fascinated by what they did, how quickly they understood our business and how they worked with the business at all levels to develop opportunities – that was exciting, I wanted in.
Today, my role involves all manner of things and varies from day to day and from client to client. In summary, I do the following:
- Delivering value to clients – from building a supply chain model to assess different business options to presenting back key insight from a vast pool of cross-business data and information, process workshops and stakeholder interviews.
- Building relationships – internal to LCP, with clients and with the wider world. Primarily, making real connections with clients to deliver projects together in a sustainable and progressive way.
- Managing projects – from defining to finishing a project and everything in between; what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it and who’s going to do it.
What does a typical day in your current role look like?
8am – arrive at the LCP office or client site and have a quick catch up with the project team – review our upcoming milestones, assess whether we’re on track and check how we are feeling.
9am – work with the team to identify trends and opportunities in mountains of data and information shared by the client – finding something that’s going to put them on the edge of their seat.
11am – over a working lunch, run a workshop with the client leadership team looking at the new insight and brainstorming what it could mean, how we might investigate it further or what the immediate changes are that we could make.
2pm – run an internal team debrief after the workshop; do we need to shift our focus, who do we need to speak to to get more information and what do we need to do to reach our next milestone?
4pm – alone time spent checking the project budget to see how we’re doing against target, do we have some specialist expertise we need to bring in for particular activities and how might we mitigate any challenges we could face in our next client meeting?
6pm – head out for a beer with the team to celebrate a client meeting which generated excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunities available and gave the team the opportunity to present and deliver their work first-hand.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Driving change and progress
As consultants there are many different ways we can influence and drive change, some more subtle than others. Client stakeholders will often seek advice on who in their team could become an advocate for an upcoming change, and how best to engage them. This can be very difficult; many organisations have established ways of working and creating a new normal is not always immediately welcome.
I also very much enjoy the more overt opportunities to drive change and progress, such as facilitating workshops. It is a real challenge getting multiple functional leaders in a room, with different remits and different performance measures and driving them to a consensus on how to approach a particular opportunity – but that’s the fun. Thinking on your feet and driving well-informed decisions and actions is key; further down the line, seeing change and improvement you’ve helped drive become reality is very rewarding.
My favourite aspect of consulting is the sheer variety of organisations, ways of working, processes and people I encounter. It is vast and diverse and I must very quickly be able to establish effective relationships (from operational teams in a Distribution Centre to the Chief Financial Officer), understand how an organisation works and identify opportunity in line with their vision.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
- Create opportunity – are there any events at your university or current organisation that you could attend to learn more or meet people in the consulting industry? Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your extended network and seek guidance, information or introductions (alumni, friends of friends, family…). Be innovative and fresh in how you approach these relationships; show you’re smart and have something to offer.
- Get involved – many universities have consulting societies which share information and offer opportunities to learn core consulting skills.
- Do your research – what type of consultant do you want to be, what specialist skills does that consultant need? If you don’t know what field you want to be in do some research on the different entry schemes available, which ones give you the chance to explore?
- Be cognisant of your strengths – understand the key skills consultants need and continue to develop your strengths, identify where you could improve and work on both.
- Read the consultancy guide cover to cover – this guide gives a fantastic first insight into the world of consulting – if it sparks your interest, pursue it – good luck!