Management consulting is a high-pace and dynamic profession. Your first year in the firm is critical to acquire the core consulting skills, establish yourself as a high-performing consultant, build your reputation and network. Don’t worry though, the people in the firm will help you along the way and with these tips below, you should be well on your way to be successful management consultant.
Be sure to check out our great related posts on typical week for a management consultant and how to find work life balance in management consulting
Take advantage of formal training opportunities
Many firms have excellent formal training opportunities for consultants. These programs continue through each level including partners. The type of training and content varies by level. For a new consultant, you will go through a new hire training, which will cover basics in writing, analytics and communication. Some firms incorporate a team case study to the training. You will also learn about the firm’s policies and practices. After the new hire training, you can sign up for other formal training courses in writing, analysis, presenting, communications, etc. The curriculum is typically rich.
Once you have a few projects under your belt, you will get feedback on your strengths and areas for improvement. There is a core set of consulting skills every new consultant should acquire in their first year. Make sure you sign up for training on these topics, in particular in areas where you need improvement. The other benefit of training is to network with colleagues that are in the same level as you are. You will spend one to several days with them and should take the opportunity to get to know them. They will be your buddies when you are stuck and can help you out. Frequently, the training classes draw people from multiple offices and even countries, so you broaden your network in the firm globally.
Become an apprentice
Consulting is an apprenticeship business. You learn most of your skills on the job and by watching, emulating and getting direction from your senior consultants. Nobody expects perfection from day one from you, but you need to be open to feedback, learn quickly and maintain a good attribute in the process. Find experienced consultants you like to work with and you look up to and be an apprentice for them.
Find your mentors
Mentors maybe formal or informal. Some companies assign formal mentors to new consultants. Also, people you work with on project or firm activities can become mentors to you. In either case, these relationships are as useful as what you invest in them. Keep your mentors appraised about your progress, and seek them out regularly. Build a good relationship and they will give you advice, help out on getting to the engagement you want to do and navigate the firm politics.
Build your network
Your network is your net worth. Consulting firms still operate with a lot of personal interaction. It is primarily a people business. Yes, the firms will have processes to get you staffed on projects, conduct appraisals, etc. but a lot of the opportunities come from your network. You get recommended to project teams due to your reputation and relationships. If you are in a bind to find info, build a model, create a presentation, chances are someone in your network has done this before and can help you to speed things up immensely. Take opportunities like training, practice off sites, annual firm gatherings, practice calls, etc. to learn about what others are doing in the firm, meet new people and build your network. This is particularly important in your first year.
Contribute to the firm, be a good firm citizen
Being a know as a good firm citizen is important for new consultants. Too many new consultants focus only on client work to do “cool strategy projects” that they were promised to do during recruiting. While that should be the primary focus for a new consultant, getting involved in building the firm early on is a great way to build your reputation. This could be a couple of hours a week on any area of your choice. You can support business development or proposals. You can help on pro-bono consulting projects. You can help build the firm’s intellectual capital with research, white papers. You can help with recruiting whether is it resume screening, attending campus events or informal interviews. People you help know that your priority is client delivery and they appreciate the extra helping hand when you spare a little time for these. It goes a long way to establish yourself as a consultant who is interested in building the firm.
If you follow the advice above, you will have a head start vs. most of the consultants in your batch to be a superstar in your firm. Let us know what you think!