So You Want to Be a Consultant…

Generally, when people think of a consultant, they have the mental image of someone who is smart, well-spoken and in control of their destiny art. The work of a consultant is considered glamourous and engaging, full of travel, endless adventure, and perks that expand ones options for personal enjoyments on their own terms, with air miles, hotel points, and rental car discounts that would spoil anyone. Further, consultants are seen to be in the perfect place to meet new and interesting people, and to make great money! So what’s not to like, right, well, it’s not fun and games, it’s not play. In fact, it’s the total opposite of play, its work! Taken as a whole, as a consultant, your life is not your own, your ass and literally everything that goes with it belongs to the client, day in and day out for roughly 80% of every week of your assignment. Anything resembling a “personal life” has to be put off until Friday or weekends–if you have weekends to speak of.
To say the least, consulting comes with a lot of incredible challenges, most of which translates to personal sacrifices of leisure activities, and interpersonal engagement (Sorry mom, I know I need to see you more).Consultants are expected to apply themselves fully to develop and apply expertise in environments teeming with uncertainty and impossible deadlines. The consultant’s greatest asset doesn’t lie in their smarts, it’s in their discipline, confidence, and work ethic. It’s a tendency to continuously question in search of a better solution, even while running full speed to meet their commitments to the client.
To put it another way, consultants are driven, so besides the pay, and the perks, there are a number of lesser-known reasons to pursue a career in consulting—so if you’re feeling a bit conflicted, and on the fence about the field, check out these four points to ponder in deciding whether to explore, choose, or stay in consulting.

You’re Never Bored With Same Work

With the high levels of demand across of every industry, and the variety of functional areas requiring expertise, across a broad geographic expanse, consultants are in high demand. They are exposed to a wide variety of work environments and experiences. They are constantly challenged to think analytically with changing assumptions and any number of simultaneous assignments. The nonstop pressure and never ending demands will either make you or break you and suddenly out of the game!
It’s not unusual to be assigned to a projects that requires you to work long hours and even on weekend on occasion to meet the client’s expectations. What I love most about consulting is putting on multiple hats, from designer, to programmer, to implementation lead, to business analyst, and working hard to get the right perspective on a high profile single-focused job. I’ve been given the opportunity to learn about different industries and how they work, all the while employing new skills and insights that I could never imagined developing. If you’re able to adapt and maintain your pose, staying agile in the face of uncertainty, then consulting may be your calling.

Grass Will Never Grow Under Your Feet When You’re Constantly Traveling

When the job description says 80-100% travel, that’s just what it means. A work life balance is hard to achieve under these types of travel demands, and if a family and kids are involved, this type of work can put a serious strain on your relationships. Understand that consulting not for everyone, but if you don’t mind living out of a suitcase and love to be on the road every week, and can effectively juggle multiple priorities then consulting may be just what you need to be fulfilled. Some projects may be worked remotely, while others require travel to one or several client sites repeatedly to measure progress, deliver updates, and fine tune processes and assumptions. Travel is costly and time consuming, and only occurs when the value delivered exceeds the cost of delivery.
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Your Foremost Concern is That the Client/Business Side is Happy

This would be funny if it weren’t so true, but one must constantly remind one’s self that the client/business leader comes first at all cost. Literally, if the client wants you to make balloon animals, you really need to figure it out or call a clown for day work, in effect figure out how to make it happen. Sometimes the client’s demands are outrageous and practically impossible but remember, they’re paying top-dollar for you to provide expertise. If they could do it themselves, they wouldn’t need you, and the reason they are paying you the bucks is because they believe you can and will deliver. Your role is to solve problems. You’re like a coach of a football team, making strategic plays to help your team win the game. In the consulting world, your role is to provide functional expertise to a business to help it become a leader in their industry.
Occasionally, managers make unrealistic promises or agree to unreasonable deadlines that are left to the analysts and consultants to execute seamlessly. Failure to deliver results in being kicked off the project with the only recourse being to find another chargeable project to salvage your pride and reputation. It is so important to manage expectations around a client’s demands. You never want to say no, but you want to be sure you understand what the client wants and what you can do to make it happen. Sometimes the best response is to call on additional resources and expand the range of available experts to evaluate, design, and execute a reasonable solution.

You’re Presented With Countless Networking Opportunities

Whether internally or externally, you are constantly proving to strangers that you are a “rock star” when it comes to IT configuration or enterprise system security, sales marketing, or process improvement. Effective communication is an invaluable skill in the consulting world, so you have to overcome your shyness in this type of work. Not only must you be a team player, you have to be a leader, innovator, game-changer, cheerleader, efficiency guru, and the most valuable asset to the team. As such, let networking be your strategic advantage.
In many ways, the success of the projector assignment lies in your interpretation of the goal and how you speak about it. Your insights, learning, and networking are the long term takeaways of consulting assignments. Consultants are constantly building long-term relationships with co-workers and managers that evolve into mentorships, new project offers, promotions, and long term employment opportunities. I’ve personally gained two valuable mentorships through the first year of my consulting career. These relationships are not only personally gratifying, but professionally reassuring in gauging my development and options for future success.
Jasmin Williams is Melanation’s creative and editorial director. Jasmin is also a Senior Analyst for a private consulting company in the technology consulting practice. If you have more questions about being a consultant, please feel free to contact her at [email protected] You can find her IG @jasminjanae to know what she’s been up to.

What are your thoughts about consulting? Please comment below!

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