As this is the final post that I’ll be making for this year, I wanted to round off by discussing a little bit about what I’ve learnt from my first year of consulting:
1. Be yourself
Consulting is a bit of a strange beast sometimes. You are expected to go out to different clients at a moment’s notice and that can be difficult. Apart from the obvious physical confusion associated with arriving at a new place there is also the fact you need to deal with a different corporate culture, different norms, and you are expected to provide value very quickly.
Whilst it is important to adapt to the client’s environment, I would submit that it’s equally as important is to maintain your independence. After all, your distance allows you to provide the objective input that you were hired to give.
2. Be professional
A bit of a cliché really, but a cliché for a reason. I believe that professionalism is the cornerstone of our industry. With management and strategy consultancy it can sometimes be difficult to accurately quantify the precise value we provide. In those circumstances the need to be professional is doubled.
We are going into often unfamiliar settings to advise our clients how to perform more effectively. When we are there there might be stakeholders and people we need to work with who are perhaps skeptical of our motivations and ability to help them. In those circumstances professionalism is our path to creating acceptance.
3. Be curious
Consulting is a fantastic profession when you are interested in everything. Everyday holds an opportunity to try something new and to think about something different. Our clients are often large and engage on projects that have the potential to have large effects on society.
To give our clients value I think it is important to remain curious. The joy in working in consulting is to think about a problem a client may have and provide a completely unique view on it, based upon the insights developed through different clients, in different sectors, in different parts of the world.
4. Remember that you’re part of a team
One of the things that helps make all of the above points a bit easier is that you’re never alone when you’re at EY. Even if it can sometimes feel like you are out on a project by yourself it’s important to remember that there is always support. This support can come in different ways, within the project team there are always seniors who want to work with you. There will also be a client team who will be able to assist you, and then a sector team as well. In addition you have your counselor and your buddy.
The point is, when you are struggling – ask for help. It’s important that people know what you’re doing and also they can identify different viewpoints that you’ve perhaps missed.
5. Fake it till you make it
It can be scary when you’re a consultant (and especially a new one) to sit with clients who are experienced in their work and suggest ways that they can improve. You can feel a bit like an impostor in those circumstances. But it is important to remember when those doubts strike you, that you are there for a reason. You are there because you are smart and because you can provide value to the client.
The aphorism provides some guidance in those situations – be the consultant that you’ve always wanted to be. Be the consultant that you think would be the best suited for the job and take on that persona. I find that when I do that it is actually quite liberating because who you want to be as a consultant is then entirely your choice.
In any event I hope that these thoughts provide some value as you go about your journey. Thank you for reading through the course of this year – it’s been a wild one for me.
Best of luck and have a great summer!