If you work at a Consulting Firm…
Number One: “You may not be smart, you may not be handsome, but by God, by the end of this program, you will know how to manage a project so that it comes in on time and on budget.” So said the instructor and she was right. (I thought also that one out of three for me isn’t bad.) By virtue of being in a training program at a large consulting firm, I learned how to manage a project. And project management is a skill that is utilized every day by everyone.
Sure, there are other places to learn project management but I suspect very few places provide the rigor that consulting firms can provide. A consulting firm’s success is dependent on project management skills. The nature of the client relationship depends on project management skills. No places are better at inculcating the project management skill than consulting firms. It is a skill, once developed; that will make you more successful at work.
But wait, there’s more… remodeling the kitchen? Planning an around the world sailing trip? Trying to find the best college for Junior? Starting a new company in the garage? Building a sailboat? Losing thirty pounds? Scheduling a complicated summer of logistics? Project management skills will come in handy, no matter what you do where or when and those skills you learned at the consulting firm will last forever.
Number Two: Besides the project management DNA that will be instilled, you will derive other traits from working at a consulting firm that will impact your career. Like:
- Understanding that sales is a part of every career and position as well as other topics they don’t teach you in college.
- Understanding the concept of billable time or, if someone is going to pay for your time, you better bring something to the game. It’s called adding value.
- Relationships matter and the colleagues formed in the workplace are not to be under estimated.
Other reasons can be found in the recruiting brochures that consulting firms provide. But there is a more nuanced reason how a consulting firm can change a career: the experience can be a rite of passage, it can be an initiation into the world of work, it can be the dividing line between what you did before (like college) and your future.
The discipline that working for a consulting firm provides can set you up for success no matter what is next in your career. Sometimes learning that discipline is a hard lesson but it one that needs to be learned.
If you don’t work at a Consulting Firm…
Consultants are all about change. They are brought in to organizations to change the strategy, change the culture, change the headcount, change the structure, change the systems, change the processes, change the wallpaper or change the product, to name a few. Consultants are not hired because “we want to keep things the way they are around here.”
If you don’t work for a consulting firm, of course, you can learn from the firm and how they approach change and the projects at hand. Usually the approach and the techniques are cutting edge. Learn and integrate the know-how into your own career.
Most importantly, the change actions could boost or kill your career. As in, getting promoted as someone who can lead change, or getting eliminated as someone who is in the way of change. Many jobs have been enhanced or eliminated through the change recommendations of consultants.
Whether you like consultants or hate them; whether you are one or you are looking at one, consulting firms are around to stay. Be alert to how you can benefit from their work. And, if you want to learn how to manage a project, go into consulting. Let’s hear it.