The job of consultant certainly has an air of authority about it, and there are many misconceptions about what consultants do. For example, the stereotype of a consultant is someone who’s hobnobbing with C-Suite executives, flying in private jets, attending numerous happy hours, and making big dollars.
While some consultants do that, the job isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Becoming a consultant will require you to have deep expertise in a particular industry. And much of the time consultants spend is doing market research and other research to help clients improve their business.
Many consultants work as independent contractors, but it’s also possible to get a job at a major consultancy firm like KPMG or Deloitte. No matter how you break into the career field, being a consultant can be a rewarding job that enables you to gain deep knowledge of an industry and help businesses succeed.
We’ll break down how to start a career in consulting, including the best places to look for a job, the educational requirements, and what consultants do.
What do Consultants do?
Consultants perform various duties depending on the industry they’re in, but many consultants do similar things for the most part. The primary purpose companies hire consultants is to get expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations on improving business operations.
Companies hire consultants or consultant agencies either because they don’t have the expertise in-house or want an outside opinion on an important business objective. A good consultant will provide recommendations to help businesses achieve their goals, gain revenue, streamline operations, and shift gears if they find themselves stuck or transitioning.
Virtually all industries hire consultants, but the main ones that use them include finance and accounting, healthcare, education, and human resources. Many consultants work as freelancers, but there are also several consultancy firms that businesses rely on. Some of the most prestigious consultancy firms include Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, and Boston Consulting Group.
Breaking into the Industry
Becoming a consultant can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Unless you get an entry-level job at a consultancy firm, usually, it takes a while to gain the necessary industry experience to work as a freelance consultant. Working as a freelancer is great because of the flexibility and earnings potential, but it’ll be your responsibility to gain clients and run your own business.
The first step to breaking into a consultant career is figuring out what you have to offer. Determine what industry you’d like to specialize in and what your area of expertise is. Consultant jobs usually require an advanced degree like a master’s, but you should have a bachelor’s degree. Obtaining an MBA and having that on your resume is also a significant advantage.
Finding a consultant job is no different from finding any other job type. Companies that hire consultants usually place job ads on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, and the ads will be tailored to the industry or speciality. For example, job ads are for Social Media Consultants, Business Consultants, Solutions Consultant, and Staff Utilization Consultant.
Beyond looking at job ads, building your professional network is another great way to land a consultant job. Keep your LinkedIn page up to date and make sure it reflects your consultant role and ambitions. Use resources like LinkedIn and professional associations to reach out to people and let them know your area of expertise and the services you’re offering.
A Potentially Lucrative Career Field
Before starting a consulting career or business, it’s good to ask yourself a few questions. The first should be if you have the necessary skills, background, and experience to succeed. Usually, it’s best to gain experience in an industry for a few years or even longer before launching a consultancy business.
For example, many professionals will work as social media associates and managers for a decade or more before transitioning into consultants. By doing this, they gain a wide variety of experience in the field, stay up to date with the latest trends, and become authorities in the industry. After gaining this experience, it becomes more of a natural progression to share that business knowledge and expertise as a consultant.
Another thing to ask yourself is if you have the communication and people skills necessary to be a consultant. Much of the work consultants do is making presentations and having meetings with executives, which can be a high-pressure gig. You’ll also have to potentially navigate office politics and other tricky areas, so having good communication and people skills is very important.
Starting a career in consulting is different from other fields, but it has many potential benefits. According to Indeed, the average base pay for consultants in the U.S. is about $50,000 per year, but some consultants make much more than that. For example, consultants at Bain & Company can make up to $155,000 per year, according to Indeed figures. Another great benefit of working as a consultant is the possibility of remote and flexible work arrangements.
Consulting is definitely not for everyone, but it can be a rewarding career path. Many consultants work long hours and feel like they’re “always on.” They also typically travel a lot and have to run their own business. But if you enjoy market research, business analysis, and helping companies to improve their bottom lines, a consulting career could be right up your alley.
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