Strategy Consulting is known for its long working hours, pressure to deliver and obsession with delivering outstanding quality for clients no matter what the individual personal cost. While some individuals thrive in this environment, others struggle to keep pace and leave to pursue other careers.
'Type A' Pesonality
Not everyone enjoys working intensely with teams to deliver on a tight deadline. There are people for whom a deadline is a death sentence. If dealing with clients is frightening, if having every minute scheduled is constraining, if long hours spent crunching through analysis is repulsive, then consulting is probably not for you.
Although a generalisation, key character traits associated with strategy consultants include:
- Confidence - this is crucial. No one wants to hire the second guessing consultant.
- Gregarious - successful consultants are sociable, able to get on with all types of people
- Problem solving - consultants by nature tend to be curious about the world and always looking for ways to solve problems from a structured, fact-based, perspective
- Resourceful - when things go awry, successful consultants find solutions
- Team player - successful consultants are able to work in teams, under tight deadlines, to deliver quality work for clients
- Creative thinking - being able to think laterally to understand a problem
- Organised - days may include various activities. The ability to schedule and follow through with these activities is vital
- Motivated - especially when it comes to burning the midnight oil, or crunching through lots of data to understand a problem
- Resilient - good consultants are able to bounce back from periods of downtime or rejection without taking it to heart
- Willing to Travel - consultants often travel to clients in other cities and sometimes internationally
- Integrity - Consultants maintain an integrity and pride in their work
Deep Sector Expertise and Marketable Skills
Chances are if your only skill is underwater basket weaving, it will be difficult to forge a career as a consultant. Successful strategy consultants possess marketable skills and the deep sector experience within one or two industries. For this reason, it is rare to find good consultants right out of business school. If you are fresh out of an MBA program, and don't have a deep sector expertise, consider developing your sector experience in desirable industries before considering a career in consulting.
In addition to developing expertise in a given industry, the following generic skills are marketable for strategy consultants:
- Impeccable researching skills (desk research, telephone interviewing and face-to-face)
- Outstanding analytical and syntheses skills (e.g. the ability to delve into deep data analysis and then synthesise the key messages / "so whats")
- Excellent written communication (to produce word and powerpoint reports)
- Strong PowerPoint presentation creation (essential for developing client presentation packs late at night!)
- Commitment to delivering excellent client service (i.e. the desire to put in the long hours when you have to ensure a quality deliverable for the client)
- Excellent verbal communication skills (e.g. being able to communicate in a structured manner during internal and external meetings)
- Knowledge of computer systems and of software applicable to industry
- Sales skills - consulting is a business, selling your tallents and your product is a skill that should be developed during the early part of your career (and you need to be able to sell your client's product)
- Objectivity - lack of bias when working with others