How to Get Into Consulting
Wondering how to get into consulting? You're in the right place.
Consulting is a lucrative and in-demand profession that's extremely rewarding for those who choose to pursue it. If you've decided you want to get into consulting, the most challenging part can be figuring out how to take those initial steps.
The consulting industry is booming. Companies are always looking to hire external consultants to consult on temporary projects with specific sets of expertise. For this reason, there are countless consulting firms out there. The competition is fierce, so you'll need to know how to find new clients and make yourself stand out.
In this article, we'll share our insights and tips on how to break into consulting. Ready? Let's jump right in.
First of All, What is Consulting?
Consulting can be defined as the business of providing specialist advice or support to businesses and organizations across different industries.
Consultants are professionals that carry out this task. They provide professional advice in various business-related areas such as human resources, marketing, education, etc. Their primary role is to assist businesses with complex problems while aiming to optimize workflows, streamline business operations, and enhance efficiency.
Consulting professionals might operate on a freelance basis, as part of a consulting firm, or they might hold a permanent position within an organization.
If you have a specific set of skills that you think another business could benefit from, you're a great candidate for consultancy.
Below are some key skills and qualities consultants should possess.
- Problem-solving: You need to be able to think critically about and solve any problem a client might have. You shouldn't jump to conclusions, but instead, use your creative and critical problem-solving skills to assess the situation you're faced with.
- Excellent communication skills: Consultants need to be able to communicate with people from all walks of life. Moreover, as a consultant, you're the expert. So it's crucial that you can express ideas and information clearly and effectively.
- Time management: You'll need to be well equipped to manage your time efficiently so you can deal with the project at hand, as well as any schedules and deadlines involved.
- Team player: You'll need to be able to quickly adapt to working with diverse teams and gaging their needs and abilities. This requires you to listen, interact, and develop relationships with team members.
How can consulting firms improve business operations?
By outsourcing consultancy operations to top consulting firms, businesses can access temporary expertise that enables them to reduce overall costs by focusing on the services they need, when they need them.
Instead of spending their budget on permanent consultancy staff or costly technologies, businesses can address specific business problems with consulting firms. Moreover, consulting companies offer unique and diverse skillsets, so there's bound to be a consultant to fit your organization.
What are the different types of consulting?
There are various types of consulting careers. Here's an overview of the most popular types of consulting services.
Strategy consultants focus on strategic topics like corporate strategy, economic policy, and government regulatory policies.
The role of a management consultant is to help businesses and organizations to solve existing issues, generate value, and maximize growth by improving overall business performance. Management consultants use their particular skills and expertise to advise clients on the best ways to improve their business operations and any skills they're lacking.
You might be familiar with firms like McKinsey, Bain, and the Boston Consulting Group, which are the three big players in management consulting.
Human resources (HR) consultants help clients with issues related to human capital, employee performance, and employee satisfaction. They handle subjects like organizational change management, training and development, employment law, and talent acquisition.
People in this career path focus on the development and implementation of information technology (IT) processes and applications.
Financial advisory consultant
This type of consulting addresses questions and issues regarding financial scenarios and functionality within a business. Some sub-categories include real estate, risk management, and forensic research.
How to Get Into Consulting in 5 Easy Steps
Not sure how to get into consulting in the first place? We've broken down the essential steps you'll need to take to break into the industry. Whether you're interested in freelance consulting, or you want to join up with a consulting firm—these five simple steps are a good way to get started.
1. Acquire the appropriate skills and expertise
Some people might choose to pursue a CFA-1 or an MBA in management consulting from a world-class business school to ensure they have the right skills and training to succeed in the consulting industry.
Although holding an MBA or other kind of industry-specific qualification is a definite advantage, it's not the only way to go about landing a consulting job. Many people get into consulting after working in a full-time role for several years, and often firms hire candidates who possess strong skills and experience.
Usually, consulting firms will look for a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree, and then take into account your consulting experience and areas of expertise.
If you're making a career transition to freelance consulting, you'll want to ensure your resume and cover letter clearly express your industry-specific work experience, qualifications, and skills, along with how you plan to transfer them to a management consultant role.
2. Define your niche
Consulting is a broad industry. Before you begin exploring consulting opportunities, you should first define the niche you want to work in. Usually, this won't be difficult.
If you're particularly skilled in business management after working in a management position for a while, management consultancy is the obvious choice.
If you're an IT professional looking for a role that offers more responsibility and allows you to demonstrate your skills, consider IT consultancy. Or, if you're a marketing professional looking to transition to a consultancy role, there are plenty of opportunities out there for freelance marketing consultants.
It's important to know exactly where you can fit in and how your specific skills could be of use. As we mentioned before, consultancy is a competitive industry—so you'll need to offer something that makes you stand out from the crowd.
3. Refine your resume and cover letter.
Sure, you might have all the relevant qualifications and skills on paper, but you'll need to offer more than that to land clients in the consulting business. Before sending out your applications, ensure you refine your resume and cover letter.
Your resume should feature the most relevant experiences and skills. It should also depict any school or university qualifications (like an MBA), as well as any other relevant courses or certifications that can tie into consultancy.
Be sure to demonstrate how your skills and abilities directly contributed to workplace success or business growth in previous roles, as this will give the client a clear image of what you're capable of.
Ensure you outline your accomplishments and how they relate to consulting. For instance, if you have worked as an IT professional for the past 10 years, make sure your consulting resume illustrates all of your relevant experience and why you'll be a great fit for the consultant role.
Another great way to impress potential clients is to write a killer cover letter. This is your chance to demonstrate how your experience can benefit that particular client, and why your skills set you apart from any other candidates they might be considering.
4. Familiarize yourself with the management consulting recruiting process and interviews.
If you want to land a job in the consulting industry, you'll need to know how recruitment and interviewing works in the business.
Before you get too ahead of yourself, you should look out for the best places to start finding entry point consulting jobs. Websites like LinkedIn are a great place to start.
LinkedIn not only lists consulting job openings, but it also offers training courses, networking opportunities (more on that next!), and a direct communication path to potential clients. This makes LinkedIn a great place to get started when looking for high-level freelance consultancy opportunities or consulting firms to join.
You'll also need to familiarize yourself with the interview process, including how to handle case interviews when they arise.
A common part of consulting interviews is the case interview. Case interviews involve the client presenting a specific business scenario to the candidate, who must then use their problem-solving skills to propose a solution. The case interview technique is often used by employers hiring for management consulting positions.
The best way to prepare for consulting interviews is to research your niche thoroughly. You can check out online lists of the most common consulting interview questions and practice your answers to better prepare yourself for the real thing.
It's also important to familiarize yourself with the company you're applying to consult for. Understanding their business goals and growth objectives will help you to tailor your expertise to suit their specific needs during interviews.
5. Start networking
Networking with other professional consultants can be a great way to discover new job opportunities that could lead to an entry point into consultancy.
In today's digital world, networking has never been easier. There are countless websites, social media platforms, and online groups that you can check out when networking in the consulting world.
As we mentioned before, websites like LinkedIn are a great place to start. You can join groups specific to the consulting industry, or reach out to consulting firms or recruiters directly to see what their recruitment process is like.
Networking enables you to surround yourself with a network of like-minded professionals. This way you can share information and stay up to date with consultancy trends, as well as be the first to know when consulting firms are looking for new candidates.
Moreover, surrounding yourself with a great network of business professionals establishes you as an industry professional, and can make a huge difference when it comes to getting noticed by firms or applying for new roles.
Once you've followed these five simple steps, you'll have a clear path to professional consultancy lined up in front of you. Consulting is a rapidly changing professional environment. You'll need to stay on top of business trends and ensure your skills are always up-to-scratch. It pays to be equipped with the best tools to handle anything a client throws your way—which is where Bonsai comes in.
Manage Your Freelance Consultant Business with Bonsai
A key part of flying solo is ensuring the security of your business. That means knowing how to bill for consulting services and creating professional freelance consulting contracts to formalize the relationship, protect yourself, and set your mind at ease. Bonsai can help.
Bonsai offers a range of customizable contract templates to suit any consulting profession. Simply download the template, input your information, and rest assured that your business is secured with a legally binding contract.
That's not all that Bonsai offers though. Bonsai is a unified platform for freelancers that uses smart automation to streamline the complex administrative processes associated with running a freelance business. You can manage all of your freelance business operations from a single platform, so you can spend less time worrying about the formalities and more time developing your consultancy portfolio.
From consulting proposals and agreements to consulting invoices—Bonsai's got you covered every step of the way. The best thing about Bonsai? It's free to get started. Why not sign up today and see how Bonsai can help you to manage your freelance business.