The First 10 Days: 3 Tips to Succeed for New Consultants

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Author : John Shaughnessy
Published: July 04, 2017

You finally received that consulting offer.

It’s been a long time coming: months of researching firms, studying frameworks, practicing case studies and networking diligently. That’s to say nothing of the years of education and career experience invested in developing a skillset for consulting. Yeah: you’ve earned that offer. So…what now?

Here, most new consultants draw a blank. And, as a result, most new consultants don’t begin their new role as informed—or confident—as they could be. Instead, they feel at a disadvantage as to how consulting works: what to expect and how to succeed. Whether you’re working at a major consulting firm or a boutique, here are three tips to succeed in your first 10 days. By focusing on these, you’ll develop the relationships, skills and insider knowledge to hit the ground running.

1) Become colleagues, not competitors, with your start class.

The people in your start class will be accomplished, yet ambitious. They’re smart, but down-to-earth. In short, they have resumes like yours. Seeing them just as competition on the road to Partner is shortsighted. In the near-term, they’re your best friends.

• Learn their backgrounds: You won’t always be staffed on projects that match your background. Use what colleagues know to bridge that gap.

• Leverage their skill sets: You won’t be good at everything, so find someone to help polish your modeling skills, slide creation, speaking, etc.

• Earn their respect: It’s difficult to go consulting alone. Find allies who can become friends…during office hours and after work.

Takeaway: Though your start class is full of talented people, don’t get threatened. Take advantage of the talent around you to grow personally and professionally.

2) Network. Network. Network. (“Stalking” is a harsh word.)

You want to avoid the beach, bench, or whatever your firm calls it. This limits your personal consulting story. But in your first 10 days, you’re all just on the “Table of Contents”. So just like during recruiting, you’ll need to become your own publicist inside the firm.

• Chat with colleagues: Partners often ask their teams to recommend colleagues for staffing, so keep your new friends current on your status.

• Befriend the staffers: Staffers link partners and available staff. Kill two birds with one stone: get info on a project and convey your interest.

• Target lead partners: Arrange to meet a new partner. Find out what projects he/she is working on and what they value in a team member.

Takeaway: Establish pull amongst the partners and staffers to think of you for a project. Build your relationships before you need them—to get the projects you want.

3) Request and study examples of good decks and models

As you make your rounds networking, get your hands on previous decks from your practice area. While you’ve surely shown proficiency in PowerPoint and Excel, you need to learn how your firm uses them— and how your clients expect to see their deliverables.

• Get a feel for the story: A deck often mirrors the project stages: defining problems, proposing solutions, testing those and selecting a winner.

• Understand the analyses: Through the charts and graphs in the deck, you’ll become familiar with the types of analyses you might be asked to lead.

• Practice, practice, practice: I found it helpful to see what formatting is applied, and then attempt to re-create the page myself…or even improve it.

Takeaway: Don’t wait until you’re staffed to start honing your skills. The time invested now will help you meet project deadlines later…both in terms of speed and quality.