Your First Consulting Job – Know your Credibility
Have you ever faced off with a client that is trying to teach you how to do your job? For the veteran with 20 years experience, it wouldn’t be too hard to show the client who’s boss. But when you’re a 20-something consultant new on the scene, the task might not be so easy. How can you establish your credibility nonetheless?
Fresh is good!
While often critiqued, sending junior forces directly on the field is actually relevant in many cases. A fertile imagination, the ability to see things differently, the capacity to step back and take an objective stance – these are all advantages of what your fresh mind can bring to an established firm. Along with creativity, strong analytical skills as well as a high-energy level can make up for inexperience. As a new recruit you will be judged on your willpower and ability to improve. Never forget that employers hired you because of your potential rather than your demonstrated abilities. However, be prepared to crunch data so hard that you will soon be looking for a raise, on what you previously considered a comfortable salary.
You are not alone!
Starting in a large firm in Consulting is usually a good option. You can benefit from the already well-established client’s portfolio. The clients trust the consulting firms and their abilities to assess their members. As a junior, you will usually be part of a team, and therefore would not be entirely accountable for any success or failure on the mission staffed upon. Also, you will benefit from tutoring from managers or other associates. This will ensure you follow a progressive learning curve and also contribute to the development of managerial skills of people above you. It’s ok to be tough to manage as long as you are ready to multiply efforts and are not a drag on the smooth functioning of operations. The rule is always to contribute more than the tutoring you need. With a quick understanding of things and high versatility, you should naturally grasp on the jigsaw pieces that fly around you, and learn to reconstruct the puzzle on your own as the mission goes on. If you feel lost, it’s ok, you just have to apply your firm’s methodology to the situation you struggle with. As a last advice, avoid applying this methodology in your personal relationships, or you will soon start to feel very lonely away from work! Like they say in wrestling: “don’t try this at home”.
You are a brain AND a person!
Consulting is all about problem solving. Your value lies in your analytical skills and more generally, in your intellectual capacities. It is a balance between straightforward hard work and asking yourself the right questions. A good consultant will know when to tackle heavy work that clients are afraid of and when to step back, look at the overall picture, and address the difficult questions without absolutely solving them. Consulting is about making other people want to do things rather than doing things for them. Given that, a well-built mind will find ways to look smart in the eyes of the client, by shrinking problems to their core and giving conceptual representations of problems. Finally, communication skills are your most valuable assets when facing demanding clients. Even when the solution may appear distant, it is usually discoverable on the journey, with the proper curiosity. Spare no efforts on the way to gaining trust in the eyes of your colleagues and clients, and the reward will come naturally.
Oh and one more thing. Don’t worry about age, if you are there you are old enough and as Pierre Corneille put it: "In souls nobly born, valor does not depend upon age.”