A quick skim of the first three pages of a Google search for 'consulting' services confirms a trend that concerns us at FreshMinds... management and strategy consulting only account for a quarter of the results. We've found that this popularity of the term 'consulting' has led to a dilution of perceptions of the role of management and strategy consultants. So we have resolved to add some clarity to this issue!
So first things first, what do they do exactly?
Management consultants implement changes by helping organisations to solve issues, create value and maximise growth, with the aim of improving the business performance of their clients. Strategy consulting is the practice of assisting businesses with high-level decisions and helping clients identify strategies that will increase revenue and market share.
With that in mind lets get started quashing those myths...
1. I don't have the right degree to become a consultant
There is a strong numerical element to consulting, and although it can be an advantage to have a degree in business, economics, science or technology, it isn’t essential. A study by the Management Consultancies Association found that although a business degree was the most common, undergraduate qualifications vary enormously. This wide range of degree subjects (which even included one in contemporary dance!) suggests that the industry is seeking diverse skills.
In fact, here at FreshMinds we have found that we are just as likely, if not more likely, to place candidates without a business degree. Our focus goes beyond just the degree discipline and we look for a whole variety of skills including commercial experience, extracurricular activities, charisma, intellect and enthusiasm.
2. Consultants spell trouble for a company's employees
It's a common misconception that consultants are only brought in when a company is struggling. In reality, consultancy is as much about making a business more successful as cutting costs. Both management and strategy consultants are called in for a whole myriad of reasons, and although inevitably some redundancies are made, a lot of jobs are also created. Consultants can advise a company on its expansion and exploration of new markets and geographies, all of which present exciting new opportunities.
3. Consultants work exceptionally long hours
At some points in a consultant's life this may well be true, however it's more apt to focus on the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance, rather than how late someone stays in the office. Although the hours can be long, when graduates first embark on their career in consulting they have the time to invest in their long-term learning and their own career. There is also a great support system provided by mentoring and coaching for junior consultants. In the long run this time that consultants devote is rewarded, and later in their consulting career hours can become more flexible. So it is more about addressing the work/life balance over the course of your consulting career rather than continuous late nights!
4. Consultancy is just common sense
Sceptical consultancy critics often throw this idea around but it doesn't take much to dismiss it as lacking grounding! Of course common sense is necessary, but if we consider the high calibre of applicants and rigorous application process devised by consultancy firms, it is clear that this is not all the job entails. At FreshMinds we have identified a 'consulting skill set' which indentifies a consultant's core strengths as being highly numerate, possessing exceptional problem solving skills as well as the ability to articulate complex ideas. They will also be a great team player with a deep level of knowledge.
Hopefully we've managed to dispel some of these rather questionable myths but it is also important to bear in mind that every consultancy (and consultant!) is different so generalisations will ultimately only stretch so far.
If you think you've got what it takes to take on the consulting world, do get in touch!