For the majority of my career I've worked in management consulting and whilst there is a need for technical and analytical abilities to be a success the differentiator is usually something else entirely. I strongly believe that the best consultants are those that have developed the right mindset and personal ecosystem to transport those underlying technical and analytical abilities forward.
Based on my own direct learnings and those seen through the experiences of others I've compiled a list of the areas of focus I deem important for those new to the field of management consulting that sit outside the standard curriculum you may see when you start at a firm.
- Mindset is one of the most important things when you are a consultant and it can really make the difference when looking to have a fulfilling experience.
- At a simplistic level the idea of a growth mindset is being open to new opportunities and approaches which is fundamentally important when working a dynamic and fast paced industry like consulting.
- The more you can curate a growth mindset (this doesn’t mean saying yes to everything mind you) the more experiences you will have that really accelerate your career.
- Read more here
- Being able to reflect, adapt and learn is an acquired skill but one that is worth strengthening. Especially when it comes to how we communicate and act in situations with other people whether they be colleagues or clients.
- Reflecting is also an important way to learn over time so being able to journal/track behaviours and feedback in some sort of systemic way (find something that works for you) can help your development rather than relying on memory.
- Read more here
- To a large extent life is a game of momentum and careers are the same. Look for ways to increase and build momentum – whether it is by moving to a new project with an expanded role or even just building up regular catchups with clients (and potential clients) that may pay off in the future.
- Look for small opportunities to keep momentum – that is the key – it isn’t about big wins day in day out but the small percentage point gains you can make every day over time.
- Another note is to make sure you communicate this momentum but also keep in mind that it will come in waves (be kind to yourself if things feel slower every once in a while).
- A good consultant knows a lot and knows how to know a lot. Key to this is curating a set of resources that are either static (invest in building these) or evergreen (find them).
- Examples of this may be the templated PowerPoints, Emails, Briefs that you develop over time as a static resource but are refreshed with knowledge and information from evergreen resources such as newsletters and podcasts from places like CBInsights and various Substack newsletters like The Generalist.
Pay it Forward
- Similar to the momentum point above – paying it forward can be the small little things you do to help others that will pay off in the long run. Examples might include helping new starters (even though you are one too) and making time to help others learn new skills (especially if you have brought something to the firm that is novel).
- The idea here isn’t about pay back – your intent to help should be genuine but done correctly you can curate relationships and a perception of knowledge/value that will carry throughout your career. Consulting is a people business afterall.
- This is just a silly (well maybe not too silly) way of reminding you to be adaptable or ‘agile.’ Consulting is a market led industry – we go where the demand is so it is important to be flexible with your focus and how you apply your skillset.
- This doesn’t mean don’t have direction or pick a theme but don’t be too rigid and look for the opportunity in change (and how to weave it all together with your existing experiences).
- We live in pretty dynamic times and staying up to date with the needs of the market is important. I’ve found the best way to do this is to make sure you keep a couple of small side projects on the boil at any one time which are in new or different areas.
- They can be at work or outside and don’t have to be big (think newsletter or maybe even an ecommerce startup) so that you learn how to start and grow something but also keep yourself fresh intellectually.
- The benefit of this is two fold – not only will it expand your area of knowledge and give you the chance to try new things but it is simply more interesting for clients and colleagues when you have something to talk about outside of your current project.