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Career: Management Consultant

 
A Day in the life of a Management Consultant

Companies, to improve efficiency and profitability, hire management consultants to identify problems and recommend solutions. Consultants’ objectives can be limited to analyzing such issues as shipping functions and then streamlining procedures. Alternatively, their goals may be broadly defined and include reorganizing a multinational corporation to take advantage of the synergies that developed when it acquired new businesses. “Sometimes you’re asked to solve a particular problem, and you find that the problem is just a symptom of another problem, so you need to spend a lot of time at the beginning identifying where to start and what you need to do,” wrote one consultant. The need to spend time at the beginning doing research, identifying areas of concern, and mapping out how the different areas of a business affect one another is often a difficult sell to clients who want immediate results. “No one wants to hear that you’ve got to look at five years of data—they want you to tell them how to fix things today,” wrote another. Management consultants have to be accomplished analysts, attentive listeners, and firm but tactful communicators. They are thinkers and problem solvers who know how to convince others that change is needed. Though even starting management consultants make good money (and income rises considerably with experience), our surveys indicate that candidates must be willing to sacrifice time from their personal lives. Nearly all survey respondents say that 60-hour workweeks are part of the training and education process—some report up to 90-hour workweeks—and that travel and time spent on-site at clients’ offices can be considerable. Consultants must get used to leaving home on Sunday for a business trip and not returning until Thursday or Friday. Individuals who do management consulting in government agencies tend to be more serene about their lot, citing more regular hours and interesting work. Satisfaction is generally high in this career, despite its demands.

Paying Your Dues

No specific academic requirements exist for management consultants, but nearly all employers require at least a college degree in a related field. Employers generally prefer candidates who majored in one of the following areas: business, economics, statistics, mathematics, computer science, and logic. An Ivy League education is a distinct plus, and many employers look extremely favorably on MBAs, which are necessary requirements for upward mobility in this profession. Very little guidance is available, so candidates should demonstrate academic, work, or entrepreneurial experience that shows them to be self-starters and interested in excellence in whatever they do. Most major employers run their own programs to train junior consultants in accounting, internal policy, research techniques, and how to work as part of a close-knit, hardworking team. Experience is always valuable, but professional certification—granted by the Institute of Management Consultants USA, Inc. only after rigorous review—is often more important when it comes to getting hired and promoted, especially at smaller firms. The majority of management consultants are self-employed and work in firms of 10 or fewer people, but the highest-paid ones usually do a significant stint at a large company, making professional contacts and building a solid reputation.

Associated Careers

Management consultants are exposed to a variety of industries to which they frequently migrate. Manufacturing, banking, and production are areas populated by ex-management consultants. Other management consultants see their counterparts on the financial side— investment bankers—making as much or more money than they do and use their financial skills to emigrate to this field.


 
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