The Princeton Review is currently experiencing some Dashboard down time. Come back again soon for an update. Sorry for the inconvenience.

A Day in the Life of a Consultant

If you’ve ever had a friend come to you and say, “Janice (providing, of course, that your name is Janice), which dress do you think goes better with these shoes, the red or the black?” If your friend decides on the black dress at your suggestion and gets rave reviews at a party for her fashion sense, you may get heartfelt thanks. That’s what friends are for. But if she decides to slip you a couple of bucks for your ability to color coordinate, you’ve suddenly become a consultant. There are all types of consultants in the business world, individuals working as hired guns to analyze and propose ways to improve an organization’s structure, efficiency, or profits. Most consultants are self-employed, while some join consulting firms that specialize in providing large corporations temporary management. Some consultants specialize in a specific industry while others are skilled in a type of business function, such as human resources or financial auditing. The workload of a consultant varies with each job and each project. Some projects require a team of consultants; others require an independent consultant working with the company’s managers. No matter the job, consultants collect, review, analyze information, and make recommendations to management. Consultants report their findings in writing, but oral presentations are also common. Therefore, consultants must have strong communication skills. Consultants need to be self-motivated and disciplined with strong analytical skills, the ability to get along with a wide range of people, good judgment, time management skills, and creativity. For some projects, consultants are retained to help implement their suggestions. Most consultants work at the client’s offices; however, self-employed consultants may divide their time between home and a client’s site. Most jobs are based on regular business hours, although consultants may be required to work long hours as deadlines approach. Stress is a common occurrence in the life of a consultant as they deal with trying to meet client’s demands in a short amount of time. Consultants travel frequently, sometimes criss-crossing the country to work on projects for various clients.

Paying Your Dues

In order to get to the point in your career when you can become a consultant, you have to have a lot of education and a lot of experience in your chosen field. Most clients look for consultants with a master’s degree and above. You have to have at least 5-year experience in a particular field. However, some government agencies will hire consultants with a bachelor’s degree and little experience for entry-level analyst positions. This is great experience to have when looking to go off on your own, or hire on to a consulting firm. Consultants frequently attend conferences to keep up with current developments in their industry. Some organizations, like the Institute of Management Consultants, offer the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation to those who pass an examination and meet minimum levels of education and experience. This certification is not required for consultants, but it may give you the competitive advantage you need to survive.

Present and Future

There is a growing need for consultants as business look to trim costs, and streamline operations. As companies downsize, the demand for temporary workers such as consultants will rise. Because being a consultant means more independence and the chance to make some big bucks, more people will be drawn to the profession. Some studies show job growth to occur in very large consulting firms with international expertise and in smaller niche consulting firms that specialize in specific areas, such as biotechnology, health care, human resources, engineering, and telecommunications. Technology consultants will be in demand as more and more businesses rely on newer and newer technology to survive in the global marketplace. Consultants with foreign language abilities will also be more marketable. There will also be a greater demand for consultants in the public sector, as Federal, State, and local agencies are expected to seek ways to become more efficient.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

Self-employed consultants spend the first two years of their careers building a client base. They already bring with them the education and experience in a particular field needed to get the big contracts, yet they need the reputation of several successful projects to move obtain more work. Salaried consultants must continue to impress potential clients to get and keep clients for their company.

FIVE YEARS OUT

Consultants with five years experience find it easier to set their workload and hours and work at home. As consultants gain experience, they can become solely responsible for large projects, taking on more tasks. The money consultants earn at this point in their careers affords them the opportunity to be more selective in the jobs they take on.

TEN YEARS OUT

Senior consultants can write their own ticket. Self-employed consultants make hourly wages that are quite impressive. At the senior level, consultants may supervise lower-level workers and become more involved in seeking out new business. Those with exceptional skills may eventually become a partner or principal in the firm. Others with entrepreneurial ambition may open their own firm.