A consultant can often be confused with an advisor, as the two roles contain a number of overlapping features. Consultancy roles are available in almost every industry around the world, so let's break down the industry...
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What is Consulting?
Consultancy roles are available in almost every industry around the world; they are incredibly valuable within specific fields of business for the unique and highly in-depth insights they can provide.
Traditionally consultants are hired by businesses to provide an outside perspective and expert advice; they take an independent and unbiased approach to a situation, often hired to help with specific projects or areas where a business needs help. Occasionally, however, in-house consultants are hired to really tackle ongoing complex issues within a single business.
A consultant can often be confused with an advisor, as the two roles contain a number of overlapping features. The meat and potatoes of a consultancy role is exactly that: consulting. It is the practice of providing a third party company or business with expertise on a particular subject or in a particular field.
The role of a consultant can incorporate much more than just advising a business, however; it can also involve strategising, management and the implementation of a new project or processes. This requires carrying out research and collecting data, analysing such data, preparing business proposals, identifying and solving problems within a business’ processes, implementing solutions and managing entire projects and teams.
As well as the above, there are three main characteristics to a consultancy role:
- They provide support in the form of expert advice to a company in a specific field or on a specific subject.
- They work independently from the client so as to ensure the advice given is unbiased (unless employed as an in-house consultant – more on this later).
- They work in a professional manner, ensuring they have the right qualifications and expertise to provide a high-quality and valuable service
Job roles in Consulting - the types
There are three main types of consultancy jobs:
Job roles in Consulting - specific roles
So while those are the main types of consultancy role, there are also many specific job roles within consultancy, too:
You rarely need a specific degree to get into consultancy, rather experience of problem-solving and advising within your chosen field of expertise.
However, it is useful to have a degree that is analytical in nature or that is related to the industry in which you want to work; the following degree areas are very helpful if looking to break into Consultancy:
- STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths)
There are some consultancy-specific qualifications also available from places such as the Institute of Consulting, in Professional Consulting, a Diploma in Professional Consulting and a Diploma in Business Support.
There is also the Certified Management Consultant award which is considered highly prestigious in the industry, however is only available to those who have been practising for three or more years full-time.
In terms of achieving specific results, a number of companies are becoming more flexible on degree specifications. EY and Deloitte, for example, have both removed their minimum 2:1 requirement for graduate roles.
Skills you need
There are plenty of skills needed by consultants. These include:
The consultancy industry has been steadily growing in popularity since the 1960s and 1970s, and is now hugely successful and considered vital to a number of different industries and businesses. It is highly varied and is now one of the more mature markets within the professional services industry.
As the global economy grows, the consultancy industry also flourishes. In 2011, the industry was valued at $205 billion, with globalisation and advancements in technology helping to bolster this. It is also a global industry, with North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific all regions in which the consultancy industry is well established.
In the UK alone there are around 63,000 professionals employed in the industry and it is predicted that, with positive global economic growth, the industry will remain a safe sector to join.
Because of the diversity of the role and positive career progression and salary, breaking into the consultancy industry can be tough.
There aren’t many consultancy internships available, and those that are out there are highly competitive. If an internship is the best route for you, ensure you are well organised and research what opportunities are available and when applications close. Summer internships can last six to 12 weeks and are usually favoured by penultimate-year university students. The application deadlines for these are generally around the end of January but some may close in November, so be sure to check.
Luckily there are often many internships available that relate to some of the key roles within consultancy – such as a Finance, HR or IT Consultants. Seek out internship and work experience opportunities within businesses involved in these sectors and draw on that experience to bulk out future applications for Consultancy jobs.
Of course, other avenues to help build experience include work shadowing and insight days; the more of these you do and the more contacts you build, the easier it will be to break into freelance consulting in the future.
Pros and cons
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