By Nitin Garg, Batch of 2013
A consultant is someone, who takes your watch away to tell you what time it is -Ed Finkelstein
Who are Consultants?
As a standalone term consulting‘ lacks real meaning, everyone seems like a consultant in one way or the other. Simply put, a consultant is someone who gives advice for pay‘. Picture this- You are a manager of this big company and sales are down, or there‘s a problem with the production process or marketing is facing hurdles. You have tried every trick in the book to set it right but you still can‘t help find an effective solution. This is where consultants come in; they gather all the information they need from you, give their insights, and most importantly, provide solutions that you never even thought existed.
Consulting MYTHS Busted
- If I am going to find or propose anything of substance, I’ll need loads of experience— it is true that an experience arrow should be in your quiver, but at an elementary level, knowledge pertaining to that particular domain suffices.
- I’ll walk in with my ‘ideal’ solutions and conquer the client— vexing your clients with impractical and unfeasible solutions will just leave a bad taste in the mouth. In fact, some jobs nowadays, require the consultants to even implement the ideas that they propose.
- I’m going to have a five figure salary, a nice house, and a sports car—sure, you might eventually have them all, but try to see beyond the luxuries. Divide the pay by total number of hours you have to put in i.e. pay per hour, and it isn‘t much better than other careers.
- I need an MBA to be hired as a consultant—it is true that majority consultants have a degree in management, however companies also hire people from diverse back-grounds such as engineering. Once inside the company, there is a probability it will encourage you to go for an MBA
TYPES OF CONSULTING
An HR Consultant maximizes value of employees, by placing right people with right skills in right places. He aids in training and development, maintains welfare in the form of remunerations, social security, appraisals etc. to provide a quality working life.
Example – Mercer LCC, Towers Watson
An IT Consultant, as widely perceived, is not only concerned with providing technological support in the form of designing custom softwares and net-working solutions, but also includes basic func-tions like budgeting and staffing. He basically strives for amalgamation of technology and strat-egy to add value to the company.
Example – Accenture, Deloitte
A Finance Consultant takes decisions pertaining to 3 categories namely investment (Where to put the money? Are the risks complementing the returns?), financing (What are the options of getting money from outside? Can bonds be issued?) , and divi-dend (Can money be distributed among people who have invested in the company).
The person works with senior management to set a company‘s long term plans. He is mainly in-volved in helping a company adapt to changing circumstances, new competitors and new social, political or economic conditions.
Example – Mckinsey, Bain
An Operations Consultant is concerned with examining the workflow of the structure, that is, the purchase, production, sales and distribution at every step of operation, thereby optimizing cost, flexibility, quality and productivity.
Example – Arthur D. Little, Booze Allen and Hamilton
Marketing consultants implement plans and strate-gies that help clients sell products or services. This includes advertising and public relations ini-tiatives. The consultant researches consumer be-havior and what motivates consumers to take ac-tion, such as purchase a product. Then, the con-sultant uses that research to design approaches specific to client‘s needs.
The NSIT scenario
(Inputs from Aman Mittal (ECE, Class of 2011) placed in Bain Capability Centre)
There is no particular set of Do‘s and Don‘ts that one may follow and end up with a great job offer. Good communication skills and elementary knowledge of finance and the business world are pre-requisites for the interview. An area of prime focus should be Case Studys which help to develop analytical and problem-solving skills, hence aid-ing in exploration of solutions for complex issues. Hardcore financial knowledge and stack of certificates are absolutely not required; rather the experience gained from the work and genuine interest in the field turns out to be more propitious. Societies such as Entrepreneurship Development Club, which organized a case study workshop and Con-sulting Club of NSIT, which has handed out live projects in the past and conducts ses-sions of group discussions and case studys in its weekly Wednesday meetings, strive to guide students in the right direction.
Comfort of a chair or the excitement of a travel?
The potential rewards of the job are lucrative and the salary looks attractive on paper, in fact there‘s a popular joke in professional circles that you‘ll never hear a consultant say,‖ You‘re right; we‘re billing way too much for this‖. However, what goes unnoticed is the endless number of hours that consultants have to spend working, be it travelling or preparing presentations or even gathering and analyzing data. At times it even be-comes difficult to balance work and family lives, but still there is no reprise from the frequent layoffs. The up or out process as it is called- take your performance to the next level or you‘re out, so they are always supposed to be at their professional best.
On the brighter side , a consulting job brings with it different business problems with different teams in different companies, in short, new challenges keep flocking which make a consulting job very interesting. Not to mention the large network that a consult-ant acquires over time, the job seems tempting just to be in the executive presence of CEOs, CFOs and other top people, and then emulate them in front of clients.
From the horse’s mouth
(Inputs from Abhishek Gupta, Consultant (Risk Advisory Services), Ernst & Young)
A typical Consulting job in this department involves visiting client offices, identifying risks on IT front, discussing with board members regarding mitigation of those risks, and thus making the business operation more efficient. The lifestyle is totally dependent on the level of co-operation offered by the clientele; the working hours can be anywhere between 40 to 60 for a week and interminable travelling only supplements the hectic schedule.
Over a period of time, the job might become monotonous and there is also a risk of get-ting typecasted, hence at this stage, a decision has to be taken whether one is happy at his position or wants to put in an extra effort to further increase his market value. This extra effort could be in the form of gaining further knowledge in one‘s domain as learn-ing new tricks of trade is as important as gaining experience.
A consultant starts as an Associate and gets promoted within 3 to 5 years becoming Manager and later Group Manager, with years 5 to 7 resulting in elevation to the post of Principal or Partner( depending on the company. However, as simple as it looks, only 1 out of every 125 consultants goes through this transition, thus providing a transparent perspective of the fierce competition within the industry.
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