Why consulting?

Many young professionals with a business management or economic background increasingly choose for a job in the consulting industry after graduation. Annually, thousands of experienced professionals also choose to enter the consulting industry, or to enter by working for a firm as an experienced consultant or independent advisor. What causes the trend?

If professionals are posed the question what they expect from a career in consulting, their answers will vary greatly. Some expect ‘high pressure & work load’, ‘long hours’ and perhaps ‘frequent business trips’, others will mention aspects like ‘high income’, ‘favourable career development opportunities’ and ‘high level of responsibility’. Whatever the case, there are enough conceivable reasons why a job in the consulting industry can be an attractive option for new graduates as well as experienced talent. Below follows an overview of possible reasons for a career in consulting:

Client-oriented service

Professionals seeking to work on projects orienting servicing the client will find a good fit within the consultancy branch. As a consultant, much time is spent working for, and with, clients by, for instance, advising on strategic issues or lending support for an implementation trajectory. Most notably at junior level, consultants spend between 70% to 85% of their time on clients. Particularly this client-oriented aspect – to achieve concrete results for the client – attracts many professionals to a job as consultant.

Multifaceted and intellectual

Professionals who resist repetitive tasks and much rather find intellectually challenging responsibilities will find working as consultant greatly fulfilling. A career in consultancy is highly versatile – one day you’re working on a market research, the next on a competitor analysis, while yet developing a management dashboard or helping a client with a big change of management. Consultants are constantly warped into a new environment – if not a new branch, then a new field of operation or new client. Furthermore, the location is also continuously in flux: going from an office in London, flying in to a client in Milan and meeting with their team to discuss the project with the company’s CEO.

Working in teams and carrying responsibility

Consultants are expected to operate well in teams and to work with like-minded, hard working and ambitious professionals. Clients are often consulted by a team of consultants, depending on the type of project. Larger implementation projects often also involve larger teams, but mostly it are smaller teams that consult clients in which individual consultants carry much of the project’s responsibility (client engagements). Dealing with such a high degree of responsibility, added to the intellectually challenging and complex projects, are features that many professionals seek after.

Career development and steep learning curve

An important aspect valued by professionals many times is the extensive career development opportunities and steep learning curve at consultancy firms. First of all, consultants work in an intellectually challenging environment, due to the range of projects (from industry to the many services offered) and the fact that a (strikingly) high percentage of colleagues and clients are highly educated. Furthermore, many firms offer their consultants numerous possibilities for personal development allowing them to enhance their knowledge and skillset. One might consider advancing their career development by seeking further education (some top firms even encourage their consultants to follow an MBA) and courses or internal coaching programmes by senior consultants.

Earning a good salary

One aspect not to forget are the good salaries within the consultancy branch. It’s important note beforehand that there is little to no transparency on how much consultants earn, so the exact numbers remain ambiguous. To begin with, consultancy firms in the market differ in size and prestige. Besides the base salary, there also are countless other constructions possibly to beef up the earnings (bonuses, performance based fee, etc.) which need to be considered in order to gain a clear picture of all the different and possible earning models.

Work- life balance

As well as a good salary and a stimulating working environment, the work-life balance in consulting also attracts professionals to the industry. Admittedly, the branch gained a reputation the last few years for their long hours. It is also known that on average three quarters of consultants work more hours than is stipulated in their contracts. Yet in many cases, long hours are rewarded in the form of a variety of secondary benefits that stimulate the work-life balance of consultants -  one might consider an available option like parental leave, working remotely, the possibility of taken a sabbatical, etc.

Career launchpad

Finally, many professionals see consultancy as a good starting point to launch their future career. A lot of private and public organisations view consultants as appealing employers, partly due to their mix of functional skills (i.e. knowledge of industry/ analytic skills) and their personal skills (i.e. communication or management skills). Experienced consultants leave the consulting industry to, for instance, work in corporations in a management function. At the highest level, a partner at an advisory firm may leave the industry to fill an executive role somewhere else.