How to get on the consulting career path

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Consulting is a popular career choice for senior-level professionals. Given the variety and challenge of work consulting offers, along with attractive compensation and a flexible schedule, it’s not hard to see why.

Consultants playing key role in labor model for the digital age

There’s another big reason to join their ranks: Consultants are in high demand. They provide specific business knowledge and advice that might not be available for a company in-house. In particular, they are a boon for businesses facing unplanned events and major strategic initiatives.

In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, nine in 10 CFOs said consulting is an attractive career option for senior-level accounting and finance executives. With the rise of the new labor model, in which companies rely on a mix of full-time employees, consultants, interim staff and managed services providers, even more, new and exciting opportunities are emerging for those
who choose the consulting path.

Skills in demand

Consultants must possess the expertise and specialized operational skill sets that will enhance initiatives that companies have to get right. These attributes are the table stakes. Professionals will also need highly refined soft skills to succeed.

  • Adaptability — Consultants must be comfortable acclimating to new people, processes, and technologies as they move from one engagement to another.
  • Change management — Consultants often need to support teams during times of transition. Offering insights based on past experiences can help firms navigate new territory.
  • Drive and enthusiasm — Companies rely on consultants to take initiative and help carry a project through to completion — and motivate staff and stakeholders along the way.
  • Communication and collaboration — Consultants must be able to effectively communicate information and ideas, align diverse viewpoints, and collaborate with colleagues across the organization.
  • Technical expertise — Firms seek professionals who possess the subject matter knowledge and systems proficiency to parachute into a situation and hit the ground running.

Benefits of a consulting career

Working as a consultant has many perks. Here are advantages of a consulting career path:

  • Flexibility — You get to decide when to work, where to work and what jobs to accept.
  • Variety — Consultants can move around many business sectors and choose the types of organizations they work with.
  • Learning — Constant exposure to different business needs and workplace cultures improves your skillset and career marketability.
  • Networking — Each engagement introduces you to more people, enriching your circle of contacts.

How to get started as a consultant

If you decide to become a consultant, consider these next steps.

  • Check your experience. Understand your marketable skills and how you can help companies.
  • Gauge your soft skills. Success as a consultant requires excellent networking and communication skills. You’ll also need initiative, self-discipline and tact.
  • Build your visibility. Give presentations at professional associations and publish content that will showcase your expertise.
  • Talk to your network. Your colleagues can give you insights on what’s hot in consulting, along with potential opportunities.
  • Join forces with a staffing firm. Work with an interim management and staffing firm, which can be your advocate in the market, help you access opportunities and handle the administrative details for you.
  • New technologies and shifting business demands compel companies to adapt quickly to remain competitive. Many are embracing the new labor model, which includes bringing in experienced consultants who can help ensure productivity and successful transitions. Seize the chance today to join this in-demand career path.

Tim Hird is executive vice president of enterprise optimization for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, and Protiviti, a global consulting firm and Robert Half subsidiary. More information about Robert Half and Protiviti is available at roberthalf.com and protiviti.com.