Want to Start a Career as a Management Consultant? Here is What You Need to Know
If you have decided to take up a career in management consultancy, you have made a smart decision. This is one of the most highly paid jobs you can hold if you choose to work for an established company as an employee. You also have the option of working independently as a consultant for hire. The lure of management consultancy does not come only from the attractive pay scales but also from the fact that it offers an opportunity to exhibit your skills in a diverse range of applications and while doing so, to hone those skills further.
The chance to meet people from different business backgrounds, the opportunity to learn about various business fields, and the thrill of learning new things almost every day- all of these are factors that add to the appeal of this career choice as well. Add to this the fact that management consultants also get to travel a lot and you can see why there are so many students vying with each other every year to enter courses that will enable them to become sought-after management consultants. But before you embark on your journey here, it helps to have a clear picture of what you will be doing as a management consultant.
What is a management consultant?
As we said above already, the management consultant handles a diverse range of responsibilities. Of course, a well-established consultant may be handling a far wider portfolio of responsibilities than a fresh hire, but still, you will oversee quite a few enthralling aspects of the business. To put it simply, if you find yourself very keen to explore how the business functions- its business plan, its operations strategy, its management and the actual working of various departments together, then management consultancy is just the right career choice for you because this is what the field is all about.
- One of the key functions of the management consultant is to help the business improve its efficiency in different ways. The consultant identifies the factors that are preventing the business’ growth or slowing it down and then proposes solutions that will address these roadblocks and remove them, thus helping the business achieve better growth, better efficiency.
- The management consultant ensures that all aspects of the business, be it marketing or production or HR or accounts, work in tandem to create a cohesive working unit that is geared towards the right direction. In effect, the consultant ensures that each department is working as a team player and not functioning solo, which is bad for business.
- Unlike a marketing consultant or financial consultant who may focus on just the aspect of business that is relevant to them, the management consultant has a much broader view and reach. As a management consultant, you will be helping the top management work on the overall performance of the business, tweaking and correcting where necessary, to fuel overall efficiency and growth. As you can see, you get an excellent picture of the organization’s various ‘components’ and departments and their working when you take up management consulting for a firm.
How to become a management consultant?
There is no hard and fast rule that applies to how to qualify to be a top-notch management consultant. That said, it does help if you follow a structured path that teaches you the skills you will need to wield later on. A good move would be to start off in the following manner:
- Bachelor’s degree: Getting your bachelor’s degree is the first step. Choose a business administration or business management course if you wish to cover all aspects. If you have a specific area that you want to specialize in, such as finance or accounting, you can choose this field at the undergraduate level and then do your MBA. Other good options to consider are marketing, human resources, and even psychology. If you can take up one of these as a minor alongside your main course work, you would add some powerful credentials to your CV.
- Master’s degree: While you CAN become a management consultant without a master’s degree, there is immense competition in this niche, and that’s why the most qualified persons are likely to get the best jobs or projects. Getting your masters from a reputed business management institute adds a lot of value to your CV. Master’s in Business Administration or MBA programs can be found at almost every major university in the U.S. You can also do your MBA via distance-learning wherein you can complete the course while working full-time or part-time. Some established colleges offer online courses in addition to full-time on-campus courses, and you also have some only online schools offering MBAs. Look for the right accreditation before enrolling in a program.
- Certification: While certification is not a mandatory requirement to open your management consultancy or find a job in this niche, it DOES help give you an edge over the thousands of other competitors’ in the marketplace. Many organizations offer certifications, but the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) is perhaps the best known. To get this certification, you need to have practiced as a full-time consultant for three years after completing a four-year degree. There are written and oral tests to be taken and cleared before you can get the certification in your hands.
Once you are academically qualified…
Upgrade your credentials periodically
Once you have your Bachelor’s, Master’s, and certification done, you can rest easy, but for a short while. It is important for you to keep upgrading your skills and knowledge so that you can keep pace with the new management styles and techniques that are adopted by corporates. Also, skills upgrades could happen in the form of a different field to specialize in. By doing this, you develop a more comprehensive skill and thus have better opportunities to explore. You can upgrade your skills via short-term courses, workshops, and training sessions.
Entry-level: Many firms pick up graduates at both graduate and post-graduate levels and offer further training within the firm itself. This could be a good career move if you intend to learn the ropes as soon as possible because the firm’s seniors can be valuable mentors for you.
Mid-management level: Generally, it is easy to enter a firm’s mid-management via your connections. If your network efficiently and build a network of contacts in this field, you come to know of openings at mid-management levels easily and quickly. In general, you can rest assured that if you have an MBA from a reputed school plus CMC certification and a couple of years of experience, you can command a good designation and pay packet at reputed firms with relative ease. Of course, to make it to Junior Partner or Senior Partner levels in a management consultancy firm, you need to have a good number of years of experience under your belt.
Skillset – What Do Firms Look For?
To succeed as a management consultant, it helps if you have certain skills in place. Here are a few that are sought-after by consultancy firms in candidates they shortlist:
Client management skills: A clear aptitude for handling clients, understanding their needs, and being able to reassure them that you have the skills to offer solutions is much appreciated. In general, public relation skills are very valuable for management consultants because you need it for your networking efforts as well and not just when talking to clients.
Team building: As a management consultant, you have to work with various people in the organization to implement your ideas. If you are a good team player, this task becomes easy and seamless, and the solutions can be implemented with ease as well.
Adaptability: Management consulting is not a 9 to 5 job, and nor can you predict exactly what kind of problems your clients may be facing. You have to be able to think on your feet, come up with solutions on-the-go for your client. You will also have to quickly learn as you work, perhaps work round the clock at times to ensure that your client achieves the results they wish to see. Adaptability helps you here immensely.
Problem-solving: This is exactly what your job is as a management consultant- you solve the client’s problems so that the business can achieve its maximum potential. The ability to quickly get to the heart of the problem, figure out the most viable solutions that can be implemented quickly with the least disruption- these are very crucial skills that will stand you in good stead in this career.
Setting up your firm
For many people who choose to do their Bachelor’s in Management Consulting or related areas, the end game is to set up their firm. Having a good mentor helps you immensely here because they can acquaint you with the challenges and the roadblocks and warn you of them ahead of time along with giving you solutions. In addition, your mentor may be able to connect you with your first few clients as well.
Networking is very crucial if you intend to set up your firm because there is no better way to build goodwill than by word of mouth. Pay attention to the structure of your business and the operations by marking out a detailed business plan right at the outset, getting it approved by your mentor before you invest yourself completely in the task. Of course, a very crucial thing to do is protect yourself and your business from risks by taking out the right kind of insurance. It is beneficial to have professional liability insurance for management consultants. With professional liability insurance, you and your business are protected from lawsuits that claim negligence and improper or incomplete services on your part. It will also pay for all expenses related to a court case against you, including lawyer’s fees and judgment or settlement fees.