What does a successful consultant require?

Pursuing a career in consulting requires developing both hard and soft skills.

Pursuing a career in consulting requires developing both hard and soft skills.

The consulting industry has diversified significantly over time. Management or Strategy consultants generally work at a macro level with senior leadership and their job involves providing holistic advice about all aspects of the organisation.

Consultants have specialisations depending on the companies that they serve. For example, there are start-up, growth, restructuring consultants, and so on. Industry consultants have expertise in a specific area such as retail, financial services, or media. Subject-matter consultants work in niche areas such as human resources, sales, supply chain, and advice companies to achieve specific outcomes within a business function.

What to do

Expertise: Develop a robust working knowledge of the domain that you seek to be a consultant in.

Personality: Being confident, assured and approachable should be the defining attributes.

Outcome-oriented: Define your expected deliverables with your client and focus on delivering those outcomes.


Too many reports: Do not generate voluminous data and research with no concluding ‘action-oriented’ advice. Consultants are hired to help clients act on their advice, not for research.

Plagiarism: Do not plagiarise an employee’s or prior consultant’s work. Ensure that you acknowledge the sources of your recommendations, if they are not your own.

Closed to feedback: If you are not open to receiving feedback, you run the risk of being irrelevant and outdated.

Pursuing a career in consulting requires developing both hard and soft skills. Subject expertise in a specific domain or even a study of general management is enough to enter the field. Apart from academic expertise, aspirants should pursue industry experience through internships and on-the-job training. They can develop their inter- and intra-personal skills by participating in college events, team projects and volunteering.

The MBA route

While an MBA is not a ‘must have’, it is a ‘nice-to-have’ credit for those who want to pursue a career in consulting. Leading MBA colleges have evolved to include an experiential form of learning with active industry linkages in the form of internships and incubation labs. This learning-by-doing gives MBA students an edge over those who purse academic degrees.

Those without an MBA should seek employment in companies that offer cross-functional jobs or allow job rotation across departments. This will enable accelerated learning on how companies operate and build context for a career in consulting.

Building a career in consulting does not require a ‘Tier-1 MBA’ or many years of experience. Progressive companies are increasingly focusing on the candidate’s attitude and aptitude to excel.

The writer is the Founder, Changing Orbits.

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Printable version | May 26, 2022 10:29:39 am |