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Following the Career Path of a Consultant in Seven Steps

March 31, 2021

There are many benefits to pursuing a career as a consultant as you rise through varying positions within a company or firm. The unique positions offer a wide-range of skill sets and knowledge you can learn that can benefit your consulting career or can open up more job opportunities in other related fields. In this article, we discuss why a career in consulting is important and list the seven steps you can follow for the career path of a consultant.

Why choose a career as a consultant?

Choosing a career in consulting can be an exciting opportunity that provides you with beneficial business knowledge and ample room to develop within a consulting firm over the course of your career. Understanding how to market to target consumers, and learning how to increase a business's revenue while saving costs, are skills that consultants can develop and use to earn promotions, or other job opportunities in different fields of business.

A career in consulting also allows you the opportunity to start at an entry-level position right after receiving your undergraduate degree and continue to work and grow within the same firm or company for the entirety of your career.

Read more: Learn About Being a Consultant

Seven steps in the career path of a consultant

Here are seven steps you can follow on your career path as a consultant:

1. Intern

While pursuing an undergraduate degree, it can be beneficial for aspiring consultants to find an internship that can provide them with relevant experience for an entry-level consulting position. Interns in a consulting firm will often work for little to no pay and perform duties such as collecting and organizing data, filing paperwork and completing other clerical tasks around the office. It can be helpful, when pursuing an internship, to prepare and tailor a well-written resume and cover letter to the specific position, and highlight your passion and desire to pursue a career in consulting.

If you're unable to find or obtain a suitable internship at a consulting firm, consider applying for internships in other areas of business, such as marketing or data analysis. These types of internships can still offer you invaluable experience that can help your resume become more noticeable for entry-level consulting jobs after graduation.

Read more: A Guide to Finding an Internship During College

2. Analyst

An analyst position is often an entry-level position that most consulting firms offer. The requirements for the analyst position can include a bachelor's degree, often in fields such as business administration or management, and relevant work experience in a consulting firm, most likely from an internship. Analysts work with associate consultants and do their best to provide support to managers and executives to produce deliverables for clients. Their primary job responsibilities can include researching and conducting surveys, gathering important data and creating presentations to show to managers.

Read more: Learn About Being a Business Analyst

3. Associate consultant

After spending some time as an analyst allowing you to develop sound consulting skills and experience, a consulting firm may offer you a promotion opportunity to become an associate consultant, also known as a junior consultant or a senior analyst. Associates will often work closely with senior consultants and managers to provide quality assistance and services to clients and customers. Associates may perform tasks, such as analyzing data, generating helpful reports and brainstorming creative solutions for client problems or challenges.

Though it is possible for a firm to promote you from an analyst to an associate consultant, it can be helpful to gain a Master's in Business Administration (MBA). An MBA can provide you with helpful skills and education that can make the responsibilities of an associate consultant job, and other higher-level positions, easier. It can also demonstrate your passion and dedication to a career in consulting. Lastly, if you earn an MBA, it's also possible that you can start your career path in consulting with a higher position like an associate consultant or even a senior consultant right after graduation.

4. Senior consultant

Consulting firms often promote senior consultants from associate or junior positions because of their demonstration in leadership and managerial skills. It's possible that senior consultants might simply work as a leader to a group of junior/associate consultants, or they might specialize in other areas of a consulting firm, such as leading a group of analysts or even leading a group of other senior associates. They'll often assign tasks and assignments to these distinct groups, and work as a project leader to oversee their productivity and ensure their team finishes deliverables on schedule.

Senior associates might also help train and develop other employees to meet company standards and position them for advancement opportunities. They might also collaborate and discuss with executives and partners to help shape the company and focus their work on achieving company goals and objectives.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Engagement manager

Consulting firms will often hire or promote an individual to an engagement manager to help direct and plan a company-wide project. The company, firm or client often set the project parameters, and it's the engagement manager's job to ensure the project's success. Their job often entails compiling each departments' work into a cohesive deliverable, communicating with clients to make sure the project is still on the right path and updating senior management and partners about the project's current trajectory and end date.

Consulting firms can hire engagement managers on an as-needed basis, or full time working on multiple projects at once. Whether your position as an engagement manager is long or short, it can offer you valuable experience and knowledge to help you continue your career as a consultant in higher-level positions.

6. Senior manager

Senior managers will often be the first to communicate with clients to better understand their needs and desires that the firm can help them achieve. They will then oversee all levels of the consulting firm and help clients develop their goals into projects that they can then delegate to engagement managers. Senior managers also help with employee development at the senior associate level to teach them relevant skills and techniques that can allow them to advance and grow within the firm or company.

Senior managers might also work closely with partners and firm directors to plan strategies for company growth, achieving new clients and increasing revenue. Lastly, senior managers might interview and hire new consulting employees at all levels.

7. Partner

Consulting partners work to maintain client relationships and develop new clients for the firm as well. They will often do this by demonstrating the benefits and success of the company through a portfolio of past successful projects and negotiating contracts for current or new projects. Partners are generally the head of the consulting firm and make most of the final decisions on which clients to take on, and which projects to start.

To help their company grow and succeed, partners will often have to develop special innovative strategies to achieve company goals and complete major projects for clients. These strategies can include hiring on temporary consultants, building a professional network of CEOs and other executives and offering free or trial-based projects to clients to demonstrate the benefits of their company's results.

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