And I usually gave the most common, and infuriating answer: it depends.
It’s not a very satisfying response – it’s full of uncertainty. However, in a lot of ways, it’s the best way to describe consulting. Using our knowledge, skills and experience to help our clients with whatever situation they happen to be facing. No two consulting projects will be the same – and as such consultants need to be adaptable, capable of dealing with uncertainty and able to apply skills they’ve gained elsewhere. While all of these traits are important (and overlap, to some extent), it’s the last one in particular that I wish to explore: the power of utilising skills and experience picked up elsewhere.
While the skills learned working on previous engagements tend to be valuable, what’s perhaps more interesting is just how transferable experiences in other areas can be. Be that work experience, life experience, or time spent pursuing a hobby; there is usually something there that gives an individual a unique set of skills that can help them to thrive. These skills can allow you to consider alternate solutions to problems, and essentially provides a breadth of thought that encourages collaboration and outcomes that consider all the angles and possibilities.
It’s also a fantastic way for new graduates to contribute immediately. While we may not yet have all of the skills and experience just yet, we can make up for it by contributing in other ways.
In a previous life, I was a professional poker player. On its face, this just means I had experience gambling. However, to me, it meant I had experience as someone who could recognise and analyse patterns, put myself in someone else’s shoes, and be capable of understanding and learning from my previous mistakes. All of these are crucial skills in consulting.
To give a slightly different example, a couple of years ago I binge watched almost every season of the American television show ‘Survivor’. The most efficient use of 300 hours of my life? Possibly not. But over that time I did notice that the social skills the best players display on Survivor would translate incredibly well to consulting. It’s surprising how the most mundane or seemingly irrelevant things can be applied in the right circumstances.
If you are someone who is considering a career in consulting, it may be something worth thinking about. In addition to the traditional skills and education you’ve received, what other skills or knowledge have you gained that could help you as a consultant? You might be surprised at just how applicable those skills can be.
To learn where those skills might take you visit our careers page.