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HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST YEAR AS A JUNIOR CONSULTANT

06 July 2020
By SKORPEN Silje-Marie and FRANCOIS Maxime, Audencia Grande Ecole programme students

FOR STUDENTS  CONSIDERING A BOOSTING CONSULTANT CAREER!

Consulting. An industry with a market worth 262 billion US dollars in 2017*. There exist specializations within implementations of IT-services, managing bookkeeping and human resources, and so on. For students who are considering a boosting consultant career it may be difficult to know how to prepare themselves. Scenarios like making PowerPoint and coffee in perpetuity, working to midnight and having problems with your manager cross your mind. Well, even if the world of consulting is demanding and time-consuming, there should be nothing to fear. This article will give you a short introduction on how to survive your first year as a consultant!

Sharing experience is thus not only viable during your career, but should also be used actively to share experience between professionals and students. To discover the world of consulting careers we met Mr. Skaug. Eight  months ago, he started as a consultant in Deloitte. He directly told us that he wished to share his thoughts about being a consultant and that he hopefully could prepare someone for their consulting career. Let us start this survival guide!

 

COULD I PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR MY CONSULTING CAREER?

In business schools there are various decisions regarding picking the right courses and mix of courses. We wanted to know what Mr. Skaug, consultant at Deloitte in Norway, thought about what courses we should choose during our education, to find out if it is possible to prepare yourself for the consulting career even further. Mr. Skaug points out the importance of a good foundation for your education and explains that for some professions it ismore important to have a deep specialization, but for a consultant it is more important to have general knowledge.

Martin adds, “Once you start working you will gain the deeper insight and you will be able to develop in the direction you want.” Indeed, the eternal dilemma between generalist and specialized consultants does not arise for a junior because it is the multitude of experiences that creates specialization.

Martin himself chose to have a mix of accounting and logistics courses. This made him able to use his “process mentality” to go into the accounting function in a company and try to make it more efficient. This could mean that with a broad foundation of courses you are more flexible for your consulting career. Through several years while studying, interests can change and if you are able to choose a strategic and good mix of different courses and get broad experience you will have a greater chance to kick-start your career.

 

COMMUNICATION IS KEY!

“Communication,, while Martin was gesturing with his hands, “that is the key.” It could seem superficial and fundamental to include communication as a bullet point to the survival guide, but this is no joke.

“Once you start working you will gain the deeper insight, and you will be able to develop in the direction you want.”

 Of course, in general it is hard to prepare yourself for every challenge you could meet while starting as a consultant, but if you manage to find a seamless way to communicate with your colleagues, mentor and clients, you have made it pretty far.

Some may think “but I have made it so far. I know I can handle the communication part.” Actually, it is not that you do not handle the communication part, but it is more using communication as an advantage. If you are conscious about the way you communicate you will act more professional, but you can save a lot of time and avoid mistakes. When you are working with clients, it is of high importance to monitor and map the expectations for you as a consultant and the mission set by the client. Martin clarified that it could be damaging for the client-consultant relationship if you prioritize the task wrong, and that not every client wants you to work day and night, but only fill one position for someone who usually works from 8am to 4pm.

Another element is when you are at a client, it is important for you to ask questions if you are insecure in some tasks. When starting in a professional business, it can feel that everyone expects you to know your tasks. It is about reaching out to someone that knows the answer when the problem occurs, and if you finished your task ask immediately to get a new one. If you show productivity and motivation, you will have a much steeper learning curve.

In Mr. Skaugs opinion, communication is also essential to contribute to making yourself motivated for the types of missions you are working with. “If you want to have special tasks or industry, you have to communicate it to your mentor and manager.” This means that if you want to consult within auditing, you must be crystal clear from the beginning and communicate your wishes. If not, you will get on the wrong track and it can prevent you from having the progress that you want.

 

THE STRENGTH OF NETWORKING

Consulting is not rocket science and there is no correct answer to how to succeed in your first year as a consultant. Still, there is one area you should invest a lot of time and priorities in. It is the relations with your colleagues and your clients. Everyone has already heard about the importance of networking, but how exactly does this translate into business?

As Mr. Skaug said, communication is key, and when you know that *86% of young people under the age of 30 are even more convinced of its usefulness and that they consider it indispensable for their career, Mr. Skaug’s words make even more sense! For instance, Mr. Skaug explained that international job opportunities are possible even for a junior, but he insisted that it was necessary to “push for it.”

If you develop a good working atmosphere with your colleagues, your clients, friends or acquaintances, you will be able to have more opportunities for your career. Mr. Skaug also adds the importance of the social events within the consulting firms. If you make it mandatory for yourself to be there when it happens, you will l have the opportunity of maintaining and creating good relationships with your colleagues. So, let us go, share your interests, expertise and thoughts and go network!

 

EVERYTHING IS FINALLY GOING TO BE OKAY

People told Martin that you did not  need to be an expert in every field, but he did not  believe it first. You just start working, and you work. The best thing about being a consultant is that you will get the opportunity to work for many different companies and be  part of different missions. Martin, like all junior consultants, was impatient and also stressed to begin his career in a stimulating environment. Starting a career in consulting is just the beginning, you will learn a lot and develop yourself, and the most important for Martin is, “to find a place where you want to settle in […] and try to seek the work that you find interesting.”


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