What do you think consultant do?

how does the outside world view consultants? Are they seen as valuable experts in their field, or a waste of money and time? We speak to a few people to find out what they really think of the industry.

By N. A.





Anyone can print a name card or throw up a signboard claiming that they are consultants. In this case, we are referring to consultants as professionals who work in areas of consultancy to large organisations. These people typically work for internationally recognised consultant companies which include Accenture, KPMG Consulting, A.T. Kearney and Boston Consulting Group.

Even though many people may have heard of these big names, they can still be quite hazy about what business consultants do or what the job entails. Career Central conducted a straw poll of 10 people from different walks of life, and summed up their opinions on business consultants.

They are knowledgeable experts

Most people do know that consultants offer advice in an area of expertise or research and analyse a certain problem to find a resolution. Also, most recognise that the advantage of hiring consultants is having an external view and a fresh pair of eyes.

Elvira, a 28-year-old physiotherapist has this to say about consultants, “A consultant is a person who has information on both sides and can put it all together. A person might enjoy being a consultant if they like having a job which is different every day.”

Joanna, 29, a senior editor adds, “A consultant goes in to other businesses, to troubleshoot and advise about the best way forward. People turn to consultants because they recognise that expert and outside advice is useful.”

It seems that many people think good consultants should possess a variety of skills. Kate, for one, thinks that consultants should have skills of data compilation, research and saving money.

“A successful consultant has an eye for details and keeps abreast of any developments, advances or changes in their area of expertise,” the 28-year-old television producer says.

Will, a 24-year-old proprietor adds, “People use consultants, I presume, because they want advice on the best practices to use in a given situation. So the skills required to be a consultant include having a wide approach to problems, being able to work with an array of different people, being persuasive in making people see the benefits of doing things a certain way and having lots of experience in their field.”

Confidence is also very important for a consultant. In Joanna’s words, “They need to be able to ‘wing it’ where necessary and look like they know what they’re talking about, even if they don’t.”

Their job is hard, but their pay is good

Being good enough is important, as consulting is a hard job. But it may just be worth it, since almost everyone thinks that consultants go home with a sky-high pay.

Kate says, “The pros and cons of being a consultant are much like Homer Simpson said: ‘Alcohol [is] the cause and solution of all our problems.’ Just substitute with ‘money’.”

Will too, feels that the pros of being a consultant are the money and prestige. However, he cautions that much is at stake especially if the consultant’s advice is flawed.

Glenn, 22, agrees with Will about consultants making money and getting recognition. But the management trainee adds, “They are always moving on so cannot build relationships and they are affected by the market.”

Angela, a 48-year-old freelance health and social care adviser, also knows of consultants who are “getting paid extortionate amounts of money when they could be employed for far less”. This is especially unjustified when the consultant lacks accountability, when the project he or she was advising on has failed.

To bust the widespread ‘myth’, regular consultants do not make tons of money – only partners do. A regular consultant starting out in the business earns $2,000 to $3,000 a month, depending on the area of consulting he or she is specialising in, as well as her specific job scope. A partner, on the other hand, earns at least $200,000 a year. However, the road to becoming a partner is hard and long, and the dropout rate is high.

I don’t have a clue what they do

Some people are still not very sure what is it exactly that consultants do for a living.

One respondent thought that consultants enter the job when they are on the verge of retirement so they can share their experiences. Of course, this is not necessarily true. Consultants are also not picked solely on their experience, but also academic strengths, achievements and leadership qualities.

Another thought that consultants are people who has qualifications and experience in a particular field of work “then gets totally p***ed off with their job and decides to work from home, having the freedom to be their own boss”. This cannot be further from the truth as these business consultants work within their company and are required to be team players. Also, most consultants are not their own bosses, and are likely never to become one in their entire consulting career.

At least Gurdeep, a 25-year-old surgeon, was honest enough to admit that knew nothing about consultants or consulting.

“I don’t have a clue what business consultants do – I’m guessing they chat to businesses and help them work more efficiently.”

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