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December 29, 2009

So you want to work in Management Consulting?

Management consulting is without a doubt one of the most potentially lucrative and satisfying careers that anybody could choose. But it is also one of the most demanding, misunderstood, and difficult areas you could choose to spend your years at work.

First, the downside...

The first thing you need to be aware of is that consulting requires vastly more skills and knowledge than you possess today. Sure, you're good at what you do - lets take that as a given.

But what you do not know is how to market, sell, manage pipelines, deliver value, develop and manage trust based relationships and a myriad of other skills. And unfortunately, none of this is taught in schools today.

Unless you are on a big job (and here are still a few of those around even after the bursting of the ERP bubble) then you are either with one colleague or by yourself.

This means you are continually the outsider. And the people you are working with are often (rightly) concerned that you are there to work out how to effectively get rid of them.

You work on spare desks, in lunch rooms, cafes, trains and planes. You are also one of those people who get to work at home a lot, which is a curse - believe me.

You are often the first guy in the office and the last one to leave and you work with a group of people that you rarely, if ever, meet with personally.

You are continually under pressure to deliver what has been sold, and to convince the client that she is receiving value for money. (As she rightfully should)

But then theres the Up Side...

Management consulting is, without a doubt, one of the most lucrative professions in the world. During boom times as an employee consultants achieve one of the highest rates of salary with only a very few exceptions. (Bankers being one of these)

If you are able to pull the skill set together enough to step out on your own then management consulting will help you to earn an income far greater than most of your peers.

You will gain greater knowledge and experience within 6 months of starting as a consultant than you will do working in an operational role for 6 years.

And lastly, you get to do meaningful work, work that makes a difference. You get to advise the leaders of industry, perform work that will turn mighty corporate battleships, and even influence the destiny of countries in some cases.

When we meet clients they have problems, and when we leave them they are better off. (Even if they don't realize it at first)

But one of the real lasting impacts it has had with me is the ability to learn about people. How they respond, how they are motivated, reading when they are defensive, frightened or proud, and learning how to develop business leaders.

For me the world of management consulting is one of the most honorable jobs I could have chosen, and if you can deal with the downsides then I am sure you will feel the same way.

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