The career paths leading to a position of senior management consultant are more varied. This article intends to illustrate this point. Three Paths to Becoming a Senior Management Consultant Obviously, the shortest path to becoming a senior consultant is definitely to start with … being a junior consultant. But it is not the easiest path seen selectivity at consulting ...Read More »
To have a vision of what the general term “consulting” covers, you can check out Wikipedia. Actually, I agree with almost nothing on this page, nor with the definition of “consulting firms” and even less with the two sentences supposed to define strategy consulting. But this is not the issue, as this source reflects most of the public’s – false – ideas about consulting.
The very terms “consulting,” the “consultant,” or “consulting firm” are widely overused anyway. No professional commission protects these meanings, and they can be used very loosely and largely. This results in considerable confusion outside the consulting sector and perplexity among candidates. I remember, at a seminar given in a PhD college in Paris, the number of questions asked by students on communication skills. Both reports and the media reported the influence of political consultants and communication. In the minds of many a consultant is a professional who sells his expertise to a client. But this is a poor definition and sometimes inaccurate.
The Two Types of Management Consulting Firms
There are two types of management consulting firms; generalist and specialized. When a candidate thinks about “consulting,” he or she typically thinks of the so-called generalist firms because these are often the best known, most influential, and prestigious.
They also give rise to the highest salaries and more attractive careers. When the results of Business School surveys indicate that consulting is one of the most attractive sectors for students, these are those firms that are in line of sight. But they are far from being the only ones in the marker. In fact, there are as many consulting firms as there are specialties, functions, and sectors in the business world. Obviously, it is good to have an idea as to the type of firm that best fits you as a candidate. Of course, it is possible to change your mind, but you don’t have the option to ignore the basics of a consulting firm’s characteristics as a future candidate.
The Two Types of Consulting Firms–Part II
As a candidate, another impactful segmentation criteria is the size of the company. There are large firms and ones much smaller. I used to define an intermediate category, but here I will say that firms that have structured departments – human resources, IT, etc. – can be considered as “major firms.”
There again, it is essential to know one’s own career aspirations, to target your preferences, such as what type of firm. The market is mainly composed of small firms, and therefore, the lion’s share of employment opportunities is also in this category. In small firms, the smallest are called “boutiques” of consulting. These are so important that I’ve devoted an entire article to them.
The Two Types of Consulting Firms–Part III
One can also segment firms according to their level of international activity. It is a key parameter in a globalized world, where most of the companies that drive the economy are multinational companies. It is thus normal that consultants and consulting firms have extensive expertise in international business.
When we know the major role of benchmarks that are not intended to be limited to one country in consulting assignments, we can understand the value for the client to leverage consulting firms with such expertise. One can make some inferences about the positioning of some consulting firms that do not have this essential component in their business model. Of course, a small firm will not structurally be able to have branches in dozens of countries, but the idea is for these boutiques to develop networks of excellence, through partnerships, for instance.
The Two Types of firms – Part IV
Finally, it should be noted that from the consultant’s lens, the management of human resources’ policy within the firm is a key parameter to segment consulting firms. In two words, some firms offer very fast promotion perspectives, but also very stressful careers, with the system up or out. Basically, it is either a promotion or you go out of the firm. No need to say that this type of HR parameter is likely to transform a career into a failure or a success by itself!
On management-consulting-formula.com, we will consider that a consulting firm is a structure providing intellectual services to its customers, and whose consultants can be specialized or not.
Why aim for a large management consulting firm? This article aims to give you elements of reflection to feed your decision-making prior to your recruitment process, but also to give you ideas to incorporate into your personal presentation during the fit interview. All the candidates apply in different categories of firms, large and small. In the interviews, do not be overly ...Read More »
When the motivation to become a consultant becomes tangible for you, the first thing to do is to clarify your professionnal project. Choosing a career in a specialized consulting firm or in a generalist firm is an arbitration that will impact the rest of your career. I speak not only of your sending your CV and cover letter, but ...Read More »
How could a generalist consulting firm be a very bad choice for your future career? The question may surprise you as the prestige of generalist consulting firms is great. But it turns out that, for some candidates, making this choice proves to be a huge mistake. I reviewed a few situations where it was not a good idea to ...Read More »
The generalist consulting firms are likely to professionally open many doors. Through this site, I aim to provide practical information regarding strategy consulting. Of course, I also sell my training and my books, but I’m fully independant from any firm. The last thing I want is to see is a candidate heading to consulting without a minimum of ...Read More »
Consulting careers are not limited to those in “external consulting firms.” External consulting firms come first to mind when you think about “consulting.” Whether McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, etc., all the great consulting firm names are external consulting firms. Put yourself in a client’s shoes, in the shoes of consulting services buyers. It is in their interest ...Read More »
Why is it important not to target only the best consulting firms? One of the first questions I ask candidates during my coaching sessions and seminars is very simple: “What are your targeted firms?” When the response is limited to, “McKinsey, BCG and/or Bain,” I know that the process of preparation that I give will destabilize the candidate. Why? The reason is simple: ...Read More »
The term “boutique” applies to consulting firms of where the staff is of modest size. These firms are typically SMEs with a maximum of 20 consultants. These consulting firms are not structured in terms of internal organization. Because of their small size, they usually do not have departments or practices. Similarly, their support services to consultants are weak or non-existent. ...Read More »