Wondering what it takes to become a Consultant? Or maybe you’d like to know what it is that a consultant really does? Perhaps you’ve even considered the profession for yourself?
For whatever reason, you’ve come to the perfect place! We’re here to give you the rundown, the ins and outs, the ups and downs and what really goes on in the consultancy world.
We were lucky enough to score a chat with Naveesha, a real consultant in the real consultancy world. We had the questions and she had the answers.
Naveesha is a consultant within a research and development team.
She explains, “What we do is we try and help companies — either startups or multinational companies — get government funding for doing R&D so they can get a tax rebate. Essentially, we help calculate the expenditure, we make sure all of their documents are up to date and are compliant with the criteria that the government requires.”
Research and Development
Also known as R&D, is typically the first stage of a company’s development process. It’s an overarching term that includes all of the activities and tasks that a company will undergo to design, innovate and introduce new products.
How did you end up in this role?
Naveesha tells us she had no idea that she would end up as a consultant after graduating from a science degree. Yet, she has absolutely no regrets.
“It was more of a spontaneous thing. I’m definitely happy with how it turned out. I’ve made a lot of good friendships and my team has been really great and very supportive,” she said.
Naveesha actually got the opportunity from attending a university careers event where she met her future business partner.
Naveesha tells us, “There was a Careers in Science event and I ended up going and I met the partner of my team. We ended up talking about his lab experience when he was my age and at the time I was doing the exact same thing and then a couple weeks later he messaged me saying, ‘There’s a graduate position opening up, would you like to apply?’ I did and I ended up getting it.”
So if that doesn’t persuade you to get involved in every uni opportunity, I’m not sure what will.
“It was totally random and I didn’t go into it wanting a job or anything because I was actually asking him a couple of questions for an assignment, but it gave me the chance to get a job opportunity. So yeah, you might be interviewing someone for an assignment but you might end up getting a job out of it,” Naveesha adds.
Studies and Experience
As we mentioned, Naveesha began her journey to consultancy with a science degree. This isn’t necessarily a requirement but we’ll get into what you should look into doing as an aspiring consultant a little later on.
“I did a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Microbiology and I really enjoyed it. It was really flexible — it gave me a lot of opportunities to explore exactly what I wanted to do in uni because when you’re 17 years old, you don’t really know exactly what you want,” Naveesha says.
Since her consultancy opportunity was so unexpected, Naveesha didn’t end up completing any internships or work experience prior to being offered the job. Naveesha tells us that a lot of her colleagues also have science degrees. So, maybe that just is the secret path to consultancy — we’ll never know.
She notes, “I didn’t do any internships, I just had lab experience, really. There wasn’t anything specific that I did to get this role and a lot of my team comes from a STEM background so they all have a similar background to me.”
What made you want to work in this industry?
We put the question to Naveesha, who tells us:
“Since I come from a science background originally and I was working at a lab, I was doing a lot of problem solving stuff. The partner of my team also worked at the lab when he was my age and we just ended up talking and he explained how this role is very problem solving-based so that’s how I ended up there.”
What is a Consultant?
Consultancy is a really broad field of work and can be found in almost any industry.
The word ‘consult’ is defined as the way you’d seek advice or information from a qualified person about a particular situation. So, when you consult someone, you are asking them to weigh up and advise your next steps. Consultancy is everywhere!
No matter the sector, a consultant will take an objective and independent approach to guiding a company through their processes to consider their best options and next decisions. A consultant will help a company resolve their issues or help out with projects and ideas!
So, Naveesha consults with different companies to assist in their R&D.
Roles and Responsibilities
Naveesha tells us that her responsibilities “vary from day to day. Mostly it’s about talking to clients via email or phone, writing up project descriptions, a lot of Excel work to work out expenditure data from the information that the client has sent you. And then talking with your team members to get the claim wrapped up.”
As we mentioned, consultancy is a nuanced profession and will change depending on the firm and industry.
Which industries can this career be found in?
Consultants serve clients from extremely diverse backgrounds. This means that while a consultant generally focuses on business strategy and performance, any industry you can think of may need them.
Characteristics and Qualities
Depending on the field, a consultant’s day will typically revolve around gathering data, considering strategies to resolve a company’s issues or dilemmas and creating a decisive plan of action. Some skills that would assist in a consultancy position include:
- Problem solving
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Great organisation
- Active listening
- Numerical literacy
We then put the question to Naveesha who tells us:
“I think I’ve got a lot of professional communication skills, problem solving, a lot of teamwork skills. Those are the main ones I would say.”
However it’s important to note that no employer is going to expect an entry-level consultant to possess all of these skills straight away.
As long as you’re passionate, curious and hardworking, you’ll develop the rest of the skills as you gain experience. So don’t let this deter you from pursuing your dream job! We’re all learning as we go!
Steps to Becoming a Consultant
What should you study?
A common theme that tends to dominate these career articles is that our interviewees had no idea that this is where they’d end up when they were choosing courses at uni. You may think you’re pretty set on a career but you’ll hear about an opportunity in a totally different field and you’ll change direction — which is all completely fine and normal!
While we are now going to lay out a very straightforward pathway to consultancy, remember that there is no right way to get there. Even Naveesha began in a science degree before serendipitously stumbling across the career event that led to her future job.
So, with that being said, here’s your 3-step guide to becoming a killer consultant!
#1: University degree
Here’s what makes becoming a consultant extra unconventional and extra unique. There is no degree that’ll qualify you and since there are no consultancy degrees, you get to undergo a Bachelor’s degree in just about anything! Here’s your chance to pursue your interests, learn more about your passions and experiment with different pathways.
Although hopefully you’re interested in more business-oriented degrees because graduating with a degree in commerce, business, economics, management or in Naveesha’s case, even science, may up your chances. So, while you’ve got quite a lot of freedom, a degree that teaches professional communication, analysis and maths couldn’t hurt.
Check out these degrees which can potentially lead to a career in consultancy:
#2: Work experience
For consultancy especially, there isn’t really a set of requirements that you have to complete before getting a job but with that being said, it would be beneficial to get some professional experience beforehand.
Getting work in a consultancy firm will typically involve a constant check of job postings, checking out internship opportunities or even contacting a manager of a firm. Getting some professional experience is a great way of expanding your network, seeing whether you’d really like to commit to pursuing consultancy and it’ll also look great on a resume!
#3: Start job hunting and become certified
That’s kind of it! Now, you’re searching for the perfect position to pop up.
Of course, this probably isn’t going to be as straightforward as we’ve made it out to be — in fact you may go through a totally different route. Either way, Step 3 is about getting your foot in the door and starting to make your way up the careers ladder.
Another way to take your career one step further is to gain certification through the Institute of Management Consultants (that is, if you’re wanting to go into management consultancy). The IMC is the main Australian body for consultancy and a great way to add some more experience to your career aspirations
How long does it take to become a Consultant?
Overall, you’re looking at at least 4 to 5 years of studies and work experience before you could become a fully fledged consultant. This mainly accounts for your undergraduate degree as well as a year or two gaining professional experience.
Naveesha tells us that, for her at least, there isn’t really any complex industry knowledge or software proficiency that you need to be a consultant. Instead, she tells us that knowing your way around Excel is pretty essential.
She explains, “It’s just a lot of Excel. Just the Microsoft Office package, really. Everything that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from the job. I think that’s pretty similar to every role I’ve had.”
Since you’ll likely be crunching quite a lot of numbers as a consultant, being confident in maths and data analysis would come in pretty handy.
What will this career look like in the future?
How in-demand is this career?
As a consultant, Naveesha definitely thinks that consultancy is expanding, especially in the R&D sector.
“I think it’s definitely growing. The government has put into place a lot of legislation that actually works with what companies want to be doing,” she says.
Naveesha adds, “Especially since COVID, they’ve realised the importance of R&D and as a result have put in a lot of legislation that means companies can have better access to funding for their programs whether that be grants or R&D, so it’s definitely growing. There’s room for more opportunities within the team as well.”
Are there opportunities to grow or specialise?
Growth-wise, yes. According to Naveesha, you’re always growing individually and as a team as you become more experienced in the consultancy world.
Naveesha explains, “The managers and the partners all promote growth in the team so you’ve got a bunch of different programs you can do. They’ve got a lot of volunteer work that you can get involved in. You can move up the ladder pretty easily if you put the time and effort into it and if it really interests you.”
Naveesha said that in R&D at least, there aren’t a multitude of ways that you can specialise in consultancy unless you’re moving into other fields, branches or firms.
“There are always opportunities to move into other teams within the firm that you might find interesting. In that way, you can specialise. I’ve definitely had mates who have moved into different teams because they found it a lot more interesting or it aligned with their skillset a bit better,” says Naveesha.
For now, we’re going to be showing you the weekly salary and stats for a management consultant.
A management consultant is someone who focuses on the broad aspects and interconnectedness of business. They may assist in the leadership of an organisation, improve efficiency or overall performance.
According to Job Outlook, here are the stats for management consultancy:
|Annual Salary||Future Growth||Skill Level Rating|
|$107,000+||Very strong over the next 5 years||Very high skill|
Keep in mind that there are consultants in almost every branch of a business. There’ll often be consultants in strategy, finance, human resources, operations, IT and in Naveesha’s case, R&D.
So, if you think you’re a decisive thinker and can communicate well, you just have to figure out which part of consultancy you’d like to do. You’ve got a lot of choice!
Best Thing & Worst Thing
What do you enjoy most about this job?
One of Naveesha’s favourite parts of consulting is that she’s able to interact and build relationships with all sorts of clients.
Naveesha also loves consultancy because it’s a job that gives you chances to learn about so many other things. Just because you’re a consultant doesn’t limit you to only ever being involved in consultancy.
In fact, because consultancy relies on a variety of different people, professions and needs, your days are going to be constantly changing and adapting to suit your client.
“You get to learn about things you normally wouldn’t in another job and you’re at the forefront of innovation in that sense, because no one else public-wise knows anything about the work other people are doing,” Naveesha adds.
What do you enjoy least about this job?
Coming from a STEM background, Naveesha tells us that as a Consultant, she misses some of the science-related practices that she used to focus a lot on at uni.
“I definitely miss the technical components of science like getting your hands dirty, being in a lab, learning about more science-related things. Consultancy is more compliance work so I definitely miss that a lot,” Naveesha mentions.
Advice for Aspiring Consultants
The first piece of advice that Naveesha would give to aspiring consultants is to get involved at uni! Whatever it is. Whether there’s a society you’d like to join, volunteer work, getting to know your tutors or a panel to discuss your next steps, try everything out.
“I would say, at uni, definitely get involved in a lot of events or any other workplaces like that because I wouldn’t have had this opportunity come up if I hadn’t gone to that careers event and such,” Naveesha advises.
Naveesha also stresses the importance of a positive workplace culture. You should aim to work in a firm that shares your values and that you know will be a supportive environment. Luckily for Naveesha, she has found exactly that.
“In terms of working, I definitely recommend it. Obviously not every team is going to be the same and the hours are going to be different but I definitely like that aspect because I don’t have to work crazy hours like some people I know,” she says.
Naveesha also tells us about the valuable skills you develop as a consultant, “You learn so many things about industries. You develop so many skills like problem solving, your communication skills, a lot of soft skills that you wouldn’t really get in any other jobs I suppose.”
What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?
#1: Excel proficiency
Although Naveesha admits that most of the industry knowledge that she needs as a consultant was learnt on the job, she said it may have been a little easier for her if she had some prior knowledge about the software.
“I definitely wished I had known how to use Excel a little more because it would have made things easier,” Naveesha tells us.
#2: Getting comfortable talking to people
Another thing that Naveesha wishes she had known beforehand was the importance of talking to people and fostering connections early on.
“I wish I had built up my confidence in talking to clients and talking to people outside of my own network. That’s definitely a really important part because that builds your confidence talking to clients and it helps you develop your relationship with them,” Naveesha shares.
“Yeah definitely. So we’ve been working from home since March and only in the last couple of months have we gotten back into the office, so there’s heaps of flexibility there,” Naveesha points out.
Naveesha says that working from home due to COVID was definitely manageable as a Consultant.
She adds, “That’s what I really love about this role because you get so much flexibility in where you can work and what hours you work. We have to work a normal 9 to 5 but you know you can start a little early or finish a little late.”
So, there you go, if you’re looking for a position that allows a little extra flexibility, consultancy could be perfect for you!
What’s the workplace culture like?
As we said, Naveesha loves her team. While it is completely dependent on where you work, Consultants are generally sociable, friendly and creative so no matter where you end up as a consultant, you’re bound to find a welcoming and supportive team!
Naveesha tells us that her workplace culture is “really really good. Everyone’s super friendly, super supportive, we always go out for drinks every week after work. So it’s been amazing. Honestly I’ve developed so many great connections here and I’m sure they’ll last a lifetime.”
Gemma Billington is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Technology Sydney. While studying Journalism and Social and Political Sciences, Gemma enjoys spending her time at the gym or reading about Britain’s medieval monarchy – ideally not at the same time. She currently creates and administers social media posts for Central News and writes for the student publication, The Comma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to study a Masters of Medieval History and is very excited about the prospect!