Consultants, much like my aforementioned friends, provide “information and advice which leads to lasting organizational change in a variety of ways, including development of new strategies, accounting systems, information systems [, etc.],” says the Fisher College of Business website.
According to Geoffrey M. Bellman, an external organizational consultant who has worked with three Fortune 500 companies in his career, “Consultants are people who, when asked, agree to use their expertise to help clients narrow the gap between they now have and what they think they want or need.”
That was the definitive difference between my friends and consultants: consultants are asked for their advice and paid for it. My friends offered it freely. Some advice you don’t want for free, though, believe me.
But if you’re interested in being an external organizational consultant, check out the following advice about the sort of education, qualities, and skills you’ll need for the job.
What Kind of Education Is Helpful for Finding Work as an External Organizational Consultant?
Because consultants need to be good communicators and salespeople, a degree in communications would be ideal. Another major that could be helpful to an external organizational consultant is psychology — to help you have a better understanding of people. Lynda McDermott, a successful consultant who was interviewed by SellingCrossing, majored in psychology. And another consultant profiled on SellingCrossing, Alan Weiss, received his Ph.D. in psychology.
What Kind of Skills and Qualities Are Needed to Become an External Organizational Consultant?
As far as skills go, consultant managers need to have great people skills, communication skills, analytical skills, and creative abilities. Consulting is a hard business, one in which you need to be driven, because, according to the Fisher School of Business, “not everyone lasts in this business.”
Be sure you have a clear understanding of sales — after all, before you can offer your advice, you have to sell your idea to a firm or client. Who’s going to want to hire you if they know nothing about you? If you check out SellingCrossing.com, you can find several articles (“Be a Good Salesperson: Remember Customer Care” and “Ensuring Success in Your Sales Job,” for example) about how to be a top salesperson, and learn some tips on how best to sell yourself to a client. According to McDermott, “What I quickly learned was that if you're going to consult, you have to sell.”
Good listening skills are also a must. In a way, consultants are therapists, trying to learn what their patients or clients are trying to say. What problems do they have? How do they want you to fix them? By listening well, you’ll be able to understand more readily the problems at hand. Remember, if you aren’t able to listen or communicate well, no one will want to hire you. And according to Bellman, “Consultants have clients, and clients decide whether they are going to be clients or not. Successful consultants are made by clients seeking their help.”
What Consulting Firms Are Right for You as an External Organizational Consultant
Kindred Organizational Consulting, Inc:
This firm offers organizational consulting to help clients manage change and increase shareholder value. Regarding shareholder value, the group’s website says, “It’s no secret that shareholders drive organizational success. Every organization…must effectively engage its internal and external shareholders.
“By focusing on Shareholder Value and working with clients to identify and leverage their core capabilities, Kindred Organizational Consulting, Inc helps clients to achieve sustainable results.”
Booz Allen Hamilton:
According to the company’s website, Booz Allen Hamilton is a leading global consulting firm. With over 19,000 employees and offices worldwide, the firm works hard to integrate its “full-range consulting capabilities,” which includes helping government and commercial clients “solve their toughest problems with services in strategy, operations, organization and change, and information technology.”
According to Salary.com, consultants on average earn between $70,589 and $93,760 per year. So if you’re interested in becoming an external organizational consultant, be sure to earn your degree, practice your people and communication skills, and get to know the consulting firms, along with perusing the 13,000-plus jobs on ConsultingCrossing.com.