What Is a Consultant?

I regularly read or hear that consultant’s are people paid to tell other people what they already know. This is actually true in most cases, and why the cliche has stood the test of time.

This fact doesn’t make using the consultant wrong or a waste of money though. The key area here is that it often takes someone from outside the organisation to tell them, because of the need for reassurance in what is being discussed from independent eyes.

The foundation for consultants

Regardless of the industry a consultant operates in there are some basic requirements to be able to competently perform as a consultant.

  1. The ability to communicate ideas and actions across a wide range of interpersonal and intraorganisational barriers
  2. Indepth experience in the chosen field, with handson experience in dealing with very similar issues in the past
  3. Evidence of how they have stayed current and up to date with the latest trends in their field
  4. Formal qualifications in their field at least Diploma level, and usually a degree.
  5. Formal qualifications in the role of a consultant, usually a degree in organisational development
  6. Advanced computer and report writing skills to develop the required documents

When is enough experience gained?

If you are thinking of becoming a consultant understand that clients want to see some big company names on your profile with proof of work being demonstrated. This means that you need to start working with some of the Fortune 500 companies in senior management roles now to develop the right type of experience.

After 2-4 years you might have developed enough experience in that organisation, but consultants need to do more still. To build up the skills and knowledge across a wide experience base to help solve your clients problems you will need to broaden your experience.

This will mean working in senior roles, for at least 3-5 national companies to develop that broad range of organisational knowledge. Without this you just haven’t seen enough of how different organisations have fixed their problems.

Become a troubleshooter

At the end of this a consultant is really a troubleshooter engaged by a client to fix a difficult problem for them. Consultants can only do this is they have a well developed and tested range of problem solving strategies to modify and apply.

The reason why it takes the consultant to tell the client what they already should know, is simple. The client has only experienced the problem from within their limited experience but you have seen it all before.

So you look at their systems and say, here is the problem. They think you only took 30 minutes to find a solution. What they don’t know is that it took you 15 years in 5 different organisations and two or more degrees to solve that problem for them.