Career minded individuals always seem to be trying to chart out their next success. That may include striving toward the next promotion. It could mean making more money. It could mean simply making more people happy.
Whatever your definition of success, most of us set goals and strive to achieve them. That pursuit can be fraught with landmines. We face political pressures that force us down other routes. We struggle to balance family and our personal lives with our career goals. Sometimes things just don’t go our way. We have to exercise flexibility and go a different direction at times.
All of these, and many other factors contribute to career risk. You can receive setbacks and never recover. But all of these factors are external. Your greatest career risk actually lies within. Continue reading Your Greatest Career Risk→
Things looked bleak in the depths of the great recession. Many major firms collapsed and went out of business completely. Some were deemed “too big to fail” and were bailed out by the U.S. government. For the surviving firms, layoffs were rampant, resulting in unemployment peaking at 10% in late 2009.
Effects of the Great Recession
Companies that were shedding employees also cut major projects, resulting in consultants being shown the door. Many consulting firms failed. Others survived by reducing their own staffs.
Unemployment in the U.S. hovered in the upper 9% range for over a year. In late 2010 it began a gradual descent. As of May of 2015, unemployment was down to 5.4%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average grew nearly 30% in 2013 followed by a more modest 10% increase in 2014.
Throughout the recovery, use of consulting has increased as companies, gun-shy of committing to permanent hires, continued to hire temporary staffing. Now, as the recovery turns into a stronger economy, companies are beginning to have the confidence to hire full-time employees.
Additionally, companies are investing in new projects. As long as they can justify an adequate and fast enough return on investment, organizations are turning to their large backlog of work that they were too risk averse to attempt over the past several years.
Translation to Consulting Success
This bodes well from many aspects. The willingness of the business community to make large investments in staffing and projects should translate to additional growth in the economy.
Additionally, investment in projects will almost certainly mean that companies will turn to consulting firms for help. Traditionally, firms do not rely on existing staff to implement large projects. Consultants are usually brought in for their expertise in the particular subject. Consultants are also temporary workers. They provide the needed guidance and extension of staffing needed during a major project. As the project winds down, the consulting staff is gradually ramped down and the project is handed over to the full-time staff for ongoing maintenance.
The existing staff is heavily involved during the project. Full-time employees act as subject matter experts (SMEs) on the project, providing consultants insight on the company’s proprietary knowledge and processes. As the project winds down, full-time employees take on a larger responsibility of the project, eventually assuming full ownership as the consultants phase out of the picture.
Challenge to Consulting Firms
The continuing decline of the unemployment rate is generally a good thing. It is the sign of a growing economy. However, as the unemployment rate becomes lower, it becomes a concern for hiring qualified people to do the job.
Hiring by client organizations results in fewer people in the market. Competition for qualified workers becomes stiffer. There are some who have concerns that we will get to a point where we are at full employment – a 0% unemployment rate.
While some may look at that as some utopian accomplishment, where everyone in the market is employed and productive, there is a downside. With full employment, we risk ceasing to grow. New investment is stifled because organizations can’t hire people to do new work.
The predicted problems of full employment may never come to fruition. But as the unemployment rate becomes smaller and smaller, consulting firms will find themselves competing more with each other – and with their clients – for qualified knowledge workers.
The growing economy is cause for great celebration for the business world in general. It is also a positive sign for consultants that they will experience continued growth. Like any type of benefit, there are challenges. Consulting firms will have to learn how to compete in the hiring market to acquire adequate staffing in order to serve their clients.
Their own success as well as the success of their clients will depend on it.
How is your firm preparing for a more competitive market?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
I’m intrigued with the popularity of vampires and zombies these days. Just doing a simple search for vampires on Amazon.com provides over 51,000 book titles. A search on zombies provides another 24,000. Netflix offers many titles under each category as well.
It might have started with the Twilight series, but I think that just fueled a fire that was already burning. The same goes for The Walking Dead series on AMC. I think it has just enhanced a wave that was already going
After more than twenty years on consulting, I’ve observed how consultants and clients interact with each other. They each have their own way of looking at the other. I’ve come to the conclusion that clients perceive consultants as vampires and consultants perceive clients as zombies.
Consultants are Vampires
Vampires are Blood suckers: We all know that a vampire needs to survive on the blood of others. Consultants are always trying to upsell. They want to add scope to the project and then sell that next project in addition. Billable hours and sales, at the expense of the client, are their lifeblood.
Vampires are aristocratic: Just as vampires have the attitude of coming from the upper echelon, so do consultants. They dress more superior and have the condescending attitude that they’re just better.
Vampires are nocturnal: Just as vampires only come out at night, consultants like to burn the midnight oil. Then, they come in later in the morning because of their late nighter. When the client comes in at 8:00 AM to ask a question, the consultants are nowhere to be found.
Vampires have psychic abilities: There are some vampire movies where vampires can read minds. Consultants are the same. In fact, whenever a client manager says something intelligent, the consultant says, “I was just about to say that.”
Vampires can appear as mist: Consultants do the analysis, develop the plan, and present it all into a nice PowerPoint presentation. Then they disappear as soon as the actual execution of the plan is to be performed.
A vampire has hypnotic power over his victims: Many a client employee whose boss has hired a consultant has probably wondered what caused them to hire that consultant. He must have been under the consultant’s hypnotic power.
A vampire can turn victims into vampires: Every once in a while, a consultant convinces a client employee to come over to “the dark side” of consulting. Many consulting contracts prohibit pilfering employees from either party, but it still happens. Before long, the new consultant is taking his former colleagues out to lunch trying to drum up new business.
Clients are Zombies
A zombie is someone who has lost his or her sense of self: When a consultant first meets the client employee, he often finds someone who is entrenched in the politics and apathy of the organization. He’s there to put in his time and leave at 5:00. You consultants want to change how we do things? Why?
Zombies have increased endurance relative to normal humans: clients can endure long meetings in which their presence neither adds value nor is required. They go because they were invited. What else are they going to do?
Zombies have reduced or absent cognitive function: Clients know only their area of the business. If you want to know how another area of the business works, go talk to someone in that area. It’s not my job.
Zombies are Slow: Clients have no sense of urgency to implement change. They’re happy with the status quo. They show up late for meetings, or not at all. They practice passive resistance to hold up any chance of real change taking place.
Zombies are not dead, yet not alive: Client employees are present, yet they aren’t. They show up for work every day. They attend their meetings. But they are rarely productive.
Is Either Perspective Accurate?
Obviously, these are extreme perspectives that consultants and clients have of each other. Hopefully consultants aren’t that condescending toward their clients. Hopefully clients aren’t that cynical toward consultants.
But, these attitudes sometimes exist on both sides. Consultants can provide a valuable service to their clients if they face it with the right attitude. Clients can sometimes be resistant to new changes the consultant is trying to help implement. Maybe the client employees haven’t been convinced that the new changes are better than the existing ways of doing business. It is the consultant’s responsibility to convince them why the changes are better.
Consultants and client employees are often incented and motivated by different things. If the client employee wants to stay with the status quo and has no incentive to change, the consultant should work with the client to find ways they would like the changes. Will it make their job easier? Will it allow them to make decisions that will help them move up the corporate ladder?
Consulting, more than anything else is a communication process. Communicating change to a client involves communicating why the client should be interested in the first place. It is about the client.
How have you broken down stereotypes to convince a client to change?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
I could tell by the look on his face that the interview was over. I was sitting in an interview with a top tier consulting firm in my college’s career services center. The interviewer had explained what it was like to work there. He said there would be a lot of travel. It could be up to 100% travel if I was working for an out of town client.
My response was nothing short of sophomoric. I told him, “Oh, I like to travel. My girlfriend and I went on a trip last winter.” I told him a little about our trip for a few seconds before I read the look on his face. Continue reading Getting In to Consulting→
The chief executive officer is the head honcho. The person in charge. He or she is the one that presumably calls the shots. The CEO is everything you should be for your own career. Here I discuss 10 parallels between what a CEO does and what you should be doing to be the chief executive of your career.
I meet busy people all the time. They’re the people who run from meeting to meeting. They’re usually running late. They start a to-do list, but they usually don’t finish writing out all of their tasks. They’re too busy attending to one emergency after another.
People like this are in a constant mode of keeping their head above water. As soon as they finish one urgent task, there is another fire they need to put out.
When I was a college senior interviewing with top consulting firms, I had two problems. Information about how to interview wasn’t readily available and I wasn’t ambitious enough to seek out what was there.
I went into most of my interviews cold, just planning to be myself. And I failed miserably. While I encourage people to be themselves during an interview, it is also imperative to be prepared. If you are interviewing for a job at a consulting firm, here are some tips to make the interview more successful. Continue reading 5 Tips for Consulting Interviews→
In my twenty years of consulting, I’ve seen many consultants come and go. Some decide that it’s not for them. For others, the decision is made for them. A client may kick the consultant off the project, or the firm may remove them as a form of damage control.
Every consultant struggles to some degree in his or her first year. With any new position, it takes time to learn the ropes. But some just don’t learn. I’ve written before in this blog about consultants that just “don’t get it.” These are the things those consultants do – or don’t do – to cause them to fail early on. Continue reading 7 Reasons Young Consultants Fail→
I’ve witnessed many stories of success and failure in consulting. I’ve found that some people flourish in consulting while others either fail or get stuck in a purgatory-like existence. These people neither succeed nor completely fail. They are simply unhappily stuck in the same position indefinitely.
I’ve found that the ones who succeed are the ones that have figured out the consulting career secrets that propel their career success higher than the average consultant. Here are five of the consulting career secrets that I’ve seen those people follow. Continue reading 5 Consulting Career Secrets→