I once worked for a consulting firm that did a lot of college recruiting. After our recruiting department had gone through the campus visit process, pre-screening interviews and had filtered out the most promising candidates, we would invite the remaining candidates to our high-rise office building for a day of interviewing. Each manager, senior manager and partner with the firm would hold three or four interviews throughout the day. And each recruit had an interview with someone at each of those levels within the firm.
At the end of the day, we held our ‘round table’ meeting. All the interviewers met in a large conference room to give the thumbs up or down on extending an offer for each candidate. In one of the discussions an interviewer mentioned that the candidate in question had stated that her goal was to help people and make the world a better place.
At that, one of the senior partners in the room asked, “Why is she considering consulting then?”
There were a few people in the room that chuckled, but he was dead serious. His implication was that, as a consulting firm, we’re here to increase profits, not to make the world a better place.
Meaning in your work for a consultant?
Perhaps the reason that that comment has stuck with me for over fifteen years is that I’ve never reconciled why you can’t do both at the same time.
Granted, as consultants we tend to focus on increasing profits. But we can only increase our long-term profits if we improve the businesses of our clients. The way I see it, increased profits for our firm and for the client creates jobs, stimulates the economy, puts food on our tables and sends our children to college.
All the people we touch
Additionally, in the process of our daily lives we interact with people. Consultants mentor people, both within our own firm as well as client personnel. This helps the mentored people develop within their own careers. Hopefully, they pay it forward and mentor others down the line, improving the careers of exponential others.
What does your client do? Are they in the healthcare industry? The project you work on may produce something that will save lives by providing better quality, more affordable or more accessible health care. Is the client in the entertainment industry? It may seem superficial or unimportant, but your project may somehow improve the quality of life for many people.
Taking away the business effect, when you serve on a consulting project, you interact with many people every day. Whether you work side by side, meet with them for an hour or say hello to them in the hallway. You can make a difference in the lives of everyone you touch just by how you treat them or assist them.
There’s more meaning in your work than you may think
We tend to underestimate the impact we can have on others. Impact doesn’t need to be large. Small efforts may not have the noticeable impact of curing a disease. But by having a small impact on each person you work with every day, even a consultant can help people and make the world a better place.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.