Consultant Job Description
Consultants advise businesses and other organizations on strategies to improve efficiency, enhance operations, and drive profitability. This role can encompass a number of different consultants, from those who provide general and operational guidance to management and executives to specific departmental consultants who work to improve processes with IT, marketing, or human resources teams.
Although consultants work in a variety of industries and settings, people with this job title share the common goal of applying their expertise and offering guidance to help a business or organization run more efficiently and effectively and solve its most pressing issues.
Consultant Duties and Responsibilities
A consultant’s day-to-day responsibilities can vary depending on their industry and area of expertise, although most share several core duties:
Analyze Business or Department Operations
One of the primary duties of a consultant is analyzing operations and management of the business as a whole or within a particular segment of the business. They may conduct market research, surveys of employees and customers, and interviews with managers to identify specific areas where the business isn’t performing as expected. The consultant may also analyze financial reports and statistical information to gain a better sense of the business.
Provide Advice and Guidance
Another of the consultant’s most central duties is providing direct advice, guidance, and oversight to decision-makers. The consultant uses their expertise and analysis to recommend strategies to improve efficiency, drive revenue growth, and enhance operations across departments. This aspect of the role often requires the consultant to make the case for their recommendations, convincing leaders of the benefits of a particular course of action.
Implement Process Enhancements
Once a client decides on a solution, the consultant frequently oversees its implementation. They may provide the client with a list of improvements and ensure that they are correctly and successfully introduced to specific departments or rolled out to the organization as a whole. They may also provide individual departments with direct guidance on implementing new strategies or technologies.
Train Employees on New Methods
Closely related to implementing process enhancements, consultants may also train employees and departments on new technologies or methodologies. For example, a consultant may propose a new customer relationship management system to more accurately manage customer data and improve response rates. The consultant would then train sales, accounting, and marketing teams on integrating the new software into existing processes to improve efficiency and client service.
Guide Restructuring Activities
In some cases, a consultant may advise a client on restructuring, which can include termination of individual employees, eliminating departments that perform tasks that are better handled elsewhere, or changing suppliers and distributors to enhance service or product delivery. In these cases, the consultant works closely with decision-makers to determine how best to allocate resources and determine whether staff members can be relocated to new departments.
Assess Impact of Improved Methodologies and Processes
Finally, consultants assess the impact of their enhancements and guidance through follow-up visits and meetings with clients. In these meetings, the consultant determines whether certain actions have resulted in improved performance, streamlined operations, and higher revenue. They may also provide further advice and guidance.
Consultant Skills and Qualifications
Consultants provide advice and guidance to businesses to help them enhance efficiency, profitability, and performance. Most consultants have at least a bachelor’s degree and the following skills:
- Analytical thinking – consultants assess businesses and departments to determine what is working and what can be improved, so they should be highly analytical and able to make rapid judgments based on the information at hand
- Business strategy – this role also requires a high level of familiarity with business strategies and techniques for improving efficiency, enhancing employee performance, and streamlining operations
- Market expertise – consultants need to possess expert-level knowledge of the field in which they are consulting, whether they’re providing general guidance or focusing on one area such as IT or marketing
- Persuasion skills – a consultant also needs to ensure that business leaders and decision-makers adopt their ideas and strategies, so they should have strong persuasive skills and the ability to successfully present their ideas
- Team coordination – in many cases, consultants work with managers and personnel to implement improvements, so they should have strong leadership and collaboration skills
- Communication skills – effective written and verbal communication is key to a consultant’s role, whether they’re delivering a presentation or preparing a report for key decision-makers
Consultant Education and Training
Consultants come from a variety of educational backgrounds, although most have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as business administration, finance, or management. An advanced degree in one of these fields can greatly improve employment prospects, as can achieving the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation through an organization such as IMC USA. Expertise in a particular field is the most important consideration for a consultant, however.
Consultant Salary and Outlook
Because consultants work in a variety of industries and settings, their salaries can vary widely. It is also worth noting that most consultants work on a freelance or project basis. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a few salary estimates that may be helpful. According to the BLS, management analysts earn a median annual salary of $82,450. Market research analysts, who also may provide consulting services, earn a median annual salary of $63,230.
Both of these roles are expected to grow at faster-than-average rates through 2026. The BLS expects management analyst employment to grow 14 percent and market research analyst employment to grow 23 percent.
There are many resources available on the web if you’d like to learn more about a career as a consultant:
Society of Professional Consultants – the SPC is a professional organization for consultants providing continuing education resources, opportunities to connect with others in the field, and a mentoring program to build expertise
Getting Started in Consulting – author Alan Weiss provides valuable information to new consultants ranging from advice on building a client base to detailed example budgets to set a consulting business up for financial success
“Consulting Is More Than Giving Advice” – read this Harvard Business Review article to learn about common misconceptions about the consultant’s role. It also explains the various ways that effective consultants contribute to organizational success
Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used – read about the current challenges that consultants face and how to manage them, including how to handle difficult clients and incorporate digital and virtual services into a consulting practice
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