Consultant, subject matter expert, thought leaders. All synonymous for people who demonstrate exceptional work, share experiences, teach, and commit to continuous learning.
This can give the impression that consulting is only for professionals with decades of experience under their belt. Surely these are the sorts of people who can be called experts.
But expertise and excellence are not a destination that you can simply ‘arrive at’ one day. Rather, they are muscles that you can exercise and develop over your entire career.
So, being a great consultant has little to do with having all the answers up front. Far more important is setting yourself up to develop excellence for years to come. New consultants often benefit most from seeking out mentorship, asking for feedback, and pursuing lifelong learning.
Mentoring relationships can be some of the most rewarding parts of a consultant’s career. For new consultants, getting connected to a more experienced member of the industry offers a myriad of benefits.
Mentors, who have had years to learn what works and what doesn’t, are eager to share that wisdom with newer consultants. They’ve had time to make mistakes and want to help you avoid similar pitfalls. They can also offer insight as you navigate unfamiliar situations with your client.
Networking is a great way to find mentors. You can also seek out consulting firms that offer employee mentorship programs. For example, EIT’s Catalyst program matches consultants new to the industry with more experienced ones.
That mentor works with their mentee to develop and pursue their career goals. This includes improving their skills, networking, and exploring career paths. Mentors can also give advice when their mentees face new challenges as well as provide constructive feedback.
The most straightforward way consultants develop their own excellence is by asking for feedback. Feedback is often something that is critically undervalued in today’s business world, with Gallup finding, “that only 21% of U.S. employees … have received meaningful feedback in the last week.”
Successful consultants proactively seek out feedback from clients and coworkers. This helps them gauge how well they are meeting the client’s needs and what they can do to meet them better. Feedback is also useful for identifying blind spots or opportunities to grow your skillset.
For consultants looking to develop excellence, asking for feedback needs to be a regular part of your routine. If you’re consulting through a firm, regularly ask your manager about your work. If you have a mentor like we discussed earlier, they may also have insights about your work or consulting habits. Otherwise, you can also reach out to your client directly to get their feedback.
As the business landscape evolves every day, new technology, tools and techniques are developed to help professionals adapt. Being informed of these developments is vital for any aspiring consultant. While a cursory search can be helpful, attending classes or trainings provides in-depth and useful information.
These often come with the option to get a ‘certification’ in the tool or technique in question. Certifications go a long way in affirming your credibility as a consultant. Thus, they are especially invaluable to those who are early in their career.
Some professionals are turned off by how expensive these trainings can be. But, many consulting firms recognize the value of having informed, qualified consultants. So, they offer these trainings for free to their employees. EIT is one such firm.
One of EIT’s specialties is offering training on adopting Agile roles and practices. While we offer these training sessions to clients, EIT also encourages our employees to attend them on company time. This equips those employees to carry that expertise with them into every client engagement.
While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind for someone looking to get into consulting, establishing a habit of developing excellence early on is the cornerstone of a successful consulting career. New consultants should focus on seeking out mentorship, frequent feedback, and learning opportunities.
New and prospective consultants can take the initiative and seek out these opportunities themselves. However, many consultant firms recognize the importance of these foundational practices, including EIT. To learn more about how you can join EIT’s diverse team of professionals, check us out here.