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The First Three Things You Learn As a New Consultant Part 2

Consultants must be confident, independent and self-motivated.

By nature, consultant work requires you to have a certain level of confidence in your abilities. My manager was not available to meet with me on my first day at my current client project. I entered a somewhat intimidating situation where I had to navigate the client site and meet team members without the comfort of having someone from my firm help me get acquainted.

The relationships you build with client counterparts also require you to be independent. You must maintain a sense of distance and be somewhat self-sufficient in achieving project goals. While building personal relationships is part of the job, holding your composure and performing your job with a strong level of integrity and professionalism is essential.

Relationships with clients should be distinctly different from relationships with collegues at your firm. That also applies to the type of relationship you have with consultants from other firms on your client site. Recognize that there is a difference between being friendly and engaging in gossip.

In addition, a career in consulting also requires you to take control of your career. This idea of owning your career is what I believe attracts so many people to consulting. After gaining experience and building your network, you can essentially choose what project work you want, who you enjoy working with, and ultimately where your career goes.

In my experience on the ‘industry side’, I found that there was a more structured approach to my learning and development. This could in part be attributed to the fact that my previous experience consisted of several internships and a development program. Nonetheless, consultants in general are expected to be more proactive in broadening and deepening their experience by choosing projects and learning courses that help them achieve their goals.

On top of owning your career, consultants must balance client work with firm activities. How do you stand out during performance discussions in a sea of highly motivated and strong consultants? Get involved in firm activities that interest you! Anything from groups like WIN, SAP COE, and community service activities. Since my husband is a Marine, I was interested in sending support to deployed troops for the holidays. I engaged two offices in a care package drive to our adopted platoon in Afghanistan. It’s been a rewarding experience and helped me build my network in the firm! 

For these reasons, I believe consultants should be independent, self-motivated individuals. It’s no coincidence that consultants are typically ‘Type A’ people!

If you haven’t already, read Part 1 of this series: The First Three Things You Learn As a New Consultant Part 1

For more, check out Part 3: The First Three Things You Learn As a New Consultant Part 3

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  • Some nice thought process.
    Thats really true as and when you understand the industry first and then the actual problem of your client , I think this time you are in a better position to give some consultation to your client by incoprating your technology which will assist them.

    So actual consultants are kind of persons who understand the landscape and gives and implement their professional advise, may or may not be expert one.

    – Deep

    • Thanks Deep. I think this is a great concept for new consultants to understand. It was difficult for me to truly understand my role as a consultant until I got on site. I think this advice can give new consultants more confidence in their abilities.
  • I like this series of articles and think many in the community will find them useful especially if they join a large SI. One thing I will take note with is this statement.

    “After gaining experience and building your network, you can essentially choose what project work you want, who you enjoy working with, and ultimately where your career goes.”

    Unfortunately if you work for a consulting company they (not you) typically determine your assignment/project and if you work as an independent consultant you have more flexibility but there is always the issue of timing as SAP roles often are put out in the market 1-2 weeks before they are needed. This is regardless of experience.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Jarret!
      There’s no denying that independent consultants certainly have more flexibility than those that work for a firm. Although, from what I’ve seen and heard at my firm so far, there can be a great amount of choice in project work. The firm I work for has a structured approach towards getting consultants staffed on projects that align with project goals and the practitioners goals. However, it seems that a considerable amount of people are staffed based on strong relationships they’ve built with partners and managers that need a resource with their skills. Having the name of a big firm behind you and great recommendations also go a long way towards creating future project work on a long term client.
      Of course this all varies greatly between firms and based on firm size. Thanks for your input!
    • Probably one of the most important parts of being a consultant (that we didn’t already mention) is having the ability to motivate people to get things done! There are so many times that your work is dependent on approvals and responses from leadership. In order to meet deadlines, you have to communicate effectively and follow up to get to the next step. That’s part of building the client relationship and developing rapport- Those key skills that aren’t taught in college or in a certification course!
  • These 3 articles are probably one of the most succint, insightful I’ve read on this site!

    As a Functional user for 5 years, I’ve decided to take the plunge and get more “under the hood” with SAP (ie, ABAP, NETWEAVER IMPLEMENTATION, etc.) This post has uncovered more nuanced items I hadn’t thought of before moving into the Analyst role.

    Great article(s)!!

  • This Series best describe the role of a consultant either technical or Functional Every Consultant have to Follow the same rules to make the outcome fruit full. 🙂