How to be a successful management consultant (plus salary)
Updated 7 June 2023
Management consulting is an interesting profession and can be an effective way to build a valuable and vast network, spanning across companies, cities and seniority levels. This role allows you to utilise your experiences, expertise, analytical skills and strategic thinking to help others. It can take some time to become a management consultant, so knowing what it takes to be a successful one can help you progress to the role more effectively and save time. In this article, we explain what it means to be a successful management consultant, what the role entails, skills to develop and the expected salary.
What does it mean to be a successful management consultant?
If you're looking to become a successful management consultant, aim to understand what the role is and what it actually entails. While some people may know what a junior-level management consultant does, those who aspire to successfully move up the ranks benefit from knowing what it takes to progress further. Successful management consultants work with local or global clients, including executives, investors and leaders to recognise and solve operational and organisational issues and improve working processes. While it can be a very demanding and competitive career, it comes with many long-term benefits and perks.
Management consultants often have opportunities to work alongside top executives and senior teams, which helps build useful and supportive networks in their industry. If you become a management consultant, you can also expect lots of travel and irregular working hours, in addition to extended periods of time working with new people to solve new problems.
What does a management consultant do?
The primary work of a management consultant often falls within one of the following categories:
Functional specialisation and expertise
This involves the provision of advice and industry counsel in specialist areas such as mergers, reorganisations and strategy. You would usually be required to have knowledge of finances, operations, risk management and information technology. Especially successful management consultants get involved with digital transformation, human resources, marketing and advertising among others.
Objective assessments and analysis
In this role, a management consultant acts as an objective third-party member throughout the duration of a study or meeting. We do this to carry out in-depth analysis and research. After this, they offer an unbiased perspective on challenging and complex company issues.
Related: Tips for creating a management consultant CV (with example)
This includes working directly with senior management and internal project teams to deliver effective leadership consulting which can include execution, measurement and implementation. While a management consultant's role overlaps significantly with advising, it's actually rather different from professions like executive training and coaching. To ensure they remain different from competitors, many consulting practices develop and implement their own ideas and methodologies. This methodology often guides management consultants to effectively conduct assessments, diagnose problems, perform analysis, test hypotheses and provide follow-up services for clients.
What makes a successful management consultant stand out?
The mindset, skills and attitude adopted by a management consultant make the biggest difference when it comes to standing out from competitors. The best and most successful management consultants are those who can think strategically and critically to bring improvement and change to their client's businesses. The most successful management consultants typically possess many of the following skills and competencies:
Strategic thinkers: This skill allows the management consultant to focus on the entire system while considering the interdependencies and interconnections inside it. Being a strategic thinker also allows you to make sound, long-term plans that can lead to success.
Support other leaders: This allows the management consultant to see what success looks like and determine whether other leaders have the operational capacity to deliver. If there are any shortcomings, you benefit from being able to support other leaders in improving themselves to perform better.
Improvement methodology and growth mindset: This allows the management consultant to solve issues effectively while also evaluating processes to minimise the chances of negative consequences in the long term. A growth mindset can help this by emphasising the need for identifying opportunities and using them to drive further growth.
Plan for full strategy implementation and monitoring: This allows the management consultant to anticipate and ensure that the right outcomes are defined. After this, they can work to execute the strategy and successfully measure outcomes, which can further inform future decision-making.
Extensive experience with performance metrics: This allows the management consultant to inform their decisions and analyses with quantifiable information. Many management consultants are capable of using data and data analysis software packages.
Excellent communication skills: The primary function of a management consultant is to advise others on how to more effectively operate their businesses, which means that clear communication is very important. It's also important that you know how to be tactful as a lot of what you say might be quite critical, cultural awareness also aids this as you may work with a variety of clients from different backgrounds.
Varied work experiences: If you've worked in a lot of very different roles that encompass as much of an organisation's operations as possible, this means that you're going to be more aware of how various departments work and might interact with each other. When you become a consultant, this kind of knowledge and experience can give you insights that a lot of managers and others often lack, therefore making your advice even more valuable.
Educational background and experience
The educational background and previous experience requirements depend significantly on the level of management consultant vacancy you seek to occupy. In general, there are four categories that correlate to different levels of experience. It doesn't matter if you end up working for a small or large firm, the consultancy level you end up in depends greatly on your educational background, previous experience and competence. An overview of these different levels and their requirements is as follows:
This level in consulting is entry-level and often consists of an associate consultant or business analyst role. It usually requires an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline or field with little to no experience. Ultimately, this depends on the firm you're looking to work with.
Actual management consultant level
The second consulting level is the actual management consultant level. This usually requires an undergraduate degree and between three to four years of consulting experience. Alternatively, you could have a graduate degree and two years of consulting experience for this position. Again, this depends significantly on the firm you're looking to work with.
Project lead or senior consultant
We also know the third consulting level as a project lead or senior consultant. It requires an undergraduate degree and roughly seven years of experience. Alternatively, you could have a graduate degree and ten years of consulting experience for this position.
Principal or partner
The fourth consulting level is a principal or partner and tends to require a graduate degree and over ten years of consulting experience. Principals are like partners in training. While it's an excellent position as you're working close to the top of the hierarchy, it's challenging because a principle wants to prove that they can be a successful partner prior to becoming one. For all these roles, an undergraduate degree is important, although it's worth mentioning that not all consulting jobs require such a degree.
Some companies allow individuals with sufficient past experience in a relevant field to work in their organisation without a degree. There are also consulting roles available where an undergraduate degree isn't as important as relevant experience. There are also entrepreneurs who begin consulting businesses without having undergraduate degrees. The undergraduate degree is simply a factor or requirement associated with traditional consulting companies where the work requires specialised management consultants and the same applies for postgraduate qualifications.
Management consultant salary expectations
The expected pay for a management consultant can vary depending on the sector or industry you're working in and your levels of experience. The national average salary for a management consultant is £55,363 per year. Your location can also be important regarding average levels of pay, with larger cities like London and Manchester seeing average pay rise to almost £60,000 per year.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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