It is possible to become a consultant at many different points in your career and it is also possible to move in and out of the profession several times during your career. I will describe two specific entry points in this section. Those points are recent college graduates and mid-career professionals. The recent graduates are likely to have knowledge of the very latest technology but they usually lack practical experience. Mid Career professionals may lack knowledge of the very latest technology but they may have extensive practical experience. Each of these groups posses knowledge and traits that are needed to be successful in a consulting career.
Immediately After Graduation
Recent graduates should be able to enter the consulting profession in Models I & II but they usually cannot work in Models III through VI because they lack the practical experience that those models typically require.Consulting companies need to constantly bring new technology on-board and can do that with new graduates. In order to join a consulting company immediately after graduation, the new consultant may have to accept a position as an entry level consultant or trainee. After joining the company, they should quickly gain practical experience to augment their technical skill and knowledge. As they gain experience, the entry level or trainee designation will be removed.
It is possible for students to enhance their credentials for a consulting career by working as an intern at a consulting company before they actually graduate. This allows them to show some consulting experience on their resumes but it also allows them to develop some contacts and references within the industry.
The placement office and job fairs on campus are good ways to make initial contact with prospective employers. Grades and interview skills are always important but they are especially important for people who want to enter the consulting profession immediately after graduation. Mediocre grades and poor interview skills will make it difficult to become a consultant at this point.
Mid Career Professionals
Mid Career Professionals may lack knowledge of the latest technology but they typically have practical experience in specific industries or technologies. They also have contacts within their specific industries. These people may enter the profession as trainees in Models I & II but they are more likely to enter the profession without the trainee designation. Consulting companies need their experience and professional contacts.
Consulting companies may also need consultants that are a little older because they may represent the company better to clients who typically favor consultants with experience. In my experience, if two consultants with identical levels of skill work for a particular client, the client will typically favor the older of the two because they perceive the older person to have more experience.
Professional contacts and internet sites (ie. Monster.com and Dice.com) can be used to enter the profession as mid-career professionals.
I personally became a consultant as a mid-career professional based upon the recommendation and help of a professional contact.