Personality

Some personality traits are important for a career in consulting.   The ability to interact with a lot of different people is important.  You may not necessarily have to be an extrovert but it is helpful if you are.  You do not have to be talkative but you must be able to speak to people individually and in groups.  You do not have to be a teacher but you must be able to explain technical concepts that may not be easy to explain.  You must have empathy because that will help you understand the feelings and issues that client employees have.

 

Since consultants who travel must spend a lot of time alone, you must be able to thrive in that context.  Travel may seem like one of the most attractive aspects of a career in consulting but that quickly fades when you realize how much you are away from home.  I have averaged 3-4 nights per week in a hotel for over 20 years.  That equates to over 4,000 nights.  That is a lot of time alone and some people are simply not able to accept that.

 

Consultants must be able to deal with changing plans.  It is not uncommon to have travel issues that cause plans to change unexpectedly.  Weather and equipment problems can cause flight delays.  Any sort of delay can cause you to miss connections.  You must be able to deal with that type of disruption without allowing it to cause you too much anger or distress.  That type of problem is just a natural side effect of working in this profession.

 

You must have the ability to work under stress without allowing it to affect your health. Every client has a problem or project that is very important to them.  As a consultant, you will often be called upon after the client has spent considerable time trying to fix the problem them selves.  They sometimes become more and more desperate before calling a consultant.  When you finally arive, they expect you to fix the problem immediately.  All of this causes stress.

 

Clients also seem to expect consultants to be able to answer any question that falls anywhere near your area of expertise.  The feeling seems to be 'you are the expert and we are paying you a lot of money. Why don't you know?'  No one can possible know the answer to every conceivable question in their knowledge area and you have to have the personal strength to admit that you don't know when that situation arises. In those cases, you must have the ability to find the answer when given enough time to study and to research the question.

 

Consultants must be studious because your efforts to stay current in your education will never stop. Technological development and refinement never stops and you must work hard to maintain expert level skills.  During my career, I have devoted many evenings in hotel to study and reading.

 

You must be able to state your professional opinion and to explain the foundation for it.  You cannot simply say 'because I said so'.  You cannot wait to hear someone else's opinion and then agree or disagree.  This takes strength and confidence.

 

You cannot allow the importance of a problem to prevent you from offering your input.  Many times, a lot is at stake and you cannot allow yourself to be paralyzed by that.  

 

In order to be a success as a consultant, you must have the necessary personality traits.