Becoming a Consulting Expert

I’m a full eight weeks into my internship, which basically means I’m a full-blown consultant.

…That’s only partially untrue. The number one lesson I’ve learned this summer is that when it comes to consulting, you’re expected to be the expert. On day one.

That’s right – as soon as a piece of the project is given to you, you’re the expert on that piece. Never mind if you’ve never studied that industry or heard of the company or thought about the products at all – someone’s gotta be the go-to person, and that someone is you.

In a lot of ways this is really, really awesome. It means you’re learning something new every single day (because you’re getting quizzed on something new every single day), and you leave each project with some fairly in-depth knowledge about whatever it is you’ve been doing.

The not-so-awesome part is that…you’re not actually an expert. And you can’t be – spending hundreds of hours reading industry reports will never compare to the wealth of knowledge the people working in that industry have. This is an important concept to grasp early: becoming the “consulting expert” doesn’t mean becoming an actual expert. Going down that road will lead to certain failure. Consulting isn’t about learning everything there is to know about every company or industry you work for; it is about quickly understanding the KEY aspects of the business that will allow you to make informed recommendations to the client.

It’s the same reason a software company can build a mobile app for your firm without needing to spend hundreds of hours working alongside you – they don’t need to know every single one of your customer’s desires or every single intricacy of your business; they just need to know what matters most to your customers, and how your business wants to serve those needs.

The good news is, after banging my head against the wall for the first couple of weeks, I started to realize that I can be a consulting expert. It takes a lot of work, but it’s work I can do. The even better news? It’s work I like doing.

-Kristen Jones, MBA 2014

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