How to Win at Consulting (8/8): Never Lose Your Audience

8) Never Lose Your Audience

It's time for a presentation with the client. You've done all your preparatory work, caught all your mistakes ahead of time, and bound the documents. Now you just have to sit in the room while your manager presents the deck. The presentation begins..

How to Win at Consulting (7/8): Paper Trails and Version Control

7) Paper Trails and Version Control

Another request comes in- it's 11PM and you've added more things to your to-do list than you've taken off. It's Tuesday night and there's a big client presentation coming up the next morning. Everyone's rushing in with their final changes from their different sections and you're holding the master document.

You do about half of the changes on the fly and the others you write on your phone's to-do app. There's a wording change here, a footnote there, changing the order of two slides. Your goal is to make sure everyone's changes get in without losing anyone else's in the process.

How to Win at Consulting (6/8): Clarify Deadlines, Report Proactively

6) Clarify Deadlines, Report Proactively

You're at your desk working on some slides when your boss's boss stops by and asks you if you'd be able to help him with some quick research. He knows you're busy with your project, but there's nobody else around to help. You add it to your to-do list.

As you're sketching out the deliverable, your direct manager emails you and asks you to hurry up with the slides you're working on as there's a meeting at 3PM.

You've got an email open ready to send when the partner's secretary stops by and asks you if you could just...

How to Win at Consulting (5/8): Speak Up Early, Stand Your Ground

5) Speak Up Early, Stand Your Ground

You're working with a senior colleague to analyze client sales growth in different regions to present to your manager. Your colleague is also working on another module, so you're doing most of the work on this one while he supervises. Your performance on this will - in a very real way - determine your final performance evaluation results.

Your expected deliverable is a slide summary of trends over time split by region. You've spent time looking at the raw data, and now it's time to produce the slide. Your net data looks OK, but you see some large outliers in data points here and there which throw everything off. In spite of that, your senior colleague hasn't said anything about them.

How to Win at Consulting (4/8): Manage Your Expenses

4) Manage Your Expenses

So now you have an expense account. Congratulations. You've already seen at least one junior guy get abruptly booted for attempting to claim the unclaimable - the box of Cuban cigars was the most memorable.

Since then, you've carefully read the expense policy detailing what you can and can't claim, and you play it safe.

Fast-forward a few months, and one of your international assignments is wrapping up. The whole team has been clamoring for weeks to go to a famed old-world restaurant before returning to their respective countries. It's time for the project-end team dinner.

How to Win at Consulting (3/8): Structured Analysis

3) Structured Analysis

You're on a new project involving real estate, something you haven't done before. you'd like to get it done quickly, because your friend has a moving-away party tonight.

You're opening one excel sheet after another, alt-tabbing between 3 different countries' local data as you prepare scenarios. It's a lot to keep track of, but the calculations are little more than basic arithmetic.

Approach A: You continue as you have, straight copying and pasting data (hard-coding) and not labeling or formatting anything since you just need a final number. You've got it all in your head. You finally get the number you need and email it to your manager.

He comes back after his meeting and asks you exactly HOW you came up with that calculation, saying that the client wants to see a full backup. In case you're not sure, this is because the figures look very wrong.

How to Win at Consulting (2/8): Leave Nothing to Chance

2) Leave nothing to chance

On Wednesday, a partner tells you that he'd like to chat with you about how the project's going. You're thrilled- it's rare for a partner to chat with junior guys like this, and you can ask him some things. He says that you can meet together at 9AM tomorrow.

You make a mental list in your head of all the things you might discuss: quick bullet points on the project status, a self-introduction that you practiced hundreds of times at your school's career center, congratulations for landing that new client as you read in the firm's newsletter, some other ideas to bounce off him. You're set.

How to Win at Consulting (1/8): Making Do

Andy note: - I'm very happy to announce our newest contributing author wwconsultant. He is currently a consultant and has worked inside and outside the US. As a contributing author, he'll share some "on the job" consulting tips for interns and new hires this summer. If there's a topic you'd like for him to write about, feel free to PM him.

Want to win at consulting? Over the next 8 weeks, I'd like to share some lessons that I've learned from my career between startups and an international consulting firm. My aim is to pass on skills and habits to help you thrive in any working environment. Whether you're an intern or a new hire, I hope you'll find something useful.

About me: I work at a worldwide strategy consulting firm and have done projects in the US and Asia (think New York City, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai). After graduating from a target school, I worked at US and Chinese startups before entering consulting.

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