A career in consulting is both highly challenging and generously rewarding. As you begin your career, it’s important to set yourself up for success by understanding the typical career path of a consultant. The following article will give you an idea of what to expect, including the typical promotion criteria and process. This information can help you strategize and prepare for growth from day one.
During the initial phase of their career, a consultant’s roles and responsibilities will change rapidly. It’s an important time to learn, gain experience, and take stock of both strengths and weaknesses. A typical consultant gets promoted every two to three years in their career, and with each promotion, compensation also increases significantly. The following article will focus primarily on the promotion process.
The Consulting Promotion Criteria and Process
The promotion criteria in consulting can vary by position; however, firms often use a similar format at each step. The format includes two components for evaluation: performance and potential.
Assessment of Performance
The evaluation of a consultant’s case performance includes problem-solving, communication, practicality, and client relationship. Each of these four dimensions then has specific key performance indicators which the project management team tracks. Below, you’ll find more details on each one.
A structured approach: Consultants are evaluated on their use of a top-down, structured approach. In addition, you will be evaluated on your ability to divide problems into several pieces that are both mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.
Accurate analysis: One of the most critical aspects of consulting is building credibility within the case team and clients. As someone who is new, the accuracy of your analysis is critical in building credibility.
Generating insights: Framing a solution and running an analysis are key steps to solving a problem. However, to be valuable, your analyses must be turned into insights.
Verbal communication: A successful consultant engages clients effectively so that they can work with you and implement your recommendation successfully.
Written communication: You should be clear and concise in presentations and emails.
Planning: You should lay out the necessary steps and allocate your effort appropriately on almost a daily basis.
Prioritization: A successful consultant prioritizes well. Assign action items based on priorities, focusing on items of the utmost importance first.
Speed: Deliver quick analysis even if they’re not complete to give a chance to your team to draft solutions.
Client Relationship KPIs
Understanding the dynamics: You should assess the client’s organization and understand the relationships between different parties within the firm.
Gaining trust: You are expected to build relationships with client contacts of all levels.
The weight of importance of each item depends on the role of the consultant. If a consultant is in the early years of their career, the importance of problem-solving and practicality will be higher. However, as they climb the career ladder, more will be expected from them in the areas of client relationships and communication. These are aspects of consulting that should become stronger as you progress in your career and gain more experience, thus the increased importance.
Assessment of Potential
Now that you have a better understanding of how your performance will be assessed, let’s review potential. Potential is the assessment of a consultant based on the possible performance they are expected to show later in their career. While this aspect is hard to measure, in most cases, it’s the result of your relationship with the other people in the firm and the strategic importance of your capabilities for the company.
What To Expect: Promotion Process
Most companies hold bi-annual performance evaluation meetings. In these meetings, a senior committee assesses the performance of all consultants. You are then assigned to a promotion position based on your performance review and potential. If your promotion window is open, you will be promoted based on your promotion position.
While it varies by the office and by firm, a career path in this process typically follows this schedule:
- Associate – 2 to 3 years
- Consultant – 2 to 3 years
- Project Leader – 2 to 3 years
- Principal – 3 to 5 years
- Partner – Until retirement
This article highlighted the typical promotion process for consultants. For a more detailed look at the roles and responsibilities in consulting, you can view our article, An Overview of Consulting Roles and Responsibilities.