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Once your in - what skills does it take to succeed?

Anonymous F asked on Jan 22, 2018 - 3 answers

Hi all,

I know preplounge is all about preparing for the interview and getting the job, but I would like to take one step ahead and ask, what personal skills or characteristica does it take to truly succeed in consulting.

Where is this question coming from? I am currently figuring out in which profession I should best apply myself, e.g. academia, advertising, consulting, etc., and I would like to ensure the best possible fit between my strengths and my future profession. (I am sure most of you have thought about this too). Therefore I want to hear your opinion and in particular the opinion of those who have worked in consulting, about key success drivers in the job.

- Once your in, what separates the good consultant from the worldclass one?

- Are there personal characteristics that can be considered success drivers?

- Can you learn them?

- What are absolute no-gos? etc.

Looking forward to your answers, as I am certain they are relevant and interessting for everyone.

3 answers

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replied on Jan 22, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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The most important thing you need to understand is that consulting is a client business and client is always first. Here is my subjective view of what's needed to succeed on different levels of hierarchy. Pls take into account that it's the ideal state and getting these skills is a journey.

Analyst / associate level

  • Having a good DGL / career counselor, etc. (Each company has different names). This is a person who guides your development in the company, collects the feedbacks on you, and presents your case to a promotion committee. Make sure to have a person who is organized enough to collect the feedbacks in time, who is a nice person in general and who has enough authority in the company (i.e. Senior partner - the more power he has - the better)
  • Choosing the project you work on smartly (i.e. collect the feedbacks on each and everyone prior to accepting the project)
  • Perfect technical skills (Excel, PPT, Problem Solving)
  • Good feedbacks on you from the client. Thus try to make friends with your clients (Both senior and non-senior role. Even a bad feedback from a blue collar can ruin your career)
  • Ability to manage your own standalone workstream with minimum supervision. TOP performers bring the end products that impress others
  • Being proactive - helping the team with daily routine, scheduling, etc. Participating in the office initiatives
  • Establishing relationships with your managers and partners. Ideally, you should have multiple senior partners to be excited about you and to support you)
  • Being lucky!

Manager level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Having your client happy - this is the most important! If the client is happy - everything else will work
  • Managing multiple partners who have different opinions. Since partners have a busy schedule it becomes very tricky to synchronize them and to align the viewpoints
  • Good feedbacks from your team - having a happy team is important. Unfortunately, sometimes it's a trade-off between having your client and partner happy
  • Telling about your success on projects to others - I'm personally not a fan of this kind of selling, but I know many people who made a career using this skill

Principal level

A lot from the above, plus:

  • Having multiple clients happy
  • Having a long list of partners supporting you (More than 10)
  • Contributions to the development of the company (Knowledge, office ops, etc)
  • Selling the projects. If you manage to sell to existing clients or even bring the new clients - you are the champion.

Partner level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Sales, sales, sales


replied on Jan 22, 2018
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Agreed with most of what stated in the two other answers. Having an inside view (both from being promoted twice and from being a CDC advisor) I would stress the importance of the following:

-master the basic (do well your job: correct, fast, insightful)

-be proactive

-be positive and pleasant to be around

-be a great salesman (at the top of the ladder your job is to sell)

-build a constellation of 2-3 partners (especially important if you join as a C), principals and partners (if you join as an A) that will staff you over and over

the last two are the real differentiators for a long term career into consulting because thise are the two key criteria for partner promotion.

If you don't think you are a salesman, don't worry, you can build the muscle throughout the years.

The one point I disagree with is the need of at least 10 people - and maybe that's because I come from a different company. Is better to have 2-3 that are completely invested in you than 10 that like you. That said all partners must like you and respect you, but you need 2-3 deep relationship (so deep that the partner is willing to put his/her career on the line for you).

if you want to know more and in more details feel free to contact me.


replied on Jan 22, 2018
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This is a great question! During my MBA, a world-famous army general came to talk and what I remember from that is what he said at the very end (I paraphrase): "If you have the right combination of EQ and IQ, you can be a banker on Monday, a social worker on Tuesday, a consultant on Wed, a manager on Thu and a lawyer on Fri, and still succeed in every role". I totally believe in this. I don't claim to be good enough to succeed in 5 roles a week but I've been an engineer (AMD), a writer (various national/int'nl awards), a head of business (google) and now a venture capitalist (andreessen horowitz), and it's been a great ride and I think with a good combo of EQ and IQ, you really can succeed in whatever you do. Another way of saying the above is that it's all about the PEOPLE. Know who to befriend, be geniune in your relationships, know when to push vs pull, keep your ego in check (for the right moment), and know how to pick your battles.

Specific answers:

- Once your in, what separates the good consultant from the worldclass one?

-- a great consultant is one who doesn't just solve problems, but actually solves it in a way that brings the firm more business. This happens only when the client likes you AND respects you. Both have to be true. If they just like you, they'll go have a beer with you but not give you their business. If they just respect you but not like you, this won't work long term. You only make partner when there are deals that come to the firm ONLY because you are there.

- Are there personal characteristics that can be considered success drivers?

-- build trust, keep secrets, don't badmouth (it's a small circle at the top), be genuine in what/who you like or don't like, and build a practice you are known for (e.g. "she always replies within a day").

- Can you learn them?

-- of course.

- What are absolute no-gos? etc.

-- covered above. It's all very relationship driven. It is important you take a long, long view of your career and think who will be your go-to person in 10yrs time and which of these people you actually want to be close friends with and then spend the time to cultivate a meaningful professional reln with them.


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