Throughout a career at a consultancy firm, consultants generally try to progress to the top. At every firm a growth path can take shape differently, but on the whole advisors go through at least five to seven ranks at an advisory organisation before entering the highest tier.
Consultancy.uk presents an overview of the most common functions held by consultancy professionals, from the moment they start at the bottom of their career ladder.
A newly graduated, young professional at most (larger) advisory firms, it is common to start as Analyst, Business Analyst or Junior Consultant. In these types of supporting roles, your duties will vary from research to collecting data or carrying out an analysis of e.g. sectors, markets and companies. At most firms, you will spend the largest portion of your time at clients and supporting analysis and project management activities. Young advisors typically have a declarability of 80% and above. The rest of the time, consultants participate in several trainings and development programmes made to improve their own consultancy skills.
The next rank in consultancy is that of Consultant or Advisor, also called Associates at some firms. Besides Analysts, who have progressed into this role (usually after two to five years), consultants with some experience can also step into this level – experience gained, for instance, in a similar branch – or professionals that step in after completing an MBA. For either clients or for research, consultants are responsible for defining the problem, drafting hypothesis, communicating their findings and making recommendations to the client. Additionally, consultants offer support and advice with the implementation of the final change to be carried out. Subsequently, they also manage the group of analysis involved in the implementation. Consultants relatively spend a lot of attention to strengthening their professional and sector knowledge as well as further developing their skill set.
After several years of working as Consultant, most professionals progress to the role of Senior Consultant (or Senior Advisor, Senior Associate). In this function, many responsibilities lie on project management of relatively small scale projects to managing a specific area for a larger project. Aside from these responsibilities, senior consultants manage client teams and contribute by way of input in sales, marketing and leadership strategies within the organisation.
The next function up the consultancy career ladder is often (Senior) Manager. In this role, you manage all aspects and phases of a project and are the one held accountable for meeting project deadlines. Moreover, you function as the first point of contact for clients and are responsible for delivering solutions to the business challenges they face. Managers also play a role in internal activities, including the development of service propositions, business development and the development of thought leadership.
The level of Principal or Director is the following rang, also known as the 'future partners' – Principals therefore take a big-picture approach to client engagement and delivery. Considering that Directors straddle the roles of Manager and Partner, their responsibilities range from inspiring and guiding a team on a day-to-day basis to cultivating the relationship with senior clients.
Eventually, after roughly ten to fifteen years within a consultancy firm, consultants can progress to the role of Partner, in which you are expected to serve as sector expert and strategic advisor of the most important and ‘high level’ clients of the organisation. Aside from that, a partner is responsible for generating sales, furthering the firm in terms of growth and direction, creating innovative strategies and realising strategic goals. Partners can either be part-owner of a consultancy firm (Equity Partner) or have the same responsibilities without a financial stake (Non-Equity Partners).
As more professionals climb the career ladder, the time they spend on client engagements reduces. As Analyst or Junior Consultant you spend roughly 80% or more of your time on client projects, and the remaining 20% on professional developments of your own consultancy skills. As you progress into higher functions, the share of client projects and professional developments decreases and the focus shifts more to sales and project management. Only in the higher ranks (Senior Consultant/ Manager and up) does a consultant deal with internal management affairs (strategy assessment, management), sales (client management) and, for instance, coaching consultants.