Chloe Homans and Ben Williams on an education in consulting

19 March 2020 6 min. read
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As the Management Consultancies Association looks to better highlight the contribution of young consultants to the industry, the trade body has published a series of interviews celebrating the work of the industry’s next generation. As part of this, Chloe Homans of Moorhouse and Ben Williams of NECS Consultancy spoke about the high-points of their early careers in the professional services industry.

With British businesses facing a myriad of disruptive challenges in the years ahead, providing support to new consultants who assist organisations with adapting to those coming changes is extremely important. In this challenging environment, the ability of the next generation of consultants to hit the ground running is crucial. As a result, the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK, the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) has sought to emphasise the role young consultants play in the future of UK business.

One example of this will see an added emphasis on the latest crop of British consultants at this year’s MCA Awards. Alongside the tightly contested Young Consultant of the Year prize, two new awards for the Best New Apprentice and Rising Star (aimed at consultants with three or fewer years of experience) will be introduced to celebrate the efforts of those at the start of their career already making a major impact – while also highlighting the best practices of their bosses in training and trusting them to make the right call.

Chlie Homans and Ben Williams - Young MCA

The rapid learning curve that the early responsibilities of a consulting career enables was a key draw for Chloe Homans, one of several young consultants profiled by the MCA at the start of the year. Speaking on the organisation’s website, Homans explained that “having left school with only a few GCSEs” and worked little in an office environment,” she knew she needed to throw herself “straight into the deep end” to gain experience. She subsequently took a role as a temporary Executive Assistant at Moorhouse, supporting the diaries of five busy Partners – but quickly found consulting offered a diversity of further opportunities.

Homans explained, “I quickly got to grasp and enjoyed my role as the EA, but my passion for marketing was no secret, and as soon as the opportunity became available within the marketing team, I was first to put my hand up… I have now been in the Marketing team coming up to three years, and whilst every day is never the same, it is always a fun, fast-paced working environment with exciting potential around every corner. A typical day for me would consist of a marketing team catch-up first thing in the morning, looking at our priorities for the day, week and month.” 

Ben Williams similarly discovered that a temporary role in consulting can quickly lead to taking root in the sector on a more permanent basis. Williams initially experienced consulting during a placement with the North of England Commissioning Support (NECS) Consultancy team, as part of the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, and until then he had “never considered consultancy as a career,” but like many young entrants to the industry, he soon found himself drawn to two characteristics inherent to consultancy; “the variety of work available” and the opportunities to “explore challenging problems.” 

Williams revealed, “When a permanent role within the team was advertised I was quick to apply and thrilled to be offered the job! It’s early days in my consultancy career, but so far I’m really enjoying the opportunities to collaborate with such a varied cross-section of people. It’s been a great way to learn new things, gain new insights and expose myself to different perspectives… As a member of the Yorkshire team, I’m currently supporting a department of an NHS arm’s-length body to deliver transformational changes to their operating model.”

While there is room for quick career growth, and expanding an individual’s tool-kit at pace, however, entry-level consulting is by no means a walk in the park. Williams admitted that he would be “lying if I said everything has been plain sailing,” and that while he always set high standards for himself, since becoming a consultant “I’ve really pushed myself… to give the client the most value.” That extra pressure can be exhausting at times as “one of the biggest challenges” he has faced personally. Even so, Williams would still heartily recommend consulting to school-leavers looking to jump-start their working lives.

“I’m learning to say no or ask for support when I’m feeling over-faced and I’m pretty good at making sure I switch off from my work to see friends and relax,” he expanded. “To anyone thinking about consultancy as a career I’d say that I’ve found it to be a really exciting and worthwhile profession. I think you’d be able to find quick and easy ways to apply knowledge and skills you already have to a career in consultancy. Aside from the obvious benefits of variety and experience I also think you would be surprised at how appreciative clients can be for your input and support and just how rewarding that can be!”

Similarly, Homans remains extremely positive about the career launch-pad consulting presents. Currently nominated for Apprentice of the Year at the MCA Awards, Homans enrolled in and completed a 12-month marketing apprenticeship in just six months. The dedication and passion she demonstrated did not go unnoticed, and soon afterwards she was promoted to Marketing Advisor. Alongside her day to day at Moorhouse she is now using her spare time studying a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing and Digital Marketing course, as she looks to take fully advantage of the educational side of the industry.

She concluded, “If you are considering a career in consulting, my advice is to be open-minded to every opportunity in front of you – you never really know what you can learn until you have had the opportunity to learn from the opportunity in front of you. I would also encourage you to build and nurture relationships. This all adds to your personal brand and one of the key things that you personally have control over can influence and shape. I will never forget someone telling me that you build your personal brand in inches and lose it in feet.”