If You Don’t Like Case Competitions, Does This Mean You Won’t Like or Be Good at Consulting?

I was posed on Quora a question similar to the above question, and below was my response. I highlight in bold, a key insight drawn from behavioral science.

One the one hand, case competitions leverage a lot of skills that career consultants end up using, such as problem solving skills under pressure, teamwork, communications, creativity, and persuasiveness. But there are also many other skills to master in consulting which are not part of case competitions such as street smarts, empathy, functional excellence, engagement management, leadership, industry knowledge, and advisory orientation. In consulting, you serve your client, not case competition evaluation boards.

Recognize that at the core of consuting is mentorship, apprenticeship, teamwork, and learning from experience. Namely, people learn how to become better and better consultants by starting the profession with enough core skills and appetities to get started. After being involved with a number of projects, one learns from others in the firm how to develop more and more skills and one’s professional identity. You may start in one place and find yourself in a very different place at a later point. Of course, the flavor of the firm and how you experience this may vary a lot from firm to firm.

I wouldn’t overindex and project too far into your future how much you would like consulting based on a single indicator. People are not that great at forecasting in complex situations where they have little prior experience and little feedback. On the other hand, if you are getting multiple warning signs, such as you dislike teamwork, dislike 99% of the people in consulting, have gotten feedback from other consultants that you are the wrong for the profession, have gotten feedback from people that know you well and know the profession that you are not a fit, dislike business, dislike companies, dislike people, then I might reflect a bit more. Remember, you might just start consulting with a strong skills and proclivities in a few areas and flourish over time. My keys to success in consulting (as evidenced solely by my ability to stay in the profession for decades) were probably my appetite for variety and my ability to adapt. I also had supportive managers at key pivot points in my career.

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