Last week I started a new job as a Senior Consultant for one of the larger consulting firms here in Houston, Texas. I figured that this might be a great time to start a new weekly topic on consulting. Since I am pretty much a newbie to the consulting world, this would be a great place to post about my experiences in this new job field so that 1) others can share in my experiences and hopefully learn from them and 2) give insight to what I learn as I become a better (hopefully) consultant. I think that others might be able to benefit from my experiences and apply them to their situation. I know that there are a lot of people just like me, starting fresh consulting careers. Either they, like me, worked in a large corporation or they are fresh out of college and new to the IT job world.
On the Bench
Apparently when you are in the consultant world and not on a project (aka not “at a client”), you are known as being “on the bench” or “idle” and during this time you are most likely at your consulting firm’s office working on updating your resume, talking to account executives (or sales people, the ones that find the projects to put you on), and learning/improving your skill set. The last two are the biggies here. You have to talk to the account executives to 1) let them know you are on the bench and 2) to find out what projects exist and to let them know you can do what they need, if you can. It is a good practice to be honest with your skill set and let them know if you really can not perform a specific task that might be expected of you. You do not want to say you can do something when you really can not, it will only hurt your reputation as well as your companies. So stay honest.
To seasoned consultants, this might be common knowledge, but many new folks are eager to get on a project and can easily over extend themselves by talking up their skill set. It is better to say you are at a beginner level if that is truly where you are. Your account executives might even have an entry level project that will help you get out of that beginner status on a certain skill. Chances are your firm wants you to become better and will place you on entry level projects if they have them so that you can extend and improve a certain skill set.
So, what if there are no entry level projects and you are on the bench? Well, you can find out what skill sets are needed by talking to the account executives and start studying up on those (we will go over this in more detail in a future post). You can also go over your firm’s documentation. Find out what they expect from someone at your level, see what resources are available to you and utilize them. Hopefully they have supplied you with a nice set of training materials that you can utilize to better yourself. If you can achieve a certification for your skill set, start working on that. The idea is to improve your skill set, because it makes you more marketable, which means less time on the bench and not billing. To be useful to your firm, you need to be billing which means you need to be at a client so that they are paying your firm for your being there.
The Future Looks Bright
As I continue to learn things about consulting and the world in which it exists, you can find tidbits and information here every Thursday. This will probably include some complaining about clients but that is part of the job, the idea is to learn from that and be better prepared to handle it next time. Hopefully others out there like me can learn from me.