There are plenty of consulting perks that almost everyone knows about from listening to friends in the industry (or, let’s be honest, watching Up in the Air): the travel perks (and points), the good pay, the nice suits.
But there are a number of lesser-known reasons to work in consulting—that might provide a little more meaning than the moolah. If you’re feeling on the fence about the field, check out these five potentially better reasons to explore, choose, or stay in consulting.
1. You’ll Skip the C-Suite Line
Many people work their whole lives to climb the corporate ladder and begin working on company-wide strategic problems. There are very few professions or opportunities where you can skip the years of executing day to day duties and jump straight to working on and solving these problems.
While you may not be CEO (yet!), consulting presents a unique opportunity to exercise your strategy muscle and get exposure to this type of thinking. Whether or not you stay in consulting, knowing what keeps senior leaders up at night—and knowing that you can help them address those issues—is a huge reason to get into the field.
2. You Get to Try a Lot On
I hear this benefit of joining consulting from our new hires out of school all the time. Often when people graduate they are unsure, or sometimes purposefully don’t want to pick, which career field or industry they want to get into.
Due to its nature of varied and often frequently changing projects, consulting allows those who pick the career to rapidly try out industries, functional areas, and even geographies to see what they like most. Even if you are sure of a specific industry, consulting gives you the chance to see different company cultures and meet people within the company, which can be a huge step in picking somewhere you can be successful in your next career move. And if you do choose to stay in consulting? There are so many practice areas and niches that everyone seems to find somewhere that fits them perfectly.
3. You’ll Get an Almost Instant Network
Joining a consulting firm is one of the quickest and most effective ways to build a vast and valuable network. On one side, you will work with multiple clients and stakeholders through the course of your different projects. This will allow you to build relationships across multiple organizations (with usually quite senior individuals) that can turn into job offers, other consulting engagements, or even into mentorships.
On the other hand, working in consulting will allow you to work with individuals who share many of your same characteristics (it’s like a gathering of A-type personalities). As your former colleagues move into other career paths (see: consulting exit strategies), you will have a special bond that will continue on for years to come (remember that project where you worked crazy hours squished into a tiny boardroom?). The large network you build will likely span across cities, companies, and seniority levels—and is definitely one of the best reasons to work in consulting.
4. You’ll Quickly Become an Expert
The training and speed at which you learn in consulting is unparalleled. Sure, there are lots of formal training programs to take advantage of (which are not to be minimized), but you will also be able to learn on the job. Because the projects are fast-paced and you are typically working with teams, you get to learn quickly from those who are more experienced and will find yourself becoming a “quick expert” in all kinds of fields; I feel like I’ve gained mastery in areas ranging from developing organization-wide KPIs to conducting stakeholder interviews to assessing the potential savings companies can achieve through supply chain contracts in just a matter of years.
Consultants are also expected to stay ahead of trends, so not only will you be reading about large macro trends in the industry or affecting your client, but you will also challenge and discuss these trends with other people you work with.
5. You’ll Have More Opportunities to Grow
Consulting has a hierarchy, sure, but it also has a huge undercurrent of merit-based opportunities and performance. If you are great at what you do, you will be rewarded, and—unlike many other jobs—you don’t have to wait for your boss to leave in order to progress.
You can also ask for “stretch” roles where you are building your skill set outside of your level. I have seen very junior people become the “go-to” and earn a seat at the table with partners, all based on the capabilities, credibility, and confidence they possess.
Yes, consulting has its downsides, but it’s not without plenty of opportunities to learn, grow, and progress as a professional. (Oh, and yes—the frequent flier miles are pretty nice, too.)