It’s no accident that being a consultant is often the goal for many a worker; it is perceived as a cushy number, a well paid sinecure solving other people’s problems and not living with the consequences. So, what are the best bits about being a con(slut)ant?
You are handsomely rewarded. Not in the league of a premier league footballer, or possibly even an IT contractor, but well enough for the work required: more than a teacher but slightly less than a headmaster (ish). Likely to be slightly more than you’d get as the equivalent industry position. Don’t forget your car allowance too. It’s the way the employers give their staff another £6K per year without having to pay National Insurance, pension or it to be bonusable. All of this and the other cash benefits below add a good 20% to 60% onto your base salary.
Culture of expenses. Everyone claims expenses, it’s expected. Expenses for expensive coffee. Taking a client to lunch. Taking your team to lunch. It’s just so much easier in a consultancy where the expectation is that there are expenses and usually approvals are delegated from the budget holder to their PA who may query a high-value item but it usually goes through.
Cash benefits. Consultancies usually have great benefits: healthcare; gym; pension; lunch allowance; concierge service; wellbeing; expenses for everything as noted; fully expensed mobile telephone
More cash benefits. With all these expenses the consultant would be daft not to push them through a credit card that gives them points/cash/miles. When you are in a hotel, booking flights and racking up £1,000 of expenses every single week the points add up.
And more. If you are in a hotel, all your meals are provided for. Some consultants without families will not have a permanent home but may rent out their flat or use a relative’s address. They then effectively live free of charge at the client’s expense. What they do is have a big breakfast at the Hilton and squirrel away a bit into a doggy bag which they have for lunch. They then get their £30 per deim which they spend at Tesco and scoff in their room.
And more. The cash benefits really do go on. The consultant gets an annual bonus. This is usually in the range of 10% for the worker consultant, to 15% for the team leader. Up to 50% for the principal or director. Of course, for equity partners then the sky is the proverbial limit. They may get their broadband at home paid for, unused laptops will find their way into the consultants own home (for return when they resign),
And more and more. Yes, even more. The consultancy realises that it’s only asset is the CV of its staff, so they will pay for: exams (though often only if passed); courses (though these tend to be frowned on if too expensive); professional body membership (the consultant may well be a member of half a dozen organisations costing a grand a year); attendance at conferences provided the utilisation remains high.
And more, here is the big one. If they are smart they get their travel paid for. As the typical consultant will usually work on a client site, the engagement letter will specify that expenses are paid so the consultancy does not care that the individual’s travel from home is paid for. In the case where the consultant is based in an office that isn’t the office they are working in, it becomes easier to get this through. This is particularly useful where the consultant does not live in London as most consultancies tend to do much of their work there. The numbers on this really can be staggering. Consultants will happily live in, say, Manchester and be based there but work in London and travel every day (see the hotel …). Or they will live within two hours commute which may cost say £8K per year, but they’d have to earn £16K to take home the £8K to pay for the season ticket. Meaning the consultant’s effective pay is increased by a whopping £16K. Though this does make it harder to find the next industry role.
It’s easy work. The actual work is easy, although admittedly the client may well expect you to be on site all day and you may have to live out of a hotel. A typical consultant doesn’t have to live with or implement the consequences of their actions. The tasks are usually within their skill set; if they are not, then your employer will pay for you to read a book. The good consultant only needs to be one chapter ahead of the client.
Someone else gets the work for you. Resource management exist to match your CV with the new opportunities. Often with no interview or competency test.
Varied work. When you get into the office on a Monday morning you’ve no idea where they will send you on Monday afternoon.
Easy entry to new clients. Resource management or the client lead partner wants an analyst for Barclays, Shell, MoD, Sainsbury’s or any other client for which the consultant has zero industry expertise. It’s easier to get a role with no industry expertise and therefore increase your skillset. You might be a government expert, with experience only with MoD: in open competition, you’d never get a role with a bank either as a permie or a contractor because they would simply look at your experience and that of the next person. However, the consultancy will happily place you because they understand that sometimes subject matter trumps industry. Now you’ve got banking expertise, which you can spin into SOX, BASEL, PCI DSS or whatever you want. So now, you can get that contract role with the bank and the transition is compete.
Flexible working. As long as you are earning a fee, no one back on the mother ship cares where you are. You could be on the moon. More likely you are working from home. Unless the client wants to see bums on seats of course. Just make sure you send emails in the evening.
Team around you. As a consultant you’ll have a team of like-minded subject matter experts around you. If the client asks you to do something you’ve not done before, just ask on the mailing list and someone will help. This is possibly one of the major advantages for clients where typically the entire functional team may be one person and if there are others, they won’t often be as trained or skilled as the consultancy team.
Open neckwear. Many men in many consultancies don’t wear a tie. They are expected to wear a suit. Women are expected to dress up, but not too tarty. You can usually spot the consultant in a room full of clients, especially where the client staff are female civil servants or female council workers. It’s harder with male council workers, but their suits tend to have ties and the shirts don’t come from Thomas Pink.
Promotion. The consultancy is oriented on consultant grades. The expectation is that the individual will apply for promotion and move up the ranks. That client team in industry may well have been at the same pay grade and position for the past ten years. How depressing is that?
Great CV. If the consultant has to find a new job, the CV will usually be pretty good as there will be many varied clients; varied projects; and opportunities to demonstrate functional and behavioural excellence.
Always learning. The constant churn of new projects means that the consultant always has opportunities to learn new best practice and improve those skills.
Respected views. While the client won’t respect the individual in a corporate sense, the views will be respected, not least because that report cost them £30K. The report may well be filed and never read, but it will at least be there. The client may well believe that the consultant is a god-on-earth and possess a unique insight. Which is all very flattering.
Vendors love you. And will buy you lunch.
Just a few of the reasons to be cheerful when working as a consultant. Might explain why the competition is quite high.