It’s rare to meet a consultant who hasn’t spent some time on the bench, but what you do while you’re there makes the difference. Although you might be tempted to take a break and step away from the bustle, out of sight means out of mind. So then the question is: What do I do? Well, here’s a few suggestions!
Business development work is your opportunity to learn about sales without a lot of pressure to start off with. You’ll encounter unorthodox approaches to different clients you might not usually encounter. You’ll have to put up with the intern-y grunt work of coffee and copies. You’ll probably be doing all sorts of assorted work that you might think is beneath you. Now’s the time to think again: this is your chance to impress some big wigs, get your name out there, and help the company a little.
Training (virtual or in-person)
Most consulting companies will either offer in-house training opportunities or possibly sponsor professional certifications like the PMP to grow their people. After all, it’s cheaper for the company to offer those sorts of courses than to lose them. It’s all about keeping people engaged in a people-based business, and you’d be silly not to sign up for anything you can get your name on.
Non-billable support work for other projects
The skills here that you’ll pick up, such as invoicing, logistics, and client relations work (e.g. putting together a feel-good end-of-year summary presentation celebrating the culminating work) earns you crucial experience that can help you run your own business. It’s also a chance to ingratiate yourself with the account manager and get plugged into a bird’s-eye view of the project, where you can have a vantage point to pick and choose a choice assignment. Again, not the most glamorous work out there, but important stuff that makes consulting work and could benefit you.
Internal volunteer work and networking
At consulting firms small and large, you should always keep the schmooze on. You never know when you’ll meet the right manager or partner who was impressed with your work and believes they can count on your energy, enthusiasm, and skill set for that ripe project you’ve been eyeing.
You’ll get a chance to practice what you preach, and whether its linked to your company or not, there’s a lot you can get out of helping non-profits and charitable causes, like connections and critical experience just to name two!
Methodology development and knowledge management contributions
Last but not least, consulting is a fundamentally people-oriented business that depends on experience and expertise. You can’t build on the wealth of completed projects if you don’t know what happened in the past, and this is where an intranet or even a shared folder with your past work comes in super-handy. The stuff you do doesn’t have to be original or ground-breaking; in fact, if you solved a problem the same way as someone else, that’s the beginning of validating an approach, which is very valuable. In many consulting engagements, reinventing the wheel is sometimes inevitable; you should do what you can to learn from the experience, and put your name out there as an expert.
Conclusion: There’s no shortage of stuff you can do, but there’s never enough time to do these things. In general, pitch in, network, and get your name out there. It’s how you spend your free time that makes you successful.