Consulting concerns improving the efficiency of a specific functional area of a business. Depending on their professional expertise, consultants may advise their clients on improving marketing strategy, increasing profitability, managing budgets, improving hiring practices, and more. In each of these examples, consultants are hired to provide advice that will help a business succeed. In other words, consultants are hired when a business has a goal or goals (such as a higher return on investments, or achieving a higher stock value) that it requires outside, specialized knowledge to achieve.
Due to the advisory nature of this work, consulting often involves a significant amount of traveling: a consultant is hired by a company (that may be in another part of the country), and travels to that company’s location to provide service until the project is complete. Projects can include mergers (when two companies combine into one), acquisitions (when one company buys out another), and much more.
Some examples of large, national consulting firms that work on mergers and acquisitions include McKinsey, Bain, and Accenture. An example of an independent consulting business is one in which a professional with expertise in a specific area (such as web design), provides this service to clients seeking it. In the case of McKinsey, a business might seek the expertise of a professional data analyst or statistician to conduct market research on how to reach a higher number of consumers. In the case of an independent consultant with expertise in web design, the individual might seek clients looking to recreate or revamp their websites from the ground up. In either case, a mutually beneficial relationship develops – a consultant is hired to provide advice that the client considers to be valuable to their own success.
Since consultants are present in almost every industry and can possess a wide variety of varying specialties, there is no “correct” major to select in order to become a professional consultant. However, some of the most common types of consulting include financial consulting – a consultant provides advice on pricing, business valuation, and economics forecasting, and IT consulting – a consultant provides advice on how to best to utilize technology, or adopt new systems to achieve a goal. Thus, learning to use data management tools such as R, SQL, and Tableau, along with pursuing an internship at a consulting firm in the Seattle area – such as Slalom Consulting or Protiviti – are great ways to try familiarizing yourself with the consulting industry, regardless of your major, and determine if it is the right fit for you.