Considering a Career as an IT Consultant?
In essence, an IT Support consultant is a partner for their clients, providing strategic guidance on using and integrating computer systems and technology. An IT consultant should be a technical expert but also needs to be sensitive to the business environment in which they are operating. Ultimately, IT consultants ensure that companies get the best value from their systems, combining technical expertise with knowledge of their clients’ workplace to find an optimal solution.
Is consulting right for you?
The consulting world is demanding. Clients rely on accurate advice, so you need to be an expert in your chosen field. That means everything from meticulously planning projects to calculating budgets and timescales accurately.
You need the soft skills necessary for consulting – you’ll be working with many different clients, so listening well and being able to collaborate effectively are key requirements. In addition, IT consultants must have an open mind and be ready to accept failure; not every project will work out as planned.
Consulting is an exciting career for the driven, skilled and ambitious individual. You’ll be working with cutting-edge technology, operating at the forefront of a rapidly advancing industry. The nature of your work means you’ll have a range of clients across different sectors, so you’ll develop a wide range of skills and expertise. The most successful IT consultants build trust and a strong portfolio of clients over the years, leading to a lucrative and fulfilling career.
How to Enter the IT Consulting Industry
IT consultants are technical experts, so you’ll typically need at least an undergraduate degree in computer science or IT. Similar degrees like maths or certain sciences are accepted if you demonstrate extensive knowledge of technology and a strong work ethic.
Consultancies value applicants who take the initiative and show they are quick learners. Internships are an excellent way to get relevant experience while still at university.
For those looking to change careers, moving from a related field like web development or programming gives you valuable skills to carry forward into consulting.
Most large consulting companies have graduate schemes for students straight out of university. These schemes are highly competitive, so a strong degree, related work experience and demonstration of extracurricular activities are critical for you to stand out.
At your interview, you’ll be assessed on your technical abilities but also your communication skills and adaptability to new situations – critical skills for any consultant.
Typically, IT consultants can be responsible for:
- Consulting with clients to understand their needs and then propose effective solutions.
- Designing, planning and determining the scope of a project.
- Working with a team to execute project plans.
- Handling budgets.
- Monitoring progress against deadlines.
- Dealing with issues as they arise.
- Managing client relationships throughout the project.
- Keep abreast of new developments in your field.
- Continuing professional development (CPD) – like other professionals, consultants need to demonstrate they are experts in their field through ongoing learning.
‘Consultant’ is a general term, so you will likely have a variety of responsibilities that change based on the scope of a project. For instance, one client may only need technical advice on a new system, whereas another may require a project manager to oversee the implementation of a new system.
The first step in any career is gaining general experience. Those starting at a consulting company will develop their technical and business skills through various projects while also getting exposure to clients and learning how they operate.
If you excel in this environment, it can lead to greater responsibility and more challenging roles. Large consultancies will have an established career path from junior to senior positions, with an emphasis on individual management for your progression. Getting the desired results for your clients will hopefully be rewarded with promotions and bonuses, as well as the opportunity to work on larger, more complex projects.
Technology is a diverse industry, so you can choose to specialise in a range of areas. For instance, a consultant with a background in mathematics may wish to focus on financial systems, whereas another may choose to specialise in cyber security. A large part of what makes consulting so rewarding is that your professional career can develop as you see fit.
With experience and a portfolio of clients, you may wish to start your own business. By setting up your own consulting firm, you have the freedom to decide on what projects to take on and how you want to structure your business. Conversely, if you decide to leave consulting, your experience in this field will be an invaluable asset in your next role. Consulting is a strong addition to a résumé, so you can progress into senior management roles and be responsible for larger projects or business units.
Why you should consider a career in IT consulting
This is a varied profession, as IT consultants have a great deal of autonomy and take on a large range of challenges. From developing strategies to managing teams and IT project design, the role covers all elements of an IT department with top-level responsibilities. You are unlikely to be working for a client for more than six months, and coupled with the opportunity to travel both between cities and internationally, your work environment will be kept varied and exciting.
As an IT consultant, you will have a range of in-demand skills that you can use across different industries. You are an expert in your field, so there is a great opportunity to develop your career in this capacity – including specialising in your area of interest, consulting for large organisations and continuing to learn about the latest technology.
IT consulting is a lucrative profession, with regular bonuses and strong incentives. Private health insurance, generous vacation time and pension plans are regularly available among the larger consulting firms.
Work with emerging technologies:
As a technology consultant, you work alongside tech companies, start-ups and large organisations across a diverse range of industries. You will be exposed to emerging technologies that can improve future workplaces, from productive office applications to artificial intelligence. Your career will keep you at the forefront of this fascinating industry, helping companies shape and develop their work environments.
Things to consider
Working for multiple companies
While working for several companies will keep your skills fresh, it can be disheartening to end a project with one company and start another. This continual change of location and new teams can make life difficult if you are looking for long-term employment or want to settle down in one city. You may feel like an outsider in these work environments and have fewer opportunities to make friends.
IT consulting may be advertised as a 9–5 job, but the reality is your working day is dependent on the project. Smaller advisory roles are typically confined to ordinary business hours, but larger projects can require a significantly longer working day, with overtime on the weekends common if deadlines are approaching.
The nature of consulting means you need to find clients for a steady revenue stream. Finishing one project without another lined up can lead to a stressful job search while not having any active income.
You are often out of your comfort zone, and you need to be able to quickly adapt your skillset to work within a different industry and organisation. You will face new problems that may not have easy solutions, as these companies are looking for an expert opinion rather than a quick fix.
Working as a consultant is a demanding job that requires continuous learning. Ensuring your client gets the best out of their systems means you have to be an expert, not just on their infrastructure but their work environment as well. You need to understand new technologies and adapt to the needs of different companies.
Keep in Mind
Consulting is a career that rewards careful planning and commitment. You need to be willing to work hard and dedicate yourself fully to your projects, with no guarantee of immediate success.
Failure is part of being a consultant; not every project will work as planned. The best consultants are well-versed in overcoming setbacks to deliver the best solution for their clients.
Consulting is a demanding but rewarding career path. As the IT industry continues to advance, consulting roles will become increasingly in-demand – giving skilled and ambitious individuals a perfect platform from which to launch a successful and lucrative career.
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