Money. Power. Respect.
Not quite so, but they do sound rather enticing. Yes, all three notions are underlying perks that a career in management consulting provides. And yet, these are not the things that keep me on this career path. To better explain why, I would like to introduce the Japanese concept of Ikigai, a term for ‘a reason for being’.
The philosophy is to balance your passion, mission, profession, and vocation to find worth in one’s own life. There are things that one is good—skills that one can develop and success to be made. That which one loves could add meaning to the daily activities in one’s life. Moreover, one should also look at how to receive proper compensation and net worth for the sweat on one’s brow. Lastly, the world can be changed by one’s action, value to be added and earth to be moved. These components indicate the source of value in one’s life, and profession has a major role in finding fulfillment and meaning to the actions and beliefs of an individual.
For me, personally, management consulting has been all about finding value and placing meaning behind it. Consulting has tremendous influence on individuals, companies, and even entire markets, yet this line of work also produces a natural environment for self-development and growth.
Constant ChallengesThere have been times where I might have been unsure of myself and where to begin on a project, but I believe it is alright to not know why initially. What matters is to adapt and learn from the constant challenges that occur in consulting. One recent example was engaging with suppliers on behalf of our clients. Some suppliers are hesitant to share data, feeling unsure of the initiative that my firm pushes for the client. I enjoy the need to seek multiple means of creating value, and not every question has just one answer. I could try to follow up on all their interjections, but that would waste crucial project time. I could also be demanding, but that would hurt client-supplier relationship. One of the key design of consulting is that there are multiple avenues to approach a project and get results. Being able to figure out your own method and making sure that method could be the best one for a particular case is an interminable struggle, one that forces you to reinvent the wheel.
I chose to be firm in what was necessary, giving clearer explanations and reaffirming the directive of the project to assure the supplier that we were not targeting the vendor itself. Consulting provides multiple opportunities where I felt that my previous methods were either out of scope or underdeveloped, allowing me to better take on new business opportunities in the future and develop my skill set.
Client-Facing InteractionsOne proverb I have heard is that the secret to happiness is helping others. Consulting is literally the occupation of helping others. Although I have yet to find the secret to happiness myself, client-facing interactions have been one of my most enjoyable moments in consulting. Clients oftentimes come to my company to find inefficient areas to improve and new strategies to develop. Client engagement has been a broadening experience because each client I have listened to so far have had their own unique set of issues and perspectives, and, at the same time, they also share some similar interests and objectives.
One of the qualitative values that clients stress is the importance of robust and positive supplier relationships. In my experience, there have been cases where clients moved away from partners with noncompetitive solutions or service issues. There are other cases where a great relationship could be leveraged and negotiated by volume or length of relationship. Being able to understand what my clients want to develop is something special, for it places responsibility onto me to make it so.
Category ExpertiseI enjoy executing both tested and innovative methods to achieve results in this line of work. Consulting is a career that is very high-level in scope where broad strokes and precise etchings can truly drive value for organizations. This career, therefore, requires specific category expertise. It has given me insight into a diverse set of categories from logistics to staffing to indirect materials. There is incredible range of experiences and projects that provides amazing learning opportunities to take to industry.
Many of my senior colleagues oftentimes have expertise in a single or a couple categories that provide a great wealth of knowledge into the strategies and project management of the work. Consulting is a field where collaboration is vital to project success, and coworkers are usually more than happy to foster growth and interest into their field expertise. Over time, as new categories arise and your own abilities improve, consulting provides the means to make specialization an area of success.
Overall, it would sound fulfilling that I am content with where I have right now. But, I am not, and the reason is my choice of consulting as my career path. Consulting pushes you to be ambitious, ever striving to find improvements and drive value. It has a high learning curve and time commitment, but it is a pursuit that pushes you to evolve and adapt. To me, being able to find meaning is not necessarily the same thing as finding comfort. Everyone has something that strikes a fire in their belly, and it may just be simply money, power, and respect, but for me, consulting is a very complex career path with nuances that forces me out of my comfort zone and pushes me to make my life worthwhile.