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Learning the Unwritten Rules of Consulting
When I started out my IT consulting career, I made sure to read and follow the firm’s guidelines. Not that I’m a prodigious goody-two-shoes rule-follower – I can question authority with the best of them. I just wanted to make sure I did a good job and conformed to an acceptable degree. If the firm required me to wear a suit and tie, who was I to fight that?
I didn’t have too much trouble learning the firm’s basic guidelines and following them. The difficulty that I had – and still do, to some degree - was learning the unwritten rules. Underneath all of the written rules was the question "What is Consulting?".
The unwritten rules are what answers that question. These rules are sometimes based on politics, such as “You don’t bother Mary until she has had her first cup of coffee” or “You don’t ask questions during one of Bill’s presentations until he is done.”
If you don’t befriend someone or have a mentor to bring you up to speed, you’re on your own. It may take months of:
In addition to a company’s unwritten rules, there is usually a set that applies within your given industry. Within the consulting industry, these are the ones that I learned the hard way:
After a few painful years, I began to catch on and the rules for behavior became second nature. As I progressed in my career, I saw newbies – either green college graduates or experienced hires that had never worked in consulting – who did their jobs well, but didn’t know the unwritten rules regarding how to communicate with clients, manage client expectations or manage their own consulting career.
These observations resulted in more than just a few complaint sessions with fellow seasoned consultants over lunch or drinks after work. Forgetting my own learning curve, I often wondered how these people could be so clueless. We all agreed that there should be some type of Consulting 101 orientation to teach new consultants the basic blocking and tackling to supplement their technical and industry knowledge.
After a few years of the “Somebody ought to…” attitude, I finally decided to do something about it myself. That’s why I wrote Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting.
I poured over the past mistakes I had made and had observed others make. It resulted in a long list, I’m embarrassed to say. I pared it down to what I considered the most important 101 items.
I've found that I always learn better when I’m given an example. That’s probably how we learn from our mistakes and from others’ mistakes. If we have a hard example to link to, it makes it easier to remember.
So for as many of the tips as I could, I created a case study; an example of how a consultant broke the rule and (hopefully) learned from it. Many of the stories are true with names changed to protect the guilty. See the excerpts of Consulting 101 for a few examples.
My secret subtitle for this book was “If I knew then what I know now”. If you are considering becoming a consultant, Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting will provide you with some of the unwritten rules that govern how you manage the client, your career and so many other things in the consulting industry.
Order it today and get started on a successful consulting career.