If you want to work as a consultant, you’ll need hard and soft skills to succeed. Firms like McKinsey, Bain, and other companies constantly hire candidates with superb soft skills. This piece will discuss the top 12 soft skills for consulting and how you can develop them if you lack in that area.
Soft Skills Versus Hard Skills
To succeed in any business or employment situation, you must have a sufficient number of soft and hard skills. Hard skills are technical abilities and the tasks you learn in formal educational environments and work experience situations.
Examples of hard skills are computer savviness, mechanical abilities, statistical analysis aptitude, and bilingual speech. Soft skills pertain to how you communicate and relate to other individuals. They include personality traits such as empathy, critical thinking, integrity, problem-solving, etc.
All employers seek hard and soft skills in their candidates. However, soft skills for consulting are mandatory and are sometimes more crucial than hard skills. Consultants need to understand their clients, help them solve problems, and make practical suggestions that will improve their profits or workflow issues.
Facts About Soft Skills
Many companies have performed research on soft skills and their role in workplaces. In 2016, a company named TRVST concluded that 93 percent of employers felt that soft skills were essential in the workplace. They also stated that 55 percent of company leaders reported that hiring candidates with the right soft skills was the most significant challenge in the recruiting process.
Harvard University claimed that 85 percent of success in any job comes from having strong soft skills, and only about 15 percent comes from technical abilities. You can tell by those figures that soft skills are vital, but they are also the most lacking elements in workplaces.
Top 12 Soft Skills for Consulting
A consulting job consists of mostly soft skills. These are some of the top ones leading firms seek when they hire consultants to work for them:
Empathy is one of the leading soft skills in the consulting business, and it goes hand-in-hand with compassion. A top consultant not only has to care about the clients, but this person must also understand their plight.
Additionally, the consultant must desire to help the clients solve their issues. Empathy is not a soft skill an employer can easily teach with a simple training course, and thus, it’s one of the top desired skills for aspiring consultants.
Compassion is a close relative of empathy, but it’s not the same. It’s the ability to be sympathetic, considerate, and understanding of someone’s situation, and it often includes the urge to help in any way possible.
Compassion is vital for consulting because consultants need to care about their clients’ business success. They must have a deep enough sense of compassion and empathy to take considerable steps to help businesses through challenging dynamics, competitive struggles, and employee relations issues.
Problem-solving skills are also highly desired by top consulting firms. Solving an issue is the crux of consulting. Business persons speak to consultants about areas where they need to improve operations. Therefore, a high-performing consultant will know how to think outside the box to assist clients in overcoming challenges.
4. Analytical Skills
Consultants need to view the insides, outsides, and in-betweens of situations their clients present. A person with analytical skills knows how to peek deep inside an issue and find the root causes and solutions. These skills can be pretty helpful in management consulting, financial counseling, and business strategizing.
5. Time Management Skills
Most consultants tend to several clients or business accounts at once. Thus, time-management skills are crucial to their success in the position. Having excellent time-management skills means that the person knows how to take advantage of every second of the day to make his or her work efforts more productive.
Consultants are expected to give the same level of care and attention to each client, and time management is crucial to executing that work style properly.
Creativeness is a soft skill that many people overlook. However, it plays a massive role in consulting. Strategizing often involves using creative processes, marketing styles, or training ideas. Thus, a person with an artistic or creative nature is the perfect person to innovate whilst doing a consulting job.
The ability to communicate in all ways is a soft skill lacking in many places. Consultants should have a firm grasp of one-on-one communication, telephonic conferencing, email, text messaging, and the like.
There will be times when clients can’t come in for personalized meetings, and the consultant will need to improvise to discuss projects and strategies. Furthermore, a consultant acts as a counselor or advisor in many situations. Therefore, such a person must be articulate and poised enough to communicate points and strategies effectively.
Listening skills are paramount to consulting, as both parties need to understand each other when meeting. The consultant must evaluate the client’s needs and decipher the help required to solve the problem or improve the business. The first rule of interacting with any business client is listening to what that person needs. Thus, this skill is a non-negotiable attribute.
9. Conflict Resolution
Problems will not only arise in performing the job but are also a considerable part of the job. Many clients come to consulting firms because they have issues they need help solving. Aside from that, not all clients are friendly and easy to work with, and conflict resolution skills will need to be strong when such situations arise.
Confidence is another skill a top consulting firm desires in its workers. They aren’t looking for overconfidence but that the consultant has enough faith in his or her client’s recommendations.
They want their consultants to stand behind any decision they make with complete trust in their abilities and competencies. That’s not a soft skill that many interviewers can gauge during the initial meeting, but a lack of it will show early on in the person’s career.
The ability to prioritize what’s most important is another desirable skill a consultant must have. The skill must be present to prioritize accounts and tackle the problems most prevalent for each client.
Speed is something that improves over time as consultants develop their skills. A speedy consultant knows how to analyze data, develop solutions, and make recommendations for clients faster than the average consultant. It’s one of the top consulting skills McKinsey and other firms like to see in their new workers.
That shortlist is only a few skills needed for strategy consulting and other collaborative efforts. Many more exist, but applicants with the key skills have a higher chance of succeeding.
Where To Get Consulting Soft Skills Training
Fortunately, there are some places where prospective consultants can obtain the necessary training to give them higher chances of getting and keeping a job. Third-party providers offer consulting soft skills training courses for organizations that need to develop their workers.
Some companies invest in live workshops or webinars that help teach soft skills. Businesses put their new consultants through these courses whether they seem to possess the skills or not. That way, all new consultants have the same chance to excel in the workplace.
Individuals can seek soft skills training on their own as well. Numerous educational organizations offer cultural competency and soft skills courses. The cost is minimal, and the education can help applicants become more well-rounded for a consulting job.
Most soft skills learning courses include categories and subject matter such as:
People skills are the tools necessary to interact with coworkers, clients, and bosses. A course of this type will most likely teach students how to handle various personalities and deal with how certain people express themselves.
Emotional intelligence is a critical soft skill that many workers need to develop. It involves being able to express and control one’s emotions while still maintaining a sense of empathy.
Successful workers must learn to work with others to achieve a common goal. This process, known as teamwork, is often required within corporations and businesses.
Interpersonal skills are required to communicate with clients, managers, and teammates. A course that covers these skills will help students to perfect the processes they use for in-person and long-distance communication. It will also focus on developing and strengthening workplace relations.
Leadership and Negotiation
A course of this kind may also cover leadership and negotiation skills for consultants who desire to advance. Negotiating is a vital part of the job for business consultants, and leadership skills are necessary for individuals who want to manage teams of consultants.
Gaining McKinsey soft skills from one of the above-mentioned programs can secure success for an aspiring or budding consultant.
Now you know the many soft skills for consulting, and you also know where to get the assistance and training you need to succeed in such a job. From here, you can assess your skill level and work on growing and developing yourself in those areas.
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Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.