Consultants are generally business subject matter experts (SMEs) hired externally to assist an organization for a defined term and project. However, although you may have an ongoing contract with your organization, you may also be an SME in HR, IT, Finance, CRM or Sales for example, in which case you are often called on for your expertise and therefore could be considered as an “internal” consultant. In any case, you can add value to your organization and boost your career by improving in the following ten categories:
Consultants always keep their client relationships on a professional level. Not only do they look and act their best, they keep their client’s needs in focus. Although you may not be a consultant, you may find yourself working with a partner organization or another department where you can give the best impression of your organization or department by being seen as “professional” at all times. This attitude can help employees ask not “what can the organization do for me?”, but “what can I do for the organization?”
2. Time Management
Consultants look for ways to adjust their work style to accommodate their client’s schedule, budget and overall project requirements by prioritizing. This is particularly true when faced with pressure to maintain high-quality work within a finite time and budget framework.
Consultants are required to have good judgment when confronted with a problem. They learn how to avoid jumping to conclusions and instead take time to consider the facts and to gather feedback from project stakeholders before reaching an informed decision.
Consultants must be team players who are willing to learn from others and genuinely valuing their input and knowledge. To accomplish this they learn how to establish a collaborative relationship with others that is essential in today’s competitive market.
5. Top Communication Skills
Consultants have honed their oral and written communication skills to learn to communicate their wisdom effectively. This means using English to communicate in the global marketplace, as well as the local language. When working with international organizations and strategic partners, documentation and/or communication is often required in English for transparency.
6. Expert Knowledge
Any consultant or SME is typically approached for two reasons: 1) they are expected to have in-depth knowledge in a certain area or 2) there are time constraints around solving an urgent issue or implementing a project that requires greater collaboration. As an SME your level of knowledge is often broad enough to know when to ask questions and/or where to research to find solutions. As a motivated employee or SME, you can become more up-to-date than your colleagues by reading current journals, magazines, and informative websites or through networking with knowledgeable and motivated peers. You can become an SME if you are able to put theories into practice and become skillful in using appropriate tools (software, professional journals, etc.) to function more efficiently in your job.
7. Good Listening Skills
During any project, consultants have to be able to work with people from all backgrounds. Having excellent listening skills will encourage everyone to speak more freely with you. This also leads to more information sharing which, in the end, can benefit the results of any project.
8. Roles and Responsibilities
Consultants to understand the important responsibilities of their role, as well as the practices and parameters of their job. Some of your peers or collaborators may have a different interpretation of your skills and abilities. Therefore being able to clarify your the expectations of a project and the deliverables beforehand are one of the most important tasks to build into any project. Everyone has their own preconceived view of your abilities and capabilities—views that will almost certainly differ from reality in varying degrees. So, clarifying what you can and cannot do, and what you are willing to do, are paramount concerns before commencing work.
9. Involve Others
Don’t lose sight of the fact that in any kind of consulting role there are others who also have duties, expertise, and responsibilities. Saying “I don’t know” is often the best and most honest answer to a question. An even better answer is “I don’t know, but we can find out.” Even an SME does not know everything, and should not be expected to know everything. Saying, “I do not know” will not damage your image as an SME, it only serves to better define the parameters of your expertise. As an example, if it becomes clear that there is a barrier to moving your project ahead that is related to legal issues, it will, of course, become necessary to consult with a legal advisor to help find the solutions needed. This in no way diminishes your ability as an SME in HR or IT or whatever your field of expertise is, and your professionalism will be more respected when you are able to acknowledge and respect collaboration.
10. Reputation for quality
Protect your reputation for quality work because it is not easy or even possible to repair it if it is damaged. If necessary, walk away from situations that could potentially damage your reputation. Take your duties of care and levels of accountability, responsibility, and integrity seriously, even if others around you do not. Be selective about who you work with or for.