I recently came across an article in Harvard Business Review that was rather critical of consultants. Funnily enough, it was written by a consultant. The writer had taken a two-year sabbatical from consulting and accepted a corporate job at a large organisation. His reasoning was that he wanted to put into practice all the types of recommendations that he had made in his consulting role – to see if they worked – and also gain ‘hands-on’ experience which he felt he was missing as a consultant.

This got me to thinking, were the things the author would experience as a corporate employee any different. Let’s take a look.

The Corporate World

Firstly, as a corporate candidate, he’d be facing stiff competition from other candidates applying for the same position. How would be stack up in terms of his value proposition (skills) and price (salary)? Let’s assume though that he’d been successful in his application and was now the proud occupier of a cubicle. He would again be facing stiff internal competition when it came to assignments, because if we’re honest the organisations best people are going to get the best internal assignments and projects.

Secondly, the role he’d been employed for would have been created to address a particular pain point the business had – one of the main reasons a consultant is brought on board. He would address this problem by applying a combination of his experience in previous (consulting) roles and his problem-solving abilities.

Lastly, the role will be results-orientated. The employee will be measured on his or her outputs and successes, in the same way, a consultant would be. If this isn’t the case and the person is just a bum on a seat, the role needs to be questioned.

There are of course a number of key differences between a consultant and corporate employee, some of which relate to characteristics of the of individual and others that relate to the contract with the organisation. For example, an underperforming consultant can easily be fired, whereas the process of dealing with an underperforming employee is a bit more difficult.

All things considered, how do corporate employees differentiate themselves from internal competition (colleagues) and in some cases external competition (consultants)?

Beating the Competition

These employees need to consider and position themselves as service providers within the organisation. They need to offer a unique selling proposition to their employers, convincing the employer to choose them above colleagues and external consultants when it comes to new projects and opportunities.

While skills do play a part in this. There are three key aspects that differentiate an employee from his or her peers;

  1. Solution orientation. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
  2. Responsibility. Take on responsibility. For delivering projects and for managing others.
  3. Volunteer. This means actively seeking out new project opportunities within the organisation as well as internal initiatives.

Get these three things right and you’ll see your career moving in the right direction.

In my next article, I’ll write about putting these three things into practice and also discuss the concept of the Professional Service Firm (PSF) within organisations, a concept penned by Tom Peters.

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