Consultants are individuals who have become skilled in a subject matter to such a degree that they are considered experts. It is the work of consultants everywhere to share their expert advice professionally, either by opening up their own consulting firm or getting hired on at the staff level for a consulting firm or organization
It’s not easy to get into consulting, and it’s definitely not an entry-level job. You need an angle. Individuals who become consultants usually work for years if not decades becoming an expert in a subject matter. Doctors and lawyers who go on to become business consultants are a case and point. All of those years in medical school and training eventually might lead to a new skill set entirely.
Being in the right place at the right time
Academics also hold much weight in the field of consulting. University professors and PhDs have great resources and experience at their hands, and sometimes the consulting route is tempting for this group. This is because of the intersection of business and the academics who study how businesses and corporations affect the world. An environmental professor might want to become a consultant so they can advise a CSR department on how to make their supply chains sustainable. In the U.S. it is common for professors in the humanities to consulting for multilateral organizations such as the UN.
There’s also the aspect of time and location that play a major role in how academics can get their foothold into some consulting role if they wish. In major metropolitan cities especially, where there are prestigious universities and major corporations, there is often a good and mutually beneficial relationship between professors and academics and the business sector. This is important because it means that social scientists are increasingly lending their expertise to corporations and corporations are minimizing the risk of bad practice by listening to seasoned experts.
This is the case in major cities like New York or Boston, where the interrelationship is the strongest, in part because of the geographic spread of the cities and how close universities and major companies are.
The momentum of consulting breeds more consulting work
One of the main reasons academics might be drawn to consulting work, besides their eagerness to shed knowledge is because of the financial incentives. Consultants typically charge $100 USD an hour when they are working independently or for big firms. Consultants from an academic background might want to also escape the repetitive and isolated nature of their former fields.
Kian Beyzavi, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, who now works for Mckinsey, had this to say about the switch, ''In science, you're not rewarded for being a good team player…'' But in consulting the work can feel much more team and leader driven, which is in contrast to some research or academic roles that stress lots of independent study for long periods of time.
And once this momentum of teamwork and results begins, it really becomes entrenched in the business process. Academics who have helped firms fiscally as consultants are only more valuable and more in demand for other businesses that need the same type of expertise. This is exactly why the confluence of MBAs and other academics can be so potent. As the digital era takes off and technology is changing the rules for many industries, the skills of scientists and physicians are especially attractive to consulting firms looking to develop new theories.
Laura Tyson, the dean of the University of California’s Haas School of Business also mentions that many of the problems consultants are trying to solve require a deeper level of analytical skills than many MBAs have.
Overall, researchers and academics can use their research experience, publications via online platforms like Impactio, and a wealth of knowledge to land a job or “gig” at least in the consulting field. Because this field is fast-paced and exciting, it could offer academics a newfound appreciation for well-roundedness and also help develop soft skills. If academics don’t end up liking the switch, they can always go back to their day job of being a teacher.