Tips For Professional Progression in a Consultancy Environment

This is relevant if you’re a Town Planner, Surveyor (of any flavour), Architect, Engineer or indeed are working in the built environment/property market in any professional discipline.

Think “Business” over “Function”
Of course, you need to execute your main job responsibilities but, you also need to continually be thinking about where you can add further value to the business beyond your contractually defined job description.

Ask yourself:
  • Are there business processes that you can see a way to streamline?
  • If efficient to do so, can you add value to your end clients beyond their brief and secure their goodwill for future instructions?
  • Can you afford to spend any time mentoring and supporting more junior members of staff?
  • Do you have any new ideas or have any interesting angles or different approaches for business development activity that the business isn’t already engaged in?
Assuming that your project work is high quality, approaching your job in this way is a sure-fire way to get yourself noticed and, potentially, become fast tracked for progression.

Out of the frying pan…
In the vast majority of cases, increasing the quality and range of your project-related professional capabilities will drive your career progression – but only until a certain point.

In many consultancies, regardless of discipline, only looking at this type of professional development will take you to Associate/Principal Consultant grade or equivalent. The way to build your career beyond this is to start to spend some time focusing on Business Development.

In other words, if you want to progress beyond Associate/Principal Consultant grade, you need to be good at business development and winning new instructions.

…into the fire
If you want to start looking at a promotion (perhaps a new role at grades above Associate/Principal consultant), it’s unlikely you’re going to be questioned on your technical ability.  After all, you’ve gotten where you are because of your technical ability so it’s assumed you have some.  The questioning will focus on your business development activity.

Typical questions at interviews for roles above Associate/Principal Consultant grade may look something like:
  • What does your client base look like?
  • How much in terms of £ revenue can you legitimately say you are self generating from your own contacts on an annual basis?
  • Who do you personally know in potential client businesses that you can pick up the phone to?
  • Where is the work going to come from over the next financial year and can you forecast fee values for each of your clients?
Can I phone a friend?
If you’re not at a stage in your career where you’re ready to answer these questions, it’s time to start working towards growing the business development side of your skill set.

A good start would be attending networking events with the intention of building up your contact base. Check out our post on “How to Network” for more information on how to do this; we know most people find the idea of a networking event daunting! Remember the phrase “Your Network is your Net-Worth”. As cheesy as this statement is, it is a helpful reminder on the importance of working on this.

If the idea of talking strangers is a bit too much for you right now (which we totally understand!) why not look for knowledge closer to home? Ask for advice from the Directors in your business as to how they approach business development. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting to emulate successful methods of business development used by others.


Have you found this article helpful? Do you have other suggestions and methods for progression in a consultancy environment that have personally helped you? We’d love to hear from you - contact us on LinkedIn
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