Let’s face facts…its really challenging to be an IT consultant. You constantly are having to learn new technologies, tools and tricks. Your clients expect you to do more, more, more…and that’s not even taking into account the hardships associated with having to move from one project to the next – packing up and leaving old friends behind as you venture off to your next assignment.
So how can you make yourself indispensable to your client? How can you make them want to keep extending your contract? Below are some things you CAN do in order to make yourself more valuable to your client.
1. Be a “Safe Pair of Hands”
This essentially means that you will do exactly what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. Sounds simple, but it’s the number one quality needed to build trust and credibility among your team and your client.
Make sure you keep your promises, be consistent in your quality, and master the basic skills in whatever technology or tool you are using. The more trust you build early on, the more opportunities you will be given in the future.
2. Pay Great Attention to Detail
This is such a crucial skill in consulting because one of the ways we build trust with clients is by producing error-free deliverables, which shows that we’re thorough and our recommendations are solid. Ensuring there are no coding or calculation-related mistakes in your work is essential and ultimately reflects on your entire team.
I have seen so many consultants that are in such a rush to finish a task – that their work is full of errors. In the consulting business – that is just not acceptable. You are expected to be detail focused, thorough and precise. It takes discipline and focus to consistently deliver defect free work. The more effort you put into this – the more you will be appreciated by your peers and supervisors.
3. Become the “Go-To” For Something
During your first few years of consulting, you’ll likely be floating between industries, areas, and clients. Despite your broad experiences, it’s a good idea to start developing a skill that allows you to differentiate yourself from all your peers.
While being a jack-of-all trades is definitely needed, the consultants who perform best always have an area that they truly excel in—one that’s in demand and that nobody else seems to have. Whether that’s advanced financial modeling, communication skills, or a particularly deep knowledge in an industry, take the time to find out what you can become the go-to person for.
4. Knowing How to Think Before You Do
What really distinguishes a good consultant from a great one is the ability to not only focus on the tasks at hand, but also to think critically about the work. For example, your client may be asking you to find cost savings in a supply chain, but first, try to understand why this is critical to the business.
Are profits declining? Is the competition lowering product prices, forcing your client to compete? Knowing how to think this way will help you develop better insights and solutions for your client. Try spending a little extra time thinking through your task before jumping in, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your manager’s requests (when appropriate, of course). The better you understand the “why” that pertains to your work – the better job you will be able to do of delivering results that your manager will be pleased with.
5. Having Resourcefulness
In consulting, you will be asked to solve problems that may be completely new to you—or even completely new to the industry. And when you’re faced with these tough problems or challenging requirements, it’s your resourcefulness that will help you succeed. To become an exceptional IT consultant – you MUST develop the ability to quickly and creatively solve problems.
As a general rule of thumb, when you need help, you should approach your team and manager first, followed by your peers and internal experts, and then other external resources. There is likely someone who has done what you are trying to do before and can help you find the answer—or at least help you think about new ways to tackle the problem. Be sure to not give up too quickly, be creative in your research efforts, and show your team that you’re willing to do whatever it takes.
6. Not Being Afraid To Ask (Good) Questions
Asking good questions help ensure you understand what you are being asked to do and the issues your client is facing, and they can also help you to demonstrate your understanding. Never be afraid to ask for clarification—it’s better than doing something wrong. Even if you don’t have a question to ask, restating what you’ve been told to clarify your understanding can inspire confidence with your manager.
Of course, be sure to ask questions in a helpful, non-annoying way. If you have multiple, send them in a single, structured request rather than repeatedly approaching your manager. Also – learn how to find your own answers to simpler questions…whether from a technology/tool based online forum – or by using Google to seek answers.
It takes a lot to succeed in the IT consulting world, but focus on these key skills. You’ll have everything you need to distinguish yourself from your peers.
Lastly – but most importantly…understand that becoming excellent at anything does NOT happen by accident. Excellence is the end result of high intention, a sincere and disciplined effort…and intelligent execution.
I challenge you to be great…to become the best you can be. Don’t settle for mediocrity. You are better than that. You have worked very hard to get where you are. Pursue your dreams with every fiber in your being. You CAN become the best at what you do…all you have to do is decide to do it.