5 Tips to Improve Your Skills as a New Consultant

At Cuesta, we’ve onboarded many new consultants since our founding that have found great success; several of the tips below relate directly to their experiences.

So, you’d like to make the leap into consulting? Either straight from undergrad, fresh out of B-school, or entering laterally as a subject matter expert – it can be daunting, especially when you are just starting out. You may feel like you have a lot to prove and a lot to learn. However, it is important to remember that gaining experience is a key part of building your skills and your confidence.  

A story from the book “Art & Fear” is a great example of how quantity can be a key driver of quality when starting out, and it provides some valuable lessons for newer consultants. 

The story is as follows: 

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group.  Fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Grading time soon came and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busy churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.” 

Quantity leads to quality

By repetitive effort and allowing yourself the opportunity to quickly internalize acquired knowledge with rapid repetition over many attempts and many smaller errors you can essentially compound your learnings and concretize “what works” in a more accelerated fashion. 

When you are starting out, it is important not only to focus on doing things well, but doing as much as you can. The more experience you gain, the better you will become at what you do. You may not have all the answers when you start out, but by working with more clients, collaborating with more colleagues, and gaining more experience, you will become more skilled and confident in your abilities. 

Some guiding tips to power your success 

Here are some tips for young consultants based on the story from “Art & Fear”: 

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: When you are just starting out, you are bound to make mistakes. Don’t let these mistakes discourage you. Instead, learn from them and use them to improve your skills. 
  2. Focus on gaining experience: Say “yes” to as many varying projects as you can.  Use these projects intentionally to see different problem sets and gather tips and tricks from experienced colleagues. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of your field and your clients’ needs. 
  3. Practice, practice, practice: The more you practice your skills, the better you will become. Take every opportunity to practice your consulting skills, whether it is through working with clients or participating in mock projects. 
  4. Embrace feedback: Feedback is an important part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from colleagues and mentors. Use this feedback to improve your skills and grow as a consultant. 
  5. Learn from your failures AND successes: Both failures and successes are valuable learning experiences; take the time to reflect on each. Use them to improve your skills and your approach to consulting. 

There’s huge value in prioritizing varying experience via quantity when starting out as a consultant. Focus on gaining that experience, practicing your skills, embracing feedback, and learning from your successes and failures. Utilize these practices consistently and you will become a more skilled and confident consultant over time. 

If this sounds like fun to you, we’d love to chat! Head over to our Cuesta Careers page and check out the current openings we have available. 


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