Staying Organized: Project Management for Consultants

Project management is a function that all consultants have to execute at least once in their careers. Enjoyable or not, project management is a crucial skills for consultants to learn & will prove valuable for years to come. Throughout my time in consulting, I’ve found that project management style can vary by person, so it’s important to find what project management style works for you. Regardless of management style, organization in project management is key. It’s difficult to manage stakeholders, timelines, and conflicting priorities without staying organized. When working on project management engagements, I learned a few habits that helped me, a naturally disorganized person, stay organized and help drive projects along smoothly.

A large piece of project management is aligning several stakeholders to a common goal. Often, these stakeholders have conflicting priorities, making the task at hand exponentially more difficult. Managing a project and stakeholders involves several meetings & conversations to align on key decision points. However, it’s easy for someone to forget decisions or change their mind down the line. Because of this, it is critical to document and socialize each decision made.

After every meeting, I’ve made it a habit to note down and email out key decisions made and next steps, along with an associated owner and deadline. This helps keep everyone accountable for decisions. Even if it’s just a casual conversation with a co-worker or client, be sure to follow up the conversation with an email documenting any decision that may impact the overall project, and be sure to keep all impacted stakeholders aware.

For taking detailed notes and documenting action items, I like to write things down first rather than type on a computer — this is a practice that has helped with memory retention, making me sharper and quicker on-the-job. This Moleskine notebook is designed specifically for project management, and can go a long ways in helping you stay organized.

Moleskine Project Management Notebook

I also love using a Montblanc pen to write with — it gives me something to look forward to every time it comes to writing something down.

Montblanc Pen

It may be useful to learn more about project management best practices and techniques without going through formal PMP training. This book, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, can be a great resource for helping consultants manage projects and can help consultants stay organized Yes, formal PMP training can be a plus, but most consultants aren’t looking to make a lifestyle out of project management. Rather, it is a necessity to delivery quality work & products for clients.

Project management may not be the most exciting topic for consultants, but it is a daily, unavoidable reality. Putting time into being an effective project manager is important, and staying organized is a crucial piece of that. From documenting and socializing key project decisions to keeping detailed notes, staying organized will go a long way in becoming making sure your projects run smoothly.

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The Biggest Travel Hack You Didn’t Know About

Amazon Fire Stick

Traveling in consulting can be both a blessing and a curse. For the first year or so of my consulting career, I always wondered what to do in a new city each evening. I felt immense pressure to do something exciting like trying new restaurants or bars, but it wasn’t easy to get out after a long day at work. I normally resorted to “Netflix and Chill” (by myself, of course) each evening, but opening my laptop always ended up with me sending off another email or finishing up a presentation. The last thing I want to do after work is… work. Then one day, I discovered one of the biggest travel hacks that changed has my life as a consultant to this date: the Amazon Fire Stick.

Yes, I know you’ve heard of a Fire Stick, but have you ever thought of using one on the road? You can easily plug in a Fire Stick to any hotel TV and watch your favorite moves and shows on the big screen. This has been absolutely life changing, and I now take my Fire Stick everywhere I travel.

Here are some of the things you can do every single day on the road with this travel hack:

  • Play music from your TV (that’s right, no more bringing speakers if you like to jam out in your hotel room!)
  • Watch any movie or TV show from streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu
  • Browse sites like Facebook and Reddit
  • Stream workout videos from YouTube and get in shape
  • Live stream your favorite shows & sports games

There are so many incredible uses for a Fire Stick when you’re on-the-road — it’s really hard to believe that many consultants and travelers don’t have one. After the first few days of using it for travel, over half of my project team bought one for themselves and had me to thank!

Bottom line, this is a must have for consultants and quite possibly the best travel hack I have come across after years in the industry.

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Tips and Tricks to Help You Get a Job in Consulting

Breaking into consulting isn’t easy. At each college or university, there are hundreds of candidates following similar casing strategies and behavioral interview frameworks, vying for just a few positions. Each candidate is unique in his or her own way, and showing that individuality is critical in making a lasting first impression on recruiting mangers.

After being both a candidate and a seasoned consultant screening other applicants, I’ve learned a few things that would have made the recruiting process a lot easier if I had known them ahead of time. Here are my top pieces of advice on how to get a job in consulting:

1. All Networking isn’t Good Networking

Most consulting candidates know networking is important. They go to all recruiting events and try to get a few words in with every practitioner they can. Almost always, these candidates end with “Do you mind if I get a business card so we can stay in touch?” 

Business cards are not Pokémon — you don’t need to catch ’em all.

Networking by trying to talk to as many people as possible isn’t an effective strategy, but it’s a great way to come off fake and make a bad first impression. Instead, I encourage applicants to network with a purpose.

This means three things:

  1. Reach out early, not just during recruiting season
  2. Don’t over-index on level; instead, prioritize speaking to people who work in areas you are interested in and ask targeted questions
  3. If you make a genuine connection, maintain it by asking for their contact information and staying in touch (even if you don’t end up getting / wanting the job)

2. Perfect Your Résumé

The 80/20 rule is important in consulting, but not when it comes to your résumé. Take the time to really think about the message you are trying to get across to recruiting managers and make sure your résumé reflects that. Only include relevant items (high school debate club does not count) and be sure to measure your impact when detailing your past experiences (e.g. “Led X initiatives that increased profitability by Y% over the period of Z years).

3. Don’t Overlook Your Campus Recruiter

Campus recruiters don’t make hiring decisions, but they are critical resources and can help guide you as you navigate the application process. In the past, recruiters have helped me connect with consulting practitioners, speed up interview timelines, and extend deadlines. Be sure to know who your campus recruiter is and to introduce yourself. To earn some brownie points, you can also offer to help out in any way you can with on-campus recruiting events, room bookings, etc. You never know when that connection will come in handy.

For more advice on how to get a job in consulting, check out Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng. It’s a great read, extremely helpful, and helped me get a job in consulting when I was an applicant.

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5 Essentials to Survive a Career in Consulting

Consulting isn’t an easy job — we commonly work 80+ hours a week, fly coast-to-coast, and juggle conflicting priorities. Over the course of my time in management consulting, I’ve found the following essentials to be crucial to making the grueling life on the road survivable.

1. Headphones

Headphones are probably the most commonly-used gadget for consultants (aside from their smartphones, of course). They’re used to drown out noise in airplanes, take client calls, and listen to music. I probably use headphones upwards of 6 hours a day — that’s over 2,000 hours a year! A great pair (or two) of headphones go a long way in making life just a little bit easier. Here are the two I use:

Bose QuiteComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Great for in-flight entertainment with its noise-cancelling feature

Apple AirPods

I use AirPods for day-to-day client calls

2. Luggage

If you travel for work, investing in the right luggage is a must. Luggage should be the right size for your belongings, easy to use, durable and stylish. I use two pieces of luggage on a daily basis — my carry on luggage and laptop briefcase.

Carry On Luggage: Travelpro Maxlite 21″ Suitcase

Durable & affordable

Laptop Briefcase: Tumi Alpha Bravo Slim

Laptop Briefcase: Jack Spade Nylon Brief



3. Portable Steamer

Ironing clothes every morning takes forever. With a portable steamer, you can instantly de-wrinkle clothes and sleep in just a little longer each morning!

PurSteam Garment Steamer

4. A Nice Watch

Wearing a nice watch to work can go a long way. An often overlooked and understated accessory, a watch can add flavor and style to any look. That being said, a nice watch does not mean a $10,000 Rolex. There are dozens of well-crafted & well-priced watches on the market for both men and women.

Men: Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer

Women: Michael Kors Runway (Rose Gold)

5. Reading Material

Taking some time away from work to unwind and relax is important to manage day-to-day stress. I love to read books during my free time, and a Kindle is an affordable way to have access to a lifetime’s worth of reading material.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

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