Carving Out Your Niche

Event: Carving Out Your Niche: Finding Your Own Path in the World of Consulting
Presenters: Martin Cresswell, iMPOWER; Simon Greener, Hitachi Consulting; Leon Smith, PwC; Justinn Ablett, IBM 
Location: Accenture, Fenchurch St, London
Date: 3rd April 2013
Time: 18:00 – 20:00

We all seem to be in a rush to discover what we’re good at and build our career on this strength. But how do we get there? And how do we know we’ve got it right?

April’s Young MCA event was a chance to discover how other people have made their name and developed their niche in consulting. Talking us through their individual journeys to success were consultants from a range of firms, with different backgrounds, different specialties and a lot of tips.

Martin Cresswell (Chief Executive, iMPOWER) described how he built his career on solid foundations as an accountant and developed his industry expertise though working for local government. It is his background which shapes the advice he had for us – becoming an expert in a particular market or specialism means that you will be credible as a consultant. Clients need to feel that they are working with someone who understands their industry and has a comprehensive knowledge of their wider environment and the challenges they face. 

Finding out what you enjoy was the key piece of advice from both Simon Greener (Senior Manager, Hitachi) and Leon Smith (Director, PwC). Both emphasised the importance of taking your time in your career, trying consulting in a variety of industries and using different key skills. From this experience you’ll learn what you love doing and, equally, what you don’t like doing. Leon related his career in a number of sectors, including Procurement, Finance, Media & Telecoms, and Retail and his appetite for each. The most valuable lesson he learnt is ensuring the work you do interests you – a 40-year career in an industry that bores you won’t leave you with any sense of satisfaction or accomplishment.

Justin Ablett (Associate Partner, IBM) was the final panellist to take us though his career journey and give us a few words of advice. With over 10 years of experience in consulting, Justin stressed that we can begin to shape our careers as soon as we want to – while we may not be famous for our work just yet, there is always an opportunity to build the foundations and set ourselves apart as leaders in the making.

To close the panel discussion, Justin left us with five lessons he has found to be the most helpful:   

Key takeaways

  • Think differently – even if you’re working on a project you don’t find that interesting, try to approach problems creatively and identify solutions that others have missed.
  • Tick all the boxes – a career isn’t built on one great moment, it’s forged from consistent excellence in the tasks you undertake.
  • Help your colleagues – rather than thinking “How can my colleagues help me?, think “What can I do for them?” The chances are that they’ll remember your support and be pleased to return the favour when you need help.
  • The devil’s in the detail – little things matter! Words, tone and style are easily misconstrued – try to ensure that the details of your work are in line with the overall objective.
  • Believe in yourself – have the confidence in yourself to promise (and deliver) a fantastic piece of work