What’s the Life of a Consultant Like?
Five Questions and Answers Shed Light
Jocelyn Lewis (University of Maryland MPP graduate) describes her job at a public sector consultant
1. WHAT DO YOU DO AS A “CONSULTANT”?
Consulting means being able to enter an unfamiliar environment to synthesize large amounts of data and report your results in a relatively short amount of time. The problems that are new to one agency are often similar to challenges that other government agencies or private companies have faced. Consultants draw upon their personal experience and/or their firm’s knowledge about an industry or functional area to help their clients identify the key issues and potential solutions.
2. WHY DO YOU LIKE WORKING AS A CONSULTANT?
The aspect of consulting that most appeals to me is the ability to work on many different projects with a wide variety of clients. As a government consultant, I enjoy gaining exposure to different agencies and feel that I am able to contribute to their missions. I also enjoy the challenge of being presented with a problem and designing solutions to that problem as well as the other problems that may arise over the course of the project.
3. HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN WORKING DIRECTLY FOR A PUBLIC AGENCY? HOW IS IT SIMILAR?
The ability to be flexible is a critical trait for consultants. Consulting is different than working as a public sector employee because you are often required to work from a wide variety of locations based on your client’s needs and we never know what the next project holds in store. Because we are often brought into organizations without any knowledge of their organizational processes or culture, we can look at the organization objectively and offer unbiased recommendations. Consultants also have many opportunities to interact with staff at all levels and regularly speak with and present to managers and top leadership. However, like public sector employees, government consultants must understand how the government works (e.g. the appropriations process, personnel systems) and we often struggle with the same bureaucracy.
4. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS ADVANTAGES FOR SOMEONE TO WORK IN PUBLIC SECTOR CONSULTING?
Public sector consulting is an excellent career path for someone who wants to explore a wide variety of career options. The changing nature of projects and agencies allows us to continually explore our own strengths, develop new skills, and hopefully gain a better understanding of the types of work and work environments you enjoy (and those we don’t).
5. WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE? WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THINGS YOU’RE WORKING ON NOW?
Currently, I work most days from the client site with a team of 6 other consultants. I am focusing on the organizational change components of the business process redesign project. Over the previous five months, I documented current business processes and then worked with my team and client staff to identify adjustments to these processes that would improve the organization’s efficiency. I am now writing Standard Operating Procedures that explain the improved processes and the new roles and responsibilities for the employees.