Building Consulting Relationships

Building Consulting Relationships

(Source: Flickr)

This post considers how to build consulting relationships.

Some people appear to believe that the goal of attending networking events is to collect as many business cards as possible.

This was always the wrong approach, however in a world with LinkedIn, it is also absurd since a person’s business card will contain much less information than their Linkedin profile.

Networking is about building relationships not about the size of your Rolodex; knowing one person who can help you is better than having 1,000 LinkedIn connections.

When it comes to networking, here are five (5) ideas to bear in mind:

  1. First impressions count: Good grooming will not necessarily secure you a job, but poor grooming can scuttle your chances. You will be judged on your appearance. It’s not fair, it’s not nice, and it may sound like high school all over again, but you need to accept reality and play the game. Invest in one quality business suit that you can wear throughout the recruitment process.
  2. Provide value early: Networking is about building relationships, and the good way to build relationships is to give something of value up front. If you are a practicing consultant then this might include sharing industry knowledge or making helpful introductions. Unfortunately, if you are a student talking to an HR person at a careers event then you are unlikely to have any such value to offer. However, luckily, nobody ever said that you need to provide value of a commercial nature. If you’re a naturally funny person, feel free to tell a tasteful joke.
  3. Find common ground: As an ambitious aspiring consultant, you may be tempted to barrage an HR person or consultant with a shopping list of questions. Don’t do it. You are there to build relationships, not to tick off a check list. Take an interest in the person you are talking to, ask them about their interests and experiences, and see whether you can establish common ground.
  4. Ask burning questions: Research the firm and its recruitment process prior to attending a careers event in order to avoid asking obvious questions. If you still have some burning questions, feel free to ask them.
  5. Follow up: If you had a good conversation with an HR person or consultant, it is a nice courtesy to send a short follow up email. In your email, re-introduce yourself, remind them what you talked about and thank them for their time. Below is a short sample email to give you an idea of what is required:

Dear Sally,

This is Joe Simpson, we met yesterday at Bain’s careers evening held at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford.

I enjoyed chatting with you about social enterprise and Michael Porter’s “shared value” theory.

Thanks for taking the time to visit Oxford and share information about Bain’s graduate program.

Best wishes,

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]