Make the Most of Your Opportunities with Career Planning

By Ony Chima. November 5th, 2010. Posted in Your career 3 Comments »

This article briefly introduces career planning, an approach that when adopted properly could mean the difference between an unsatisfying career as a consultant and a very rewarding one which supports your long term goals.


So you managed to land a role as a consultant? Congratulations, you’ve got yourself a highly sought after position in a demanding industry. So where do you go from here?

Although at this stage you may not have given it too much thought, one of the best things you can do before embarking on a serious career is to plan how you would like your career to play out.

Why plan?

Planning your career as a consultant is particularly important as consulting provides such a large and varied number of opportunities. A well defined plan is often a good way to ensure you make the most of them.

Planning provides structure and approach to any activity, without a plan goals and milestones are unlikely to be met. As a consultant on demanding projects you’ll need to plan every assignment you work on. As you become more experienced your clients will look to you to plan large programmes that span their business. If there is one thing consulting teaches you, it is how to plan for success.

Despite being professional planners for clients, many consultants fail to adequately plan their own careers. This means that some end up feeling confused, disheartened, and even lacking the motivation to perform a job they worked so hard to get.

A well-planned career allows you to achieve things that may otherwise seem out of reach. Achieving goals that you have set yourself also provides an incredible sense of job satisfaction and personal well-being – this is something that is increasingly harder to achieve in today’s environment and should never be taken for granted.

A few questions you may want to reflect on regarding your career:

  • Do you see yourself developing a deep knowledge in a particular skill or sector or would you rather remain a generalist across both sectors and skill areas? (See: Are you T enough to be a consultant for more on this)
  • Perhaps you’d like to work in a particular industry and you see consulting as your ‘in’ to this?
  • Or maybe you’d like to start your own business and you see consulting as a way to pick up all the required business skills and build a large number of clients in a relatively short amount of time?

Planning will help address these questions, and in so doing provide an enhanced understanding of where you want to be and what you want from your consulting career.

How to plan?

When planning your career, some of the questions to be asked include:

  • What is my long term career goal? (e.g. Become a Consulting Partner, Industry Executive, Company Owner, Contractor, etc)
  • Where do I see myself in the next 1, 3, 5, 10 years?
  • What should I be doing now to achieve this?
  • What types of roles should I be targeting?
  • What types of industries should I be targeting?
  • Which special interest groups should I be involved in within my organisation (or outside my organisation)?

Planning should always start at the desired goal and work backwards. The scope of the plan may vary, for example you may only want to plan for the next 3 years as that is the time horizon which is of importance to you.

As a new consultant you may worry that you haven’t got a lot of influence around the type of roles or even the industries you get placed in, however it helps to have a viewpoint on it and to think about how the work you’re doing now can support your long term goals.

It is important to remember that planning at this level is not about sticking to every point rigidly, but rather, it’s about providing a context that you can use to assess your goals and ensure you remain on track.

This type of planning should be viewed as an iterative process: once the initial plan is setup, you should visit it at regular intervals to ensure you are on target or are able to amend it to fit your preferences if they have now changed.

Any experienced planner will know that: a) no plan is perfect, and b) regardless of how well you plan, there will always be exceptions that can’t be planned for.

This shouldn’t stop or dissuade your planning activity, as to plan is to be prepared. The exceptions and variations that occur along the way are the realities of life playing out. The truth of the matter is that without any sort of a plan in place these realities may break someone less well prepared!

Key takeaways

As you go forward in your career you may want to keep some of the following points at the forefront of your mind:

  • Remember that your career is yours to plan and manage – the better you plan and look after it, the more happy (and rewarded) you’ll be. Many organisations may provide the illusion of planning your career for you (some actually do this quite well), but ultimately you are responsible so make sure you do yourself justice
  • Review your career plan on a regular basis – this allows you to ensure you are focusing on the right drivers and helps to keep you well focused. Note that what constitutes ‘a regular basis’ will vary depending on your goals and time-lines. As a starter for ten I’d suggest a quarterly review for the first few years of your career moving to a bi yearly review there after.
  • Planning is not only good for you, its good for your immediate team and your organisation as a whole. When your peers can see you are planned and focused (this is something an experienced consultant will spot) they will have more confidence in you and your abilities
  • Finally, even if you’ve already embarked on your career its never too late to start planning. The sooner you start the happier you’ll be.

This article was written by: Ony Chima

With over 6 years of consulting experience Ony has been helping his clients achieve their transformation and business change strategies by providing programme and project management, stakeholder management and process improvement consultancy services.

Ony Chima's website

Comments (3)

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Ony – Some great points to consider.

“…you haven’t got a lot of influence around the type of roles or even the industries you get placed in…”

– I think this is can be quite a problem for new consultants and the only thing you can really do is to make sure your line or project manager knows what your ambitions are and getting them to point you in the right direction.

While this is not a sure-fire way of achieving everything you want, if other people hear where you want to be and what you want to work on often enough, hopefully you’ll be in their minds when those opportunities come up.


Mike, agreed. In addition I would also recommend a consultant keen on a particular industry to get involved in the respective internal industry groups within their firm (assuming that this group is available). This way you can gain an understanding of your firm’s capabilities and areas of development within that industry whilst at thesame time demonstrating to senior management your knowledge and keeness of the industry in question.


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