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Public sector consultancy

 
#1 Public sector consultancy
26/11/2009 11:01

Emma

Hi there,

I´m really keen to get into consulting for the public sector as I´ve been working in a charity for a few years now. I´ve also been told that the hours in public consultancy are much better, which is an important factor for me.

Somebody at MCA has informed me that the only way to get into public sector consultancy is through a civil service fast-track scheme, but after reading through some of these posts it seems I may have been misinformed as companies such as PA also appear to focus on the public sector.

If anybody can give me some further advice on how I can go about beginning a career in public sector consultancy I would be extremely grateful.

Emma

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#2 RE: Public sector consultancy
26/11/2009 14:45

Need help! to Emma (#1)

In what field?

Strategy, IT, policy, procurement, operations....?

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#3 RE: Public sector consultancy
26/11/2009 19:00

Emma to Need help! (#2)

I'd say Strategy or policy would probably suit me best. Its hard to tell having never worked in consultancy before but as I don't have specific expertise such as IT knowledge It might be harder to get started in something like that.

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#4 RE: Public sector consultancy
26/11/2009 19:03

leaping salmon to Emma (#1)

Emma,

Depending on the area you want to work in, PA could be a good bet but there are others to choose from.

You'll need to demonstrate functional skills e.g. managing projects - working in a Charity isn't itself going to get you an interview.

My view is that working in public sector consulting probably isn't massively different to other areas of consultancy - depending on the client and assignment the hours can be very long and may also require travel in your own time and staying away from home. Time off in lieu isn't offered for these and it's part of being a consultant.

A good first step would be to draw up a list of consultancies with public sector teams - KMPG, PwC, Deloitte and PA all have large teams, and then contact the firms directly. If you have friends who know people in these firms you could also try speaking to them informally to get a better understanding of how to position your skills / experience.

Mr Fish.

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#5 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 09:09

Evil Consultant to Emma (#1)

Emma,

A harsh dose of reality here. It seems fairly clear to me that you have only the haziest notion of what consultancy is and why you want to do it. You really need to understand what you're getting yourself into. Read through a lot of the threads on this board for starters. A lot of the bitter, unhappy situations you'll discover are the result of people getting themselves into something that they really didn't understand.

To address your original questions, your information source at MCA is dead wrong or you have misunderstood what they told you. None of the people I know who work in public sector consultancy (admittedly a small sample of about a dozen people) have the background indicated.

My advice to you is to find a friend or a friend of a friend who works in this area that you can talk to about it to discover if it is for you.

EC

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#6 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 09:36

Anon to Evil Consultant (#5)

I can probably guess the context of all of this.

30-something fundraising manager who has seen database software vendors selling 'consultancy' time at £950 per day. Sees a bunch of old farts at various fundraising functions or otherwise hears of such people who are working as freelance consultants. Wants to be popular and well respected like these consultants. Also thinks that at £950 per day she will be in the money. Has no idea about utilisation, overheads, or marketing. But has heard about how great consultancy is, and is desperate to "get into" it (especially "strategy"). Also probably has some confused kind of idea that public sector consultancy will be easier as the jobs will be bigger and hence she can possibly continue to enjoy all the trappings of a public sector employment (long holidays, secure employment, etc), but with the added bonus of £950 per day, no boss, the freedom to work in whatever department or on whatever project she wants, and the independence of going home whener she likes. Probably has a degree from Bradford or an open university MBA.

Apologies if I'm wrong, but I bet I'm not far off the mark.

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#7 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 16:33

Emma to Anon (#6)

actually you're way off, I'm 24 and have been working in charity since graduation (from bristol uni). I had fun reading your piece of fiction though. To the other more serious answer, you're right when you say I don't know what I'd be getting myself into and that's why I contacted MCA and why I posted on this forum. Not knowing anyone involved in consultany myself leaves me with limited sources of information!

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#8 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 16:40

anon to Emma (#7)

Hmm, I'd say it was pretty accurate actually! LOL

One tip however: To succeed as a consultant, you will probably need to become a little less emotional about things. Try writing in a more conservative, dispassionate 'voice'.

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#9 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 16:59

anon to anon (#8)

One other tip: Whenever I read a cover letter from some candidate that states that they are "ideally suited to Strategy consulting" (usually with a capital S), it goes straight in the bin. After 15 years in this business, you get a 6th sense about this kind of thing.

I would be asking myself the following about your application:

1. Why are you so eager to "get into" consultancy?

2. Why didn't you stick it out with the charity thing?

3. Are you TRULY committed to this? Or are you going to change your mind and swan off once I've trained you up?

4. By recruiting you, will you just use me as a stepping stone in the same way it looks like you possibly don't care much for your current employer?

5. You state that hours are an "important factor" for you. Well... uhm... are you saying you want to be home by 6 every night? Are you going to drop me in the sh1t and make me compensate by working harder in order to meet deadlines or produce good quality deliverables because you won't be there when I need you?

6. Do you have the mindset of a 'professional'? In other words, do you actually understand that you have to produce real, tangible and FINISHED deliverables? Scrappy powerpoint slides, e-mails instead of reports, and piles of unsorted research won't meet the mark.

7. Are you an independent thinker? I know you're young, but your questions so far indicate that you may need a lot of support and supervision. This comes with thime though, I guess.

Just some thoughts. My best advice would be that you ought to read up on it a little more and look at some consulting firms' websites.

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#10 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 17:11

anon to anon (#9)

*time

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#11 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 18:31

Emma to anon (#10)

My answers to your questions would be as follows:

1. I'm eager to start in consultancy because I know I am a good problem solver and have strong business acumen. I would like to develop these skills in a consulting role and use them within the public sector.

2. The charity I work for is poorly structured and poorly managed and I don't see much room for career progression.

3. I would be commited and hard working. The person who does one day train me will see that.

4. I care for my current employer, but sometimes people have to do what's right for them and move into something else. For me consultancy won't be a stepping stone as I know I would draw immense satisfaction from giving valuable advice to charitable organisations.

5. I would rather not have to work 80 hour weeks but I would never leave anybody else to do my work while I skip off home.

6. I am 100% the professional.

7. I need training up but once I understand what is required of me I can use my initiative and see my work through.

I hope those answers were 'dispassionate' enough for you. For now I'll take your advice and continue with my research.

Emma

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#12 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 19:12

billum to Emma (#11)

You might think it a backward step, but your best option might be to join one of the new graduate schemes - it is not uncommon for people to join these after a couple of years working in a role that has been valuable in some ways but not built their 'consulting toolkit'. I'm guessing your link between charity and public sector is the desire to work in an area that 'matters', with some tangible public benefit. You might therefore want to target a particular sector such as education or healthcare (PA, Capgemini worth a look). I suspect you don't want to end up on a massive Accenture cash cow development project in the bowels of benefits payment acccounting or such like. Be realistic about hours - part of the reason the public sector buys consultancy is because it gets a fixed day rate with unlimited hours behind it; which it won't get from its own highly unionised workforce...

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#13 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 19:20

mack to Emma (#11)

First off, I must apologise for some of the responses you have received. Your question was quite straight forward and legitimate, as were your subsequent responses. Unfortunately looking for help and support on this forum is like asking a vampire for a plaster!

In my experience of consulting with the public sector they are looking for change agents, people who can bring some private sector expertise to push through obstacles and energise teams. None of my fellow consultants had come out of public sector fast track into consulting.

As you rightly stated, organisations like PA do a lot of work with the public sector (although I'd be shot down in flames for suggesting you apply to them).

If I can pick you up on one thing, stating you want to go into public sector consulting because of the hours isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to be more explicit about what you can bring to the table, focusing on your achievements to date.

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#14 RE: Public sector consultancy
27/11/2009 23:53

Soy to Emma (#1)

Consulting for the public has and probably always will be a big part of the consulting market - so saying you need to go and work for the civil service to do this is frankly madness...

Have a look around the web, sure lots of companies will claim to big in public sector, the big 4, PA, Detica and other outfits that specialise in particular areas of the market.

PS Having being doing this for 2 years nearly now, have to say I think its a fantastic best of both worlds - I get to think about hard problems that affect everyone in the country but I don't have to think about them for 20 years before anyone starts to regard me as credible...

so I'm a public sector consultant and will probably remain that way for the foreseeable future.

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#15 RE: Public sector consultancy
28/11/2009 13:24

Emma to Soy (#14)

Thanks a lot for all the advice I really appreciate it!

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#16 RE: Public sector consultancy
28/11/2009 22:59

dc1 to Emma (#15)

Emma - In addition to the useful tips provided by EC, mack and Soy (between the usual hateful drivel that seems to be standard fare on this forum), I would suggest actually going along to any recruitment events or "open days" the consulting firms might organise - see details on their websites. It's only after meeting some people in the industry and talking to them about their specific roles and project experiences that you can start to understand what it is like to be a consultant, and how best to make the move. Having spent about 6 years now in consulting - most of it in Public Sector - I can say that it is pretty rewarding work (in all senses of the word), even though I still find it difficult to define in succint terms what it is exactly that we do...

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#17 RE: Public sector consultancy
29/11/2009 10:36

BOP man to dc1 (#16)

PA Consulting are the way to go if you want the worst of both worlds: lots of OU MBA process mappers driving value added dynamic change across the public sector (never having delivered anything more that T5 baggage handling), coupled with a load of partners who would fire you on a whim. If that sort of career sounds like you, then join PA.

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#18 RE: Public sector consultancy
30/11/2009 14:08

Franz Ferdinand to BOP man (#17)

This is an interesting thread as I'd also be interested in getting into public sector consultancy. I was wondering what teh salary would be, and who the major players are in public sector MC?

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#19 RE: Public sector consultancy
30/11/2009 17:12

Number Cruncher to Franz Ferdinand (#18)

In terms of salary, well how long is a piece of string? It depends on your experience (thus determining what grade you go into) and also who you work for (and how well they are doing). But a rough guide at a mid tier firm is porbably in the region of £40k plus 10% bonus.

But there's a Top Consultatn salary benchmarking survey you may want to take a look at.

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#20 RE: Public sector consultancy
30/11/2009 19:13

The Dude to Number Cruncher (#19)

I've been consulting in the public sector for a year now and so far the hours have been pretty damn good! A standard working day is around 9/10 hours.

So if you want to be a consultant without losing your friends/boyfriend?/life this is definately the route to go down.

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#21 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 10:55

Cromwell to The Dude (#20)

...Or you could go and work for the civil service/public sector, and work 6-8 hrs a day take 2 hour lunch breaks and have a defined benefit pension (final salary) and job security for life.

Sure you may get paid slightly less, but if you work out an hourly conversion rate and take into account the pension its quite a cushy number.

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#22 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 11:05

Anon to Cromwell (#21)

And don't forget that, as a Civil Servant, you will also be the 'client' who all the nervous little consultants will be bending over backwards to please. Plus you will get about 50 days holiday a year, or whatever huge number it is these days.

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#23 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 11:12

Cromwell to The Dude (#20)

...Or you could go and work for the civil service/public sector, and work 6-8 hrs a day take 2 hour lunch breaks and have a defined benefit pension (final salary) and job security for life.

Sure you may get paid slightly less, but if you work out an hourly conversion rate and take into account the pension its quite a cushy number.

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#24 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 11:49

Low Down to Cromwell (#23)

I think a number of posters have highlighted the importance of thinking through your decision, which and to have full knowledge before making the decision, which I guess is what your trying to do by asking a question on here.

Some of the posts may seem negative, but all they are trying to do is give you a dose of reality, as there are very few perfect jobs out there, and when one is considering a career change the grass always seems greener on the other side. Thus, its imperitive to obtain the views of people who are on teh other side as to what shade of colour the grass really is.

As with any career change, think through what it is you want from your job/career, what work life balance you would like, what sort of culture would sut you, what your dad to day requirements are and where you want to be 5 and 10 years from now.

This will put you in a frame of mind to consider a number of career option, not only consultancy. i'm not saying that consulatancy isn't for, and I'm not sying tha consultancy is for you. What I am saying is that you need to look at a range of possible career options to be able to make an informed decision. Otherwise a few years down the line you may feel you want to change direction again.

Good luck with whatever you do.

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#25 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 12:37

PAer to Low Down (#24)

I would recommend PA Consulting - they are ramping up and they very much appreciate charity work.

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#26 RE: Public sector consultancy
01/12/2009 17:13

BOP man to PAer (#25)

I agree. PA Consulting are a wonderful place to work... 23 days holiday, bonuses well below industry norms (artificially inflated through gimmicks like retained elements and employers taxes), colleagues from 2nd and 3rd tier Unis, etc etc.

Lots and lots and lots of public sector process mapping work if you want it though

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