A Taco Consultant ??

A Taco Consultant ??

I am currently working as a consultant in Mexico City. (And I work a lot in this profession, leaving me little time for the blog – so sorry dear readers!)  Today I found myself pondering the term and role of consultant as I walked home from work. Here are some of my thoughts.

On the one hand, I love the term “consultant” because it is so incredibly vague and somewhat meaningless. According to the dictionary, it means: “A professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise … ” and then goes on to list several areas of expertise that consultants typically work in, such as management, accounting, the environment, entertainment, etc.

Sometimes it is nice to have a profession that is not at all well defined. At parties I can talk about whatever aspect of consulting seems the most interesting to people at the time. And if I find myself answering questions from a rather boring and less-than-intelligent person, I can simply say with an air of confidence, “I am a consultant.” (full-stop) And they will usually shut up, having not a clue what that means but thinking it must be something very important.

On the other hand, having an ambiguous profession is often more complicated and difficult. First when explaining to an overly curious type what you do … it can take several sentences and sometimes a couple paragraphs worth of words to clearly describe my job. And secondly, and most importantly, sometimes it is unclear to me and my clients what it is I do. This is by far the hardest part of being a consultant. It seems like a constant battle between dark confusion and a clearly defined list of strategies & objectives. Sometimes I feel a bit lost as to my role as a consultant, and very often the clients demonstrate their lack of understanding through completely out-of-scope requests and very needy behavior.

In trying to navigate this confusing world of being a “consultant,” I have come up with a few conclusions (or hypothesis?) about the profession today in the world (and based on my experiences in the US and Mexico):

  • Part of the role of consultant is to constantly define what type of consultant you are – for one’s own clarity as well as that of your clients.
  • While in an ideal world a consultant would always bring new ideas and insights to their clients, in reality, it does not always happen like that.
  • In fact, what many clients want, expect and need of their consultants is a smart, outside perspective and analysis of the information they already have
  • And many times consultants are really just used for reassurance or confirmation of the beliefs or plans that clients already have made
  • Perhaps the most important role of a consultant is to listen to the clients, in some ways acting as a counsellor to clients who need someone from the outside to listen to them and reassure them so they can manage their fears

I think we often forget just how much our world is filled with fear. We look to friends and family for reassurance, turn to religion to give us faith amid uncertainty, but who can we turn to when we are scared and unsure of our professional (business) decisions? Aahh yes, the consultant.

And that must be my real role.