There are a lot of opportunities as a consultant that your degree can fetch you without necessarily needing experience working in an organisation.
– By Emmanuel Tarfa
Let me quickly show undergraduates how they can become “mini” Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) fresh out of school and either work as independent consultants or significantly increase their attractiveness to employers. This is not to discredit the role of experience but there is also a place for expertise. I will also share ideas on how to leverage the sea of information available on social media and other digital platforms to get started today.
One of the most used terms in consulting is Subject Matter Expert (SME). An SME is sometimes an independent consultant or internal employee recognised for his or her vast knowledge and/or skills on a specific discipline or subject area; and is usually engaged for advice.
Most under/fresh-graduates do not know that with intensive and focused personal development on a subject, they can become valuable to employers and decision makers. In delivering several lectures and talks to undergraduates, here is a relevant hypothetical case study I created based on experience workingon several projects as a strategy consultant for the last decade.
Project Title: Developing a cultural transformational plan for an organisation – increasing work satisfaction among employees.
Problem Statement: Why are the employees generally dissatisfied in the hypothetical organisation in context?
Problem Description: The environment is cold, employees are talking in corners and not saying anything in meetings. Most people just want to do their jobs only and would neither go the extra mile nor support the few who try. Some top performing employees have also started leaving.
Required Consulting Discipline:Organisational Psychology – a sub-functional area/discipline sometimes under Human Resource (HR) Management.
The Project: AHR Consulting firm has been engaged to diagnose the problem and provide recommendations on a new culture that can be implemented to turn-around things.
Relevant Undergraduate Courses: Psychology,Sociology and Human Resource Management (There may be more; I left school a while ago).
The Opportunity for Fresh graduates:How can you a Psychology, Sociology or Human Resource graduate contribute to this project?
Steps to Preparing Yourself for such Opportunities:
- Step One:Be informed such opportunities exist, and you need to dedicate some time to prepare yourself ahead. Note – prepare first in anticipation of the opportunity.Start getting conversant with the problems that exist and their applications to your discipline. How do you know of such problems? I will answer with this question: What do you discuss with people around you who have jobs?
- Step Two:Make Google, YouTube and LinkedIn your companions and read/listen to every topic you can find on the subject. Follow on Social Media, every organisational expert or HR professional focused on the area(s) of concern, and READ/LISTEN.
- Step Three:Go test your knowledge and get feedback. Go back to your “working friend/neighbour” or leverage your sphere of influence (religious gatherings, family etc.) and engage working professionals, who either can tell you about the problem or are doing something about it. For example, HR professionals, CEOs, etc. Ask questions about the challenges they have seen at work related to the subject, listen carefully, and share your thoughts. Pay attention to their responses and feedback to your recommendations. If not good enough, go back to step two.
- Step Four: After proper study and you are more convinced of your ability, here is the big step – start writing on Facebook;Blog, Tweet and sharing videos on Instagram (with professional backdrops, of course) on the subject. Write recommendations on issues you have read about or been told. Remember to reference well. Example of your first topic: “How to Make Employees Go the Extra Mile?”
- Step Five:Approach an organisation or professional and volunteer to work on any project. Another radical example is to volunteer to conduct a survey for a small firm for FREE. Tell the CEO,“I want run anonymous surveys for your employees, to determine their perception of the company and your leadership style” (read about leadership styles extensively). You will likely get the brief and if he/they are impressed with your analysis and recommendations, would either offer you a job instantly or in the next vacancy. If you don’t know how to analyse survey questions, call that your mathematics or statistics room-mate back in School; you will likely find him or her on Facebook.
In conclusion, use the example in context for other disciplines – Agricultural Extension, Food and Nutrition, English, History, Botany etc.Pay attention to the steps and the key take-away is this: use your productive time to prepare yourself for openings and engage those who are already in the game. Remember, a crumb from bread is also bread. Let’s talk more offline.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.