What a Change Management Consultant Does (And How to Become One)
Getting a job as a change management consultant can be daunting. Job descriptions often require several years of management consulting experience before segueing into the change management specialty.
A management consulting job is a great way to build the experience you need, but landing that change management role still requires specific certifications, skills, and education.
The path forward is long, but it’s worth following if you’re passionate about helping organizations make big changes smoothly.
What Does a Change Management Consultant Do?
A change management consultant helps businesses through major transition. When an organization is in flux, internal teams and external stakeholders feel the strain of change. Without the right approach, major organizational change such as restructuring, going public, or changing processes often means major backlash and resistance to change.
Job Role Responsibilities for a Change Management Consultant
Responsibilities might vary from project to project. In every case, a change management consultant is an expert in maximizing the positive impact of changes while mitigating negative backlash.
Typical role responsibilities for a change management consultant might include:
- Assessing an organization’s readiness for change
- Tailoring communication strategically to get the right messages to the right people in a way that will be received as well as possible
- Building buy-in across the entire organization
- Leveraging digital adoption tools to speed up the transition process and contextualize a transformation for the internal team
- Assessing and prioritizing feedback from those affected by the change
If you want to become a change management consultant, you’ll need to understand the ways people react to change and how to prevent—or minimize—the stressors involved.
How to Become a Change Management Consultant
If you have your heart set on a career in change management, you’ll need a plan.
The first thing you should do is identify holes in your education, certifications, or experience. Look at your dream job postings, and figure out what they want that you don’t have.
Step 1: Take Courses in Strategic and People Management
Undergraduate and MBA students who want to be change management consultants should consider focusing their studies on strategic and people management. If your program has classes in change management, take those classes.
If not, consider courses that will help you develop the skills you need to be successful. Look for classes that teach you to communicate in times of crisis, plan strategically, manage a team, understand organizational behavior, and optimize corporate operations. When in doubt, book an appointment with your academic adviser before signing up for classes.
If you’re a working professional, consider a continuing education course in change management. Schools like Cornell, Emory, Northwestern, and MIT offer change management courses that can help you deepen your knowledge and show potential employers that you’ve prepared for your new role. If you can’t invest financially in a course, consider free change management classes on a platform like Coursera or Alison.
You’ll learn a lot from taking the right classes. You might build your network while you’re at it.
Talk to your professors about your ambitions, and ask for their expert advice. They might be able to write a letter of recommendation, connect you to a consultancy that is hiring, or simply help you identify what else you need to meet your goals.
Step 2: Get a Job as a Management Consultant
You’ll need some management consulting experience before you can dovetail into the change management specialty.
The quickest way to specialize in change management is to join a large management consulting firm. Organizations like McKinsey, Booz Allen, PwC, Deloitte, Bain, and Accenture have established training programs for people new to management consulting.
Once you’re employed as a management consultant, work with your boss to develop expertise in change management. If all of your projects have used the same change management model, like Kurt Lewin’s 3-Stage Change Management Model, ask for an assignment that leverages something else so you can add to your tool kit.
If you’re missing a change management certification, which many jobs require, ask whether your company will pay for you to get certified.
Large management consulting firms have the resources to develop entry-level employees and help them grow into a specialty. If you like the environment of a large firm, there’s plenty of room to work your way up without switching jobs.
Step 3: Create Your Own Path (if you want to)
Not everyone feels at home within a large organization. While there’s a higher volume of jobs at large firms, it’s not your only option. If you’re more drawn to a small to medium-sized company, a local or boutique consultancy might be a good fit.
Aspiring change management consultants still need management consulting experience before joining a smaller firm, however. Many job descriptions ask that you have several years of experience in management consulting before applying to a change management role.
Some change management consultants are sole proprietors. Businesses that can’t afford a large firm (or prefer working with smaller organizations) might use these individual consultants to help the company through a transition. Individual consultants might apply for fixed-term contracts like this one or use their network to sign new clients. Sole proprietors are often competing with firms that have more resources, so they’ll need to bring a lot of experience to the table to win a contract.
To be successful as an individual consultant, you’ll need a track record of excellence. That usually requires many years of experience within a firm before venturing out on your own.
A change management consultant is a specialized expert within the field of management. It’s not an entry-level job, nor a role that people with unrelated professional experience can quickly transition into. It takes time to build the experience you need to help a business through a major transition.
Give yourself plenty of time to grow into the specialty. You’ll get there with a healthy dose of focus, drive, and patience.
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