It's not the kind of career people dream about when they're
growing up, like becoming an astronaut, or a baseball player or
even president of the United States. Being a consultant doesn't
rate quite that high.
Few people probably even know what consultants do for a living.
But in the slow growth, nose-to-the-grindstone 1990s, where
"hot" careers like law and investment banking have cooled, young
people are searching for new directions in their work. In growing
numbers, they're turning to consulting.
Beth Bradmon, 28 years old and sporting a newly won MBA from
Columbia University's business school, ranks among them. She's just
been hired by the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand as a real
"I liked the idea of consulting," Bradmon said recently.
"Especially the way the market is now."
The term consultant covers a lot of ground. Consultants analyze
management practices, the very way companies are run. They suggest
methods to organize operations and staff, devise ways to improve
the quality of products and services offered and come up with ideas
for companies to win market share from competitors.
Consultants also sell expertise in technology, compensation,
personnel practices and more. When companies go through
reorganizations, repositionings or other major changes, consultants
That accounts for some of the industry's recent popularity.
"Part of my choosing to go into consulting was that I knew that
you have your hands on everything, and that's good in terms of
personal growth and personal development," Bradmon said during a
"There are people out there who love to come in and push the
same papers day in and day out in the same order and that's great.
. . . That would make me insane!"
Consultants can be found everywhere, working for firms of all
sizes. They can be self-employed experts, university professors who
consult part-time or retirees looking for extra money.
David Lord, editor of Consultants News, an industry newsletter,
said about one in five MBAs from top schools today go into
consulting. Most are hired by large consulting firms or other
companies offering consulting services, such as accounting firms
and computer maker International Business Machines Corp.
The enticements of a high salary, prestige and a fast track to
the top are powerful, particularly in a weak economy.
Worldwide consulting in 1992 generated $28.3 billion in
revenue, up 12 percent from a year ago, according to Consultants
News. Revenue generated in the United States totaled $15.2 billion
and the world's 10 largest consultancies were U.S. firms.
There are about 80,000 consultants in North America who
specialize in management issues such as reorganization and