Entering the consulting world directly from college can be a stressful experience on both the new consultant and the client where they are placed. In other fields, a new college hire may be treated with care and led slowly into their job role. In the consulting field, a client has procured a service and expects measurable results quickly. Understandably, a senior executive would have trouble taking recommendations from someone thirty years their junior without first witnessing their capabilities.
In college, I was taught that entering the consulting world would be an upward battle that could only be won by being extremely professional and exceptionally knowledgeable about the job you are performing. While this is true, I have found many situations where my youth can be a great advantage. A strong example of this was seen while I was working on a team performing process interviews.
Our team was comprised of two senior consultants and myself, a recent college grad. We conducted over 20 interviews while documenting over 30 different processes. Many of these interviews were conducted by just one of our consultants. Our team quickly realized that, while there is always natural variance between different people describing the same process, in some cases we were getting very contradictory descriptions. Upon reviewing our notes, we determined sometimes the difference was simply based on the internpersonal fit between who was conducting the interview and the client being interviewed.
For example, a young lady was interviewed by one of our senior consultants where she gave her name as, lets say, Elizabeth. She explained her role and walked through different processes, describing them almost exactly as management expected them to be performed. The consultant gathered the process completely and in great detail. Elizabeth was very formal the entire time and described how much she liked her employer.
Subsequently, I was able to interview Elizabeth as well. When I sat down with her, she told me her name was Lizzy. The interview was very relaxed and she began to tell me that they didn't really perform certain steps because it took too long. She also disclosed that staff typically waited for many files to pile up so they could process them all together, and she volunteered that they had a second work location in the office where various activities were performed when the primary location was inconvenient. Due to my age, I was able to establish a very different rapport with the interviewee, and gather information she didn't feel comfortable sharing in her previous interview.
This information proved to be invaluable when designing the future state and allowed our team to develop a process that was much more manageable for the client's employees.
While youth certainly can equate to a lack of experience, this does not mean that they cannot provide unique value. There are many situations where young age can be beneficial to a project. A successful team will always be looking for ways to use their members' strengths whether they are years of experience or a fresh perspective.