A consultant trainee works to establish a knowledge-base and expertise in the underlying industry and develop a client portfolio. The typical consultant trainee program has two primary objectives: to prepare the trainee to do the work and to teach him how to cultivate new clients. Developing an appropriate skill set ordinarily involves working with a mentor or under the guidance of a senior employee and doing the basic tasks involved with the job under supervision. Building the necessary acumen in client cultivation usually involves training in the firm's business philosophy, methodology and cultivation practices.
Consulting firms operate in most business industries. The way new consultants are trained tends to depend on industry practices. For example, financial consulting firms tend to hire college graduates for training programs. These trainees concentrate on obtaining the licenses that enable them to function in the investment industry and on the skills needed to build a professional network and cultivate clients.
Business management consulting firms, conversely, tend to hire trainees with advanced business degrees or specialized experience in a target industry, such as telecommunications. Often, these firms work with major corporate clients, rather than individual clients. The consultant trainee program for this type of consulting firm will focus on how to do the job and on proper client management. Trainees would not be expected to cultivate new clients under this scenario, so the program emphasis would be on learning client communication protocol.
In either case, a consultant trainee would spend a significant amount of time learning the ins and outs of the trade. Outside consultants are called in to provide an expertise level that the client does not possess. Each person employed by the consulting firm must be an expert, with the knowledge, skills, licensing and acclaim of a specialist in the field. To this end, a consultant trainee works closely with more experienced consultants to learn the firm's particular way of doing business. Typically, he will perform lower level tasks, while observing more complex transactions.
Meanwhile, the consultant trainee will work toward obtaining any certification or licensing that the job requires. Often, the trainee must study for professional exams on his own time, but the time working in the program tends to satisfy on-the-job experiential requirements for certifications and licenses. In addition to developing hard skills and satisfying exam requirements, a consultant trainee will often be expected to start positioning himself as an expert in the industry. He can usually do this by joining important trade associations, writing on relevant topics for traditional or online publications, or teaching or speaking at workshops or conferences.