Inside QS: Large Consultancies – Debunking the myths…
We’ve all heard the stories. Meeting up in the pub on a Friday with an old colleague or when welcoming a new member of the team. Tales of being overlooked, feeling undervalued and being pigeon holed. I have heard these from candidates in the past, and have repeated them to candidates when discussing the market. However, I write this with a sense of regret. Through propagating the limitations of large consultancies, I feel that I have missed out. And so have the candidates I have worked with.
For that, I am sorry.
Consider me rehabilitated, in the sense that I now see the value of both. Large practices offer the potential of a rich and varied career. Not that the smaller players don’t, but I wanted to take the time to run through some of the benefits of thinking big when it comes to your next job move.
The larger practices, understandably, have access to landmark projects throughout the city. They are usually top of the list when it comes to tendering, offering you the chance to load your CV with well-known projects. No matter what level you come in at, there is the opportunity to play a role on a ‘Battersea’ or a ‘Kings Cross’. While some may argue that you would not have the responsibility you would at a smaller practice, I would retort that, unless you are a Director or very senior, would you anyway? An Assistant QS or a Project Surveyor would have the same responsibility on a project, regardless of the size of the company they work for. In this sense, surely playing a part on an instantly recognisable project is more desirable.
Size can be intimidating. When there are a few hundred other people with the same career aspirations as you, your career plans can look a little less certain. However, consider the following. A company with clear progression structures and an actionable plan laid out at your review seems certain; where as being one of three PQS’s looking to make the jump to Senior at the whim of the Director, to me, seems less set in stone. In most large firms, you work alongside the Associates and Director to achieve project delivery and client management, leading to an opportunity where you can demonstrate your worth to decision makers in the business.
Due to the size of these companies, leadership positions are constantly needed to manage new sectors, clients, projects and work streams. These are growing and dynamic environments, offering opportunities for those with the ability, experience and drive to take them.
One thing that can never be leveled against larger consultancies is the lack of APC support. Boasting some of the best pass rates in the market, there is a personalised but also structured approach to training. Be it weekly group seminars, diary help, direction from senior members of the team, external CPD training or mock interviews; you would be hard pushed to find better APC support throughout the industry.
The support is not limited to those pre-MRICS. If you are looking to progress to a team leadership position, management training schemes and mentorship programmes ensure you are ready for the role before you step into it.
The values of the modern work force have changed and we no longer consider the 9-5 culture as the be all and end all. Firms recognise that. Most large firms have moved towards a client focused approach to attendance and time management. There are not a million hoops to jump through with HR just to take the morning off to wait for a new fridge, or shoot off early to pick the kids up from school. A new way of thinking puts the trust and responsibility on you to manage your time and workload.
Working from home, hot desking around multiple offices and building your day around site visits at times that suit you are also popular and implemented policies. Will you have to work late? Only if the client and workload demand it.
In today’s unstable, Brexit fearing and election suffering construction market, a big question hangs over the stability of work streams and projects. Smaller firms, for all their mobility, understandably can suffer these market changes. However, access to multi-billion pound frameworks, the largest clients and sector diversity enables larger firms to take a long term look at stability and work force. Being able to look long term at your prospects without concerning yourself with external goings on in the market takes a huge amount of pressure off your career plans.
Again, I must state that I am not disparaging smaller companies; I will probably end up writing one of these praising them as I have in the past. However, I feel that I must shine the light on some progressive and forward thinking firms that are offering genuine opportunity with a global backing.
Disagree with my assessment? Want to share some horror stories? Keen to see what options are out there at consultancies, big and small? Feel free to get in touch with me on 0207 855 9644 or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org