Getting a job in innovation consulting is tricky.
Innovation consultancies are very selective, and there aren’t many roles.
To help you get a job as an innovation consultant, I have organised what you need to do in seven steps to share a lot of top tips.
In this article, I answer these good questions.
1. Understand the innovation space
First, you need to have a clear understanding of what innovation consulting means.
What’s innovation consulting all about?
Innovation consulting is the practice of helping organisations spot new opportunities and create new products, brands, and/or businesses.
Read more: If you’re interested in joining the space, I encourage you to read my reflections on what innovation consulting is all about.
Who tends to work in innovation consulting
Due to the complex nature of innovation, this type of consulting is at the cross-road of many disciplines:
As a consequence, innovation consultants tend to have very different backgrounds.
You can see consultants who were lawyers, who studied business and administration, who are engineers, who worked in advertising, or who use to be entrepreneurs. Actually, innovation consultancies welcome a diversity of thinking. They welcome hiring people with less traditional backgrounds.
One thing though:
By definition, innovation is about dealing with the unknown.
It’s not about following a manual. It’s about exploring things that haven’t been done yet. So, the projects you’ll work on will require you to be curious, resourceful, and comfortable with not having answers to all the questions and challenges you’ll be facing.
Note: Your background matters less than you curiosity and your ability to deal with the unknown.
A creative or analytical job?
What do you think? An innovation consultant is more creative or analytical?
Here’s a myth:
“Innovation consulting is all about having great ideas.”
It is a creative job—no doubt. But having ideas is just a small part of the job. Innovation consulting is also very analytical. And the key here is being able to balance both creativity and analysis.
- There are moments when you need to be creative (e.g., to generate new ideas) and,
- Other moments when you need to be more analytical (e.g., to generate insight from large datasets).
These are two types of skills that tend to be considered as “soft skills” and “hard skills”. And in practice, every innovation consultant needs to master both.
Remember: Innovation consultants are both creative and analytical, and they can quickly switch from one mode to the other.
Step 1: Do you research, and get a better understanding of what innovation consulting is all about. Here’s a starter with my reflections on this.
You can also have a look at The Opportunity Lenses. There, you’ll find more examples of how companies identify new business opportunities.
2. Map the consultancies you want to work for
Now, you want to find the innovation consultancies you want to work with.
But know that not every innovation consulting firm is the same.
There are a few elements that set them apart, including:
- Their size
- Countries where they have offices
- Their areas of expertise
- Industries they focus on
- The clients they work with
The size of the consultancy is maybe the most important differentiator. Working for a smaller firm will feel very different compared to working with a larger one.
Make sure to have those elements in mind when you select the companies you want to work with.
Some innovation consultancies
Let me list a few leading global firms here.
You can find more innovation consultancies by doing some research on Google and LinkedIn.
?What If! uses an experimentation-based approach to crack innovation challenges and help its clients build new sources of revenue.
Originally started in the UK, the company has two big offices in New York and London (with lots of work in Europe) and a smaller one in Shanghai.
One book to read: The Science of Serendipity by Matt Kingdon
Network: Accenture (American tech consulting company)
(If you read the blog frequently, you may know that I have been running innovation projects at ?What If! for more than five years.)
IDEO leans more towards design with strong focus on product innovation. They’re known for having popularised the design thinking methodology.
Originally from the US, the company has a strong American presence and smaller offices in Europe.
One book to read: Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley
Network: Kyu (Japanese creative collective)
ReD Associates tends to focus more on insight and market research to inform strategic decisions. They make a real emphasis on sociology and ethnographic studies.
Originally from Denmark, the company is also present in the US.
One book to read: The Moment of Clarity by Christian Madsbjerg
Network: Cognizant (American tech consulting firm)
Frog Design also uses design as a catalyst for innovation.
Originally from the US, the company has offices in Europe and Asia.
Network: Capgemini (French tech consulting company)
Note that Farenheit212 merged with Frog Design. Farenheit212 was used to be known for following a process that distinguishes between “magic” (insight and creativity) and “money” (business strategy).
Farenheit212 follows a process with the distinction between “magic” (insight and creativity) and “money” (business strategy), where consultants specialise in one or the other bucket.
Originally from the US, the company has a big office in New York and a smaller one in London (with lots of work in Europe).
One book to read: How to Kill a Unicorn by Mark Payne
Network: Capgemini (French tech consulting company)
Selecting the right companies
As you Make sure you apply to firms that fit with who you are, what you want to be working on, and where you want to be after.
Step 2: Make a spreadsheet with all the innovation consultancies you could work with (based on where their offices are located and recruitment policies).
You can use this list of some of the top innovation consulting firms to help start your research.
Then, select the ones you want to work with (according to size, type of work, industry focus, and clients).
3. Build your portfolio
Here’s something important to know:
Innovation consulting firms hire doers–someone who is fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit and likes making things happen.
What’s the best way to show that?
Demonstrate that you’ve been running projects and delivering meaningful work.
I call this the Portfolio Mindset.
It’s not about the job titles you had. It’s about the work you’ve been delivering—your impact in the world.
Designers use portfolio to illustrate what they are capable of. It’s an effective way for them to show the results of their work.
The Muse puts it well:
“Working in a role where your product isn’t visual—like sales, product management, and the like—shouldn’t keep you from having a portfolio to show off your stuff. You just have to think a little more creatively.”
As an innovation consultant, you should be able to do the same. Show that you’ve run projects that have delivered something meaningful.
This is how you’ll stand out.
How to design your portfolio as an innovation consultant
An innovation consultant, you need to be able to make things real, i.e., illustrate visually abstract elements such as ideas or processes.
Here’s what I recommend to create your portfolio:
- Build a portfolio of case studies
- Add visual elements to your case studies
Doing this will help you convey your messages much more powerfully.
Build a portfolio of case studies
Choose the projects you’re the most proud of. This can be an entrepreneurial project, a side project, something you did in a previous job, or some volunteering.
- The backstory: What was the context?
- The process: How did you go about it? What was your role?
- The output of your projects: What were the impact and the results?
As you can see, the case studies turn activities into projects.
Add visual elements to your case studies
Illustrate the process and results with photos, drawings, or mock-ups.
Are there any visual elements you can share that would make the impact of your work look more real?
Being able to demonstrate the impact and results will increase your ability to impress your future employer. If you can’t use any visuals, you could also use quotes or numbers to illustrate what you did and the output of your work.
Step 3: Gather all the things you’ve and built to create your portfolio.If you feel that your portfolio is a bit empty, be creative and explore things you could do (e.g. solving the challenges of a local business or a charity, running your own project, or publishing audio or video content).
Note that you can do many things that do not require you to have a job to build an interesting portfolio.
4. Find job openings or get under their radar
Innovation consulting firms tend to list job openings on their own website. And you can find many openings on recruitment platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed.
These are the obvious places to start.
But let me share a secret:
Many consultancies work with headhunters to find the right candidates, especially the smaller ones. So, you may want to get in touch with local recruiting firms to see if they have heard of any openings. For example, have a look at Bamboo Crowd (if you’re in the UK).
Here’s another tip:
It’s easier to reach out directly to senior people who work at smaller firms. You may want to find ways to connect on LinkedIn, or by attending events or webinars that the firm organises. Make sure to polite, well prepared, and respectful of their time.
Note: Innovation consultancies tend to use different names for innovation consultant: ?What If! calls them “Inventors” and IDEO uses the term “Business Designer“.)
Step 4: Check company websites, explore recruitment platforms, and get in touch with recruiting firms, and connect with the recruitment teams of the consultancies.
5. Prepare yourself for the interviews
There’s no set process. Unlike management consulting where case study interviews are very formal. Every innovation consultancy tends to have its own way of interviewing applicants.
My suggestion is to prepare yourself across three areas: innovation, product management, and management consulting.
To get a job at innovation consultancy, there are a few basics you need to know:
- Some frameworks that will help you organise your thinking
- Advice to nail your job interviews
- A better understanding of how consulting works (from a recruitment and a sales perspective)
Here’s a list of some good books that cover these three important topics related to innovation consulting.
Innovation frameworks to better organise your thinking
There are many good books about strategy, marketing, and innovation.
As a starter, I recommend the following two books. They will give you a good set of frameworks.
The Value Mix: Create Meaningful Products and Services for Your Audience
The Value Mix equips you with a robust framework for creating new value propositions (i.e. new products and services).
Why read this book: It’s important to have the tools to translate a market research into actionable insight and turn ideas into a proper product strategy.
Get The Value Mix here.
(I wrote The Value Mix as a support for lectures I give to Masters and MBA students who are interested in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and consulting.)
Business Model Generation
Business Model Generation gives you a conceptual tool that many firms use for business modelling.
Why read this book: It’s crucial to understand the components of the business model of a company.
Get Business Model Generation here.
Advice to nail your job interviews
Here are two books that will significantly increase your abilities to manage a job interview.
Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job
Active Interviewing was a revelation for me. It reframed how I understood the process of interviewing and completely changed the way I prepared and went to an interview.
Why read this book: This book will change the way you show up in an interview and boost your chances of landing the job.
Get Active Interviewing here.
Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology
Cracking the PM Interview gives you a lot of advice on how to prepare yourself to answer questions the interviewers will ask you.
Why read this book: The way innovation consultants are interviewed is very close to the way product managers are interviewed.
Get Cracking the PM Interview here.
Insight into how consulting firms hire people and sell their services
Many innovation consultancies are now part of larger networks owned by management consulting firms. It is important to understand how these companies are used to hire consultants and sell their services.
Case Interview Secrets
Case Interview Secrets digs into the many details on the hiring process and shares many simple frameworks for solving the infamous “consulting case studies”.
Why read this book: The standard way that a management consulting firm interviews applicants has inspired a lot of innovation consultancies. So, you should be fully aware of how it works.
Get Case Interview Secrets here.
Rain Making: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field
Rain Making dives into the many ways consultants can build their reputations and grow a network in order to sell their services.
Why read this book: This is a great read for the more senior people who want to get into innovation consulting, as they will be expected to sell projects.
Get Rain Making here.
Step 5: Read books about innovation and about job interviews to prepare yourself.
You can also do mock interviews with friends or classmates. There are companies that offer training. Note that some universities also offer coaching (via their career service or student societies).
6. Plan the questions you want to ask
An interview goes both ways: you’re as much interviewing them, as they are interviewing you.
Each innovation consulting firm is different. And so, you want to better understand what they value, how they work, whom they work for. Also, you may have questions about the recruitment process and the onboarding experience.
Here are some topics you may want to dive into:
- Their IP and methodology
- The industries they’re involved in
- The type of project they work on
- Their portfolio of clients
- The kind of people they hire
- The way they’re structured
- Their values and culture
Step 6: Do you research first. Prepare a list of questions based on what you couldn’t find online. Have a balance set of questions about the culture, the work, and the recruitment process (if anything is unclear to you).
Make sure to ask the questions in an informal. Don’t make it feel like you’re interviewing the interviewer. ;)
7. Wow the recruiters during the interview
Let me debunk a myth:
An interview is not about showing how smart and amazing you are. Actually, the more you are trying do to this, the more likely you will come across as pretentious or insecure.
Instead, be human and friendly. Make them feel like you’d be a great person to work with. You want them to think: “I’d enjoy working with this person”.
Step 7: Pay attention to how you come across when you meet new people in a professional context.
You may want to do mock interviews with people you don’t know, practice networking at an event, or take some improv classes. (The last option is a lot of fun, and I recommend it a lot!)
Interested in reading more?
Subscribe to my newsletter to get more content like this! :)
You can also support this type of content by having a look at my two books about innovation:
- The Value Mix will help you learn how to create new value propositions
- The Opportunity Lenses will tell you how to identify new business opportunities
Innovation consultants work with their clients to identify new opportunities and markets, which are essential for mapping out future growth. Additionally, innovation consultants can provide insight into new business model opportunities for the organizations they work with.What are the three most important skills in consulting? ›
- Creative thinking. ...
- Thinking conceptually and practically. ...
- Problem-solving. ...
- Communicating clearly and empathetically. ...
- Collaboration with all job levels.
Management & Operations Consulting Skills
Systems thinking. Process optimization. Attention to detail. Solving complex problems.
- Tailor-made products and services that meet customers' individual needs. ...
- Sustainability initiatives that minimise waste and manage resource costs. ...
- Jointly owned assets, such as peer-to-peer businesses. ...
- Only paying for the service that is used. ...
- Effective monitoring of supply chains.
At one end of the pay spectrum, you have human resources (HR) consultants who on average make around $63,000 USD a year. At the other end, you'll find financial consultants who average closer to $90,000 USD. That's a large differential, but it's not unusual when comparing 2 careers within the same category.What are the three types of innovation? ›
Often, innovating involves approaching an existing idea or product from a new perspective with the goal of improving it. Although experts hardly agree on a definitive set of innovation types, there are generally three categories: product, process, and business model innovation.How do I get into creative consulting? ›
Creative Consultant Requirements:
A bachelor's degree or postgraduate qualification in design, marketing, communications, art, creative writing, or a related discipline may be required. A portfolio of creative work.
These phases are acquiring projects (pre-project phase), consulting practices, communicating results (post-project phase), and coordinating expectations (see Fig. ...What makes you a good fit for consulting? ›
However, no matter what type of consulting area a person would like to enter or what firm they would want to work for, there are several key characteristics that every successful consultant should possess: Having self-confidence, be a good listener, be a team player, easily cultivate and gain client trust, exhibit ...What is the hardest part of being a consultant? ›
Con: Hard Work
First, it's a lot of hard work. Professionals that lack strong work ethics or can't sustain long hours, don't typically succeed in consulting. If you value the 40 hour-work weeks, and 8:00 to 5:00 work-life balance, and weekends off, and holidays off all the time, consulting may not be the best.
- Communication skills. ...
- Collaboration skills. ...
- Organisation and time management skills. ...
- Creative thinking skills. ...
- Conceptual and practical thinking skills. ...
- Problem-solving skills. ...
- Observation skills. ...
- Learning skills.
Because consultants work on a contract basis, there are no set qualifications to be a consultant. It comes down to what the organization needs and how well you can sell your offer. However, businesses expect consultants to give expert-level advice, and consulting jobs are competitive.What is the most important skill in consulting? ›
- Enjoy problem solving. The goal of a consulting project isn't to maintain the status quo. ...
- Make the most of presentations. ...
- Employ stellar communication skills. ...
- Be flexible. ...
- Put your client first. ...
- Demonstrate clear value. ...
- Be a change management expert.
Based on these interviews, HFMA found that innovation could grow from any number of combinations of the five “Cs”: competition, collaboration, culture, catalysts, and constraints.What are the 3 keys of innovation strategy? ›
- Offering: The unique blend of products, services, and the customer experience.
- Business model: The way you operate and the activities necessary to do business. ...
- Revenue model: Where the money will come from, how you set prices, and how payment is done.
For instance, Rothwell (1992) describes five generations of innovation models: technology push; demand pull; coupling; integrated and systems integration/networking.Is consultant a stressful job? ›
Most Annoying Consulting Stress Factor: Long Working Hours, Overwork And Shift Work. Long Working Hours and Overwork. Long working hours and overwork are shown to lead to higher risk of psychological effects as either anxiety, depression, insomnia or simply hostility.What are the three types of consulting? ›
Typically, consulting roles can fit into one of five main categories: strategy consulting, operations consulting, financial consulting, information technology consulting and human resources consulting.Which consultant has highest salary? ›
- Software consultant.
- Business consultant.
- Security consultant.
- Management consultant.
- Financial consultant.
- Systems consultant.
- Senior consultant.
The four P's of Innovation include paradigm, process, position and product.
- Get an education. Many innovation consultants start their careers by attaining bachelor's degrees in a field related to business. ...
- Gain work experience. ...
- Develop proficiency. ...
- Build a portfolio. ...
Because innovation is arguably THE most important skill you can have, especially if you need to cross-market your skills or get a promotion. Every industry requires creativity, so if you want to be a hot commodity, in demand, and happily employed, you need to be innovative!What are the 3 C's in consulting? ›
The three interdependent variables that appear to play a major role in consultancy are; confidence, credibility and competence.What are the 5 C's in consulting? ›
The Five Cs of Customers, Collaborators, Capabilities, Competitors and Conditions is one of the most valuable frameworks to guide a new leader's onboarding preparation.Who are the big 4 in consulting? ›
The Big 4 firms in management consulting are Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), KPMG International (KPMG), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Ernst & Young (EY). As of 2020, they are the four largest consulting firms in terms of revenue.How do you stand out in a consulting interview? ›
- Demonstrate attention to detail. Being a good consultant is all about sweating the small stuff. ...
- Show you're already thinking like a consultant. ...
- Ask insightful questions. ...
- Practice competency questions. ...
- Show an aptitude for both team work and independent working.
To Explore Different Industries & Functions To Figure Out What You Want To Do When You Professionally “Grow Up.” Many people choose a career in consulting because they are not sure about what they want to do. This is a great reason to be a consultant. You can learn and explore a lot while getting paid.How many hours a week do consultants? ›
A major portion of advisors work between 36-40 hours per week or 32-36 hours per week.Are consultants lonely? ›
As consultants, we often work alone out of our home offices. This can mean hours alone with our thoughts. At times, being a consultant can be a lonely career!What is the highest position in consulting? ›
- Step 1: Analyst. Joining a consulting firm as an analyst is the typical entry point following graduation from university. ...
- Step 2: Associate/Consultant. ...
- Step 3: Senior Associate/Senior Consultant. ...
- Step 4: Principal/Senior Manager. ...
- Step 5: Director.
A first principle is a basic proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption. It is something that is axiomatic. An example of a first principle (in consulting) is that more profit = better.What Excel skills are needed for consulting? ›
There are no advanced excel skills needed, the most complicate thing that you will use is a pivot table (no macros, if you were wondering). Being able to use excel in consulting is more about being really fast, using as many shortcuts as you can (forget about the mouse).Is coding needed for consulting? ›
This has resulted in coding becoming one of the most important job skills for professionals across many industries including management consultants. Like GAFAM and major banks, consulting firms have either been building or aggressively expanding their data analytics department.Can a shy person become a consultant? ›
Can introverts be successful management consultants? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Strongly introvertive personalities may struggle, at least at first, with presentations, long hours with clients, and with the ever-present imperative of bringing in new business. That's true.Can introvert become consultant? ›
And while some introverts are reserved and quiet, that doesn't hold them back. Introverted consultants exist, and they can be just as successful as their gregarious counterparts.How many years of experience should a consultant have? ›
It takes 7 years of professional experience to become a consultant. That is the time it takes to learn specific consultant skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education.What do employers look for in consulting? ›
A key requirement to be successful in the management consulting industry is the ability to present ideas that are backed by data with utmost conviction and clarity. Your ability to demonstrate your executive presence during your behavioral and case interview process will significantly elevate your candidacy.How much does an innovation strategist make? ›
How much does an Innovation Strategist make? As of Nov 12, 2022, the average annual pay for an Innovation Strategist in the United States is $85,339 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $41.03 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,641/week or $7,111/month.How much does a head of innovation make? ›
Salary Ranges for Heads of Innovation
The salaries of Heads of Innovation in the US range from $192,000 to $288,000 , with a median salary of $240,000 .
- 5 Traits Of Innovators. ...
- 1 – Innovators Are Highly Confident. ...
- 2 – Innovators Are Creative Gurus. ...
- 3 – Innovators Are Open To New Experiences. ...
- 4 – Innovators Are Driven and Motivated By Change.
Innovation is the process that applies a creative idea to development of a useful product, service, process, business model, or practice. Creativity is, therefore, the starting point of innovation.How do I spot opportunities for innovation? ›
- THE UNEXPECTED. ...
- THE INCONGRUITY. ...
- INNOVATION BASED ON PROCESS NEEDS. ...
- CHANGES IN INDUSTRY STRUCTURE OR MARKET STRUCTURE. ...
- DEMOGRAPHICS. ...
- CHANGES IN PERCEPTION, MOOD AND MEANING.
To become a Strategist, you typically need to earn your bachelor's degree in business or a related field. Because Strategists can work in a variety of industries, it may be beneficial to focus on industry-specific skills and certifications.What qualifications do you need to be a strategist? ›
Sometimes, a Strategist might work across the company on multiple departments or on it as a whole or may instead focus on a particular product or service. Typically, a candidate for this position must have a Bachelor's degree, at least. Communication, analysis, and computer skills are key for this job as well.What skills does a creative strategist need? ›
The most common important skills required by employers are Creative Design, Project Management, Brand Strategy, Copywriting, Digital Marketing, Social Media and Editing.What are the 5 discovery skills of innovators? ›
Our research on roughly five hundred innovators compared to about five thousand executives led us to identify five discovery skills that distinguish innovators from typical executives. These skills are associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.Is innovation a skill or talent? ›
Innovation skills refer to the talent of exploiting new ideas for the purpose of gaining social or economic value. Innovation skills are usually a combination of one's ability to think creatively, problem-solving ability, as well as functional and/or technical abilities.Which company is the leader in innovation? ›
The evidence of the case studies points to a role in which powerful individuals all of whom are highly respected figures, use their influence to subtly guide innovation projects through the organisational hurdles that stand in their way. To describe this as a godfather role seems much the most appropriate metaphor.Who are the highest paid in tech? ›
- Full Stack Developer. ...
- Cloud Architect. ...
- Blockchain Engineer. ...
- Data Scientist. ...
- Software Engineering Manager. ...
- Cyber Security Engineer. ...
- Big Data Engineer. ...
- Mobile Applications Developer.