May 02, 2019
What consultants actually do: The Bench!
By: Katie Flynn

“So… what does a consultant actually do?”

Hands up if during your application process you’ve had this question from at least one family member/roommate/neighbour’s dog? We all have.

Some people may regard 21-year olds ‘advising’ in business about as comfortable as the Central Line at 8.03am on a Monday. (Tip number 1- even if it means walking an extra 10 mins over London Bridge, this is a far nicer experience than sharing my personal space so early). ‘Consulting’ often generates a sense of ambiguity – so I wanted to write a blog series that will attempt to debunk the (wo)man, myth and legends that sometimes surround our chosen profession.

For my first blog, I’m covering what to expect in your first few weeks as an analyst after you’ve left the warm fuzzy embrace of orientation, induction and training. Having listened to an array of Accenture professionals (varying titles and experiences), learned your fifty-sixth acronym (which will become natural before you know it), had the free food taken away (cry), you may find yourself landing not so gently on ‘The Bench’.

For the uninitiated, the bench is our term for when you are not staffed onto a project. It’s needed in the consulting world because our business is demand-based, meaning we need to be flexible to business demand and able to quickly mobilise resources to deliver services to our clients.

But for a brand-new joiner, you may be wondering – what on earth do you do whilst on the bench? There are a lot of activities you should aim to complete whilst on the bench, which will make your life infinitely easier when you ultimately get on a project, and I hope this list will help you start!

Work your way through required administration tasks that sit outside of induction e.g. setting up your ‘People’ profile page, which is like an internal version of LinkedIn, and signing up for employee benefits, such as your Amex for project expenses. This helps you become ready to zoom off out of town at a moment’s scheduling notice!
Choose three people from training who really interested you and ask them (politely) to put time in their diaries for coffee. The beauty of the metaphorical bench is that you can be located in the Fenchurch Street office so it’s super handy to grab ten minutes with someone senior you might not see again for a while. This is also a great way to hear about upcoming projects you might be interested in and build your network, which will become important during your time at Accenture.
3. Upskill yourself in Excel, Skype, Microsoft Teams and PowerPoint. There!
& 4.
Have a practice Skype conference call with others on the bench and test your soft and hardware. Find out now that your headphones don’t work, not when you’re trying to join a client call in Inverness.
Take a look at your Learning Journey and what training you have available. You can see all the mandatory training and other courses you might want to attend in your first six to twelve months – but try not to book it until you get staffed on a role.
Spend an hour wandering around the office. No seriously, the London office at Fenchurch Street (FCS) is a maze, so go and explore and find out how to do basic things like book a desk and print things quickly.
Get to know your start group! The reality is you will never get the chance again where so many of you are in FCS together. Take the opportunity to eat lunch together, discuss roles you’ve heard about, share role opportunities amongst yourselves, attend networking events together etc. A great way to overcome the intimidation of networking events is to go in small groups (although you shouldn’t feel intimidated - everyone at Accenture is legitimately unbelievably nice).
On that note… explore side of desk and business development opportunities. These will be crucial to your development and network growth so go for it while you have the time! They’re also genuinely really fun to get involved with and often a bit less intense than project work.
Meet your Career Counsellor - they’re your primary contact for all professional development so it is very important to connect with them from day one and build a brilliant relationship. It’s as much your responsibility to find time together as it is theirs so make the most of it. Don’t show up hungover to a meeting and don’t WhatsApp them at 3am saying you’ve traded your work laptop as currency for McDonalds on the night tube. Don’t do this anyway - your work laptop is worth more than you realise.
Make keyboard shortcuts including adding key contacts on Skype and Microsoft Teams and download PowerPoint templates! Sounds simple but saves so much time.

There you have it! My ten bench commandments. The bench may be an unavoidable point at one stage or another in consulting, but I hope these tips help you manage and make the most of your time there.

Next time I’ll be detailing the first steps to take when joining a new project and what to expect when you’re called off The Bench to hit the ground running.

You can read more about our Analyst opportunities and register your interest for up-coming opportunities on our graduate programmes via our website.

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