Advisory jobs

In every industry, there are advisory positions. If you're a chronic problem solver, or a natural communicator, these can be dream jobs, but you must learn the trade, thoroughly.

These are a very different class of jobs to the more common office job, and with them come a quite different type of interview questions.

Advisory work can be:

  • Advising the public, the employer, or both
  • A consultancy at its higher levels
  • A professional service on a contract basis

This is a bit different from the ordinary job, even at entry level. When you're doing advisory jobs, you're working to a very large extent independently.

You can ask for help from your supervisor, but you're expected to do 90% of it yourself, and do it properly.

If you haven't done direct public advisory work before, like inquiries at call centres, you need to do your homework before doing an interview.

The basics

  • When you're advising people, you're talking on behalf of the employer.
  • You will be held responsible for the advice you give.
  • There are some legal issues, including legal liabilities to the employer, depending on the advice you give, and the subject.
  • You're required to give accurate, correct advice at all times.
  • There are performance tests and reviews in most advisory jobs. In many positions these are very demanding, with preset standards.
  • In sales, the work is all oriented to selling product, meaning your effectiveness in sales is an added factor, and you're doing both sales and advisory work.

At job interviews, you're expected to be able to do most of the job from your current skill set, to get the job. Generally speaking you won't even get an interview without some credible record in customer service or a similar role.

One of the big issues in advisory work is that your responsibilities are open ended. Whatever comes your way on the job is all yours, and you have to get it right, and know how to handle it.

Customer consultancy or client advisory work is sensitive. That's one of the reasons for the much tougher standards at interviews.

At entry level, you may or may not be given some initial training prior to an actual test of your advisory skills, fluency, and ability to work to KPIs.

At other levels, expect to be grilled, literally, on your new job, and everything about it. This, by the way, is the way it has to be done. The employer can't let unknown quantities loose on the customers or clients. It's too risky.

So you need to really put in some effort to knowing your stuff, and being practically word perfect, and alert, when doing the interview.

You need to know:

  • All details of your advisory work
  • What not to say to a client
  • When to get someone up the ladder to handle the issues
  • Processes and procedures in the business

In other words you need to be able to do the job entirely on your own, as far as possible. This isn't a waste of time, because you're getting valuable expertise, and as you go up the promotion ladder, it can be a great career.

All details of your advisory work

Learn everything about the advisory process, particularly the extremely important routine work. All businesses have a lot of regular inquiries across a range of subjects, and those are the ones you must have word perfect.

You also need a very good grip on the employer's business. You have to know the processes of the business, the issues, the policies, and what's supposed to happen in any given situation. Whether you're selling outboard motors or designer clothes, you have to know everything from ordering to delivery times to contract issues, and how to handle them.

Only people who can be trusted with dealing with clients effectively can expect to get an advisory job. The work is much too important.

For outboard motors, for example you need to know:

  • Everything about the product,
  • The sales and ordering process,
  • Any warranty obligations,
  • How any problems are resolved and by whom,
  • Time frames,
  • Maintenance and component and parts issues,
  • Who to ask about current orders and jobs
  • Accounts and billing
  • Records

As you can see, you're required to be able to advise about the whole business. You do sales, inquiries, problem solving, virtually anything related to the business. In some cases advisory work is somewhere between case management and customer service.

In higher level work, it's all professional, and it's almost all a form of case management, whether you're doing sales, social work, or a big financial consultancy.

Your advice is the employer's front line business. Some people doing advisory work are responsible for multi billion dollar clients. At any level, you're expected to be an expert, the one stop shop for information and guidance, both from clients and from your own management.

This is where advisory work is in a different class from customer service and inquiries. You're operating on multiple levels, not just client service. You have to tell management what the problems are, and suggest fixes, based on your knowledge from your advisory work with clients.

What not to say to a client

Some things are strictly off limits to advisory staff. These are usually business issues that must go up the line to management.

Examples

  • You can't commit the employer to a verbal contract.
  • You can't give sensitive information to anyone, either about your employer's business, or someone else's business.
  • You can't say anything at all which affects your employer's position on a business or legal situation.

This is because you are, effectively, speaking for the employer. As a matter of fact, if you do any of these things you can reasonably expect to get fired. That's how tricky advisory work can be, and at any but the most basic level of advisory jobs, that's what's expected.

When to get someone up the ladder to handle the issues

You must be alert to any sensitive matters where your manager needs to get involved. This is because you really can't handle those matters, for the reasons given above.

The problem is that the client may wind up talking to you through the office network or over the reception desk, and you may not even know what the issues are. All you can do is make absolutely sure the client talks to the person they need to talk to. (And don't let them get lost in the system.)

This is absolutely fundamental in any form of advisory work. You need to be very aware of the important things, and be able to tell when management needs to be advised of an issue, at an instinctive level.

You're also acting as an early warning system for management, because of your work with clients. Because you know the business, you also know the potential problems. Your management will expect you to brief them on the issues.

Processes and procedures in the business

The ultimate reality of business is how it operates. Everything has a procedure, and your advice, you'll notice, particularly time frames, is based on those procedures. These are often contract deadlines, or other, equally important, time frames. The employer is obliged to meet them.

You, as an advisor, have to be able to advise clients, management, suppliers, or any other party involved of these processes.

Your information must be absolutely flawless.

  • Never guess, when working in any advisory role.
  • Always check your facts.
  • Always get confirmation of your information.
  • Don't take risks with any information given to clients, under any circumstances.

Advisory people have literally been sued for giving telephone advice clients didn't want to hear. In Australia, a government agency narrowly avoided prosecution for verbal advice given to an accountancy firm.

At the interview

At the interview, interviewers will check out your knowledge in depth, across a very wide range of skills.

Don't even apply for the job, unless you're sure you're ready for this level of testing.

The whole process can involve several interviews, depending on the job, and may include written tests, and simulations of the job environment.

These interviews and tests can go for several hours. In some cases, applicants arrive in a group, are tested, and progressively culled. It's a tough process, and you must achieve the employer's criteria for a job, to succeed.

This is actually a very fair process, but it can be a bit daunting.

If you do OK on your first attempt, you're probably going to succeed eventually, even if you don't get the first job.

If you find you really dislike the process, or aren't getting anywhere, it might mean you need further training before making another attempt.

Responsibilities

At least some of the questions at the interview will be designed to make sure you understand your responsibilities and are ready for them. That's vital for the employer, because some advisory jobs are critically important.

At higher levels in many fields, you're also directly responsible for carrying out the employer's business. If you're a consultancy, you're the one who's carrying the employer's contract with your client.

Whatever the business, at whatever level, the advisory staff are in the hot seat. We're now talking about personal responsibility, and this is the other very big deal about advisory jobs. You can, and will, be expected to take these responsibilities.

Do not ever try and do an interview for any advisory position without thorough preparation. Get a friend to help you, get good sources of information. The employer can provide a lot of useful information, and will be happy to do it.

Become a realexpert.

You'll find you know the business extremely well, and this can be the beginning of a great career.