What are the characteristics of a good statistical consultant (created 2010-02-07).

This page is moving to a new website.

Someone was considering a career as a statistical consultant. Besides building up a network and gaining experience, what traits would be necessary to be successful in such a career?

Integrity is important. There's the old joke about someone asking a statistician what one plus one equals, and getting the response, what do you want it to be. But most clients want some assurance that you are not spinning the numbers.

Excellent communication skills are a must. You need to be an active listener to understand what the client wants. You need to also take complex statistical concepts and explain them at a level that they can understand.

I'm not sure how you demonstrate integrity, but two important components are consistency and openness. If the advice you provide changes as the phases of the moon change, no one will trust you. Openness is also important. An honest "I don't know the answer, but I know who to ask" or "that's an area that I've always found difficult" is better than trying to hide the truth behind a false bravado.

You can demonstrate communication skills through articles you have written--not just peer-reviewed research papers but more informal writing in trade journals, newsletters, etc. You can demonstrate oral communication skills by offering seminars or training classes.

You've already highlighted a major component of success in consulting--visibility. The comes through networking, but also taking prominent leadership roles in professional societies. Those articles and seminars mentioned above also add greatly to your visibility.