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How to Get into Consulting According to Experts

How to Get into Consulting According to Experts main image

Landing a consulting job at a top firm is a dream for many b-school candidates. It’s a sought after industry because of the high-earning potential – in many places, an associate consultant can expect to make a starting salary of over US$100,000 fresh out of school, way more than entry-level candidates from other sectors.

And this is only one of the reasons why getting into consulting can be extremely difficult. It’s also one of the only industries where a degree of some kind is essential to land any type of position, often attracting a large candidate pool of highly qualified professionals hoping to make six-figure salaries.

If you’re thinking of starting a career in this field, here’s what you should do to maximize your chances.

Choose your preferred area of consulting

Consulting is a varied industry – you may dream of working with multi-million-dollar companies, or perhaps your goal is to help SMEs achieve financial stability. Whatever your preference, it’s important that you narrow down which areas of consulting you’d like to work in.

Here are the main ones:

  • Strategic and planning: Consultants in this sector usually work with CEOs and other executives to manage different parts of a business, from financial goals to long-term market strategies
  • Operational: Operational consultants help a company’s internal operations’ performance by advising on changes that need to be made to achieve productivity targets
  • HR: HR consultants assist their clients in managing the human capital within their organization
  • Financial advisory: Consultants in the finance sector help companies of all sizes assess risks, arrange loans, and manage different types of transactions
  • Risk and compliance: Risk and compliance consultants help companies navigate a particular industry by assessing the regulations and laws that might affect business activity

Depending on your interests, deciding which sector you’d like to work in will help you compile a list of the firms you’ll apply to. These may include consulting giants such as McKinsey, Bain, BCG and Accenture or lesser-known local organizations.

Look into going to b-school

Consulting firms are quite transparent in terms of what they look for in candidates.

If you want a successful consulting career, you must possess problem solving, analytical, communication, leadership, corporate strategy and teamwork skills.

While a b-school degree such as an MBA isn’t absolutely necessary to land a job in consultancy, it can help you develop key skills and stand out in the candidate pool.

Dr Werner Frese, Program Coordinator for the online MBA at the University of Applied Sciences Europe (UE) said: “Time is money, not least for the company which is paying for the consultant. In most cases, companies call consultants when their organization’s performance is bad, and fast and reliable advice is needed in order to get back on track, and consultants must have the ability to produce a quick and detailed overview of the company for making fast and valuable recommendations. MBA candidates tend to be trained and well-versed in this process.”

James Berry, Director of the UCL MBA, added: “Two of the key skills that consultancies look for in candidates are their ability to adapt and understand often very diverse sectors, as well as the ability understand and connect many different parts of an organization.

“For example, as consultants, they may be required to consult with the tech lead for an app developer one day and the finance director for a manufacturer the next. 

“Having a good MBA enables candidates to clearly articulate their broad understanding of how many different types of business work in practice and showcase their ability to deliver unquestionable value to the consultancy.”

Make sure to choose an MBA program with core courses that’ll help you gain the right skills. These include strategy, marketing, financial accounting, and organizational behavior. Here are the top schools for a specialization in consulting.

Form an extensive network

When it comes to landing a consulting job, having a professional network is often as important as going to b-school, as knowing the right people can be a fast-track ticket to an interview at a top firm.

During your MBA, make sure to attend virtual and in-person career events as there’ll be countless opportunities to meet consulting representatives and recruiters.

Be sure you ask questions about the firms’ corporate cultures, day-to-day working life and career advancement opportunities – that way, you’ll stand out as a curious and committed professional, increasing your chances of being remembered by recruiters.

Lastly, don’t be scared to talk about your talents and achievements. While having an MBA gives you a significant advantage, it’s also important that you’re able to prove why you’re a good fit for the job.

As Liz Sebag-Montefiore, career coach and director of HR consultancy firm 10Eighty, said: "Many recruits go into consultancy straight after graduation and work for a few years before moving into industry, often with a client firm, or joining an MBA course. Both courses of action will enhance their employability in the consulting sector.

“The best consulting firms maintain great alumni networks and rehires are common. Depending on previous experiences, it may be that an MBA will help gain an interview, but proving your experience and achievements is key.”

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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