How to Become a Consultant
If you’re interested in consulting, then you probably already know that it’s an exciting and challenging field with a lot of opportunities to learn about different industries and business processes. But you might be wondering about the best way to get started. Should you submit applications to all the major consulting firms and hope for the best? Or is there something else you can do to increase your chances of landing a job in this industry?
Here are some of the key things you need to know about becoming a consultant.
1. Understand the different types of consulting jobs and identify your area of interest
Consulting is a broad term that can have many different applications. In order to get started in the field, it’s important to first identify what type of consultant you want to be by learning about the different types of consulting and the roles associated with them. For example, if you’re interested in a specific industry such as marketing, technology or healthcare, you might want to work for a boutique firm that specializes in that particular industry. On the other hand, if you’re interested in business operations and management at a more general level, you might want to go into management consulting, working for a larger firm such as McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure what type of consulting would be a good fit for you, spend some time doing research on the various types and getting a sense of which one most closely aligns with your interests.
2. Know what recruiters look for
Regardless of what type of consulting you choose to pursue, it’s important to know what recruiters look for when assessing candidates. For example, since consulting requires the ability to address problems effectively (and often creatively), recruiters look for candidates with strong problem-solving abilities and also those with a basic level of business knowledge. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be a business or finance major to succeed in the recruitment process. It just means that you need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of how businesses operate and an interest in the technical and operational problems that you’ll encounter in the position.
Pro Tip: Building up your business knowledge and technical skills can be done in a number of ways. While taking a business management or accounting class is a great idea, you can also supplement this knowledge with reading materials specific to the industry itself. For example, magazines like The Economist can give you a general sense of business and finance trends impacting relevant industries.
3. Understand what a case interview is and how to prepare for one
Case interviews are designed to test your ability to understand and solve problems effectively and they are a big part of the recruitment process for management consulting jobs. During a case interview, you’ll be presented with a series of business or logic problems and asked to come up with solutions. Common questions you’ll encounter can include things such as “How many wheelchair users are there in the U.S. this year?” or “How do we increase the revenue for Company X by 15% in this calendar year?” In order to succeed in a case interview, it’s important to ask relevant questions and to show the thought process behind your proposed solution. This is because hiring managers are primarily interested in how you approach problems and being able to demonstrate a cohesive problem-solving process will go a long way towards impressing them.
Pro Tip: Acing your case interview is all about practice so make sure to spend some time learning about common case interview questions and thinking through your answers. A number of resources can come in handy here including books such as Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation and sites like Case Interview.
4. Take an internship at a consulting firm
Few things are as effective at building relevant skills as internships. In fact, having internship experience will not only give you hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in consulting, but it will also help you decide whether a consulting role is right for you. The best way to find a consulting internship that fits your interests is by researching opportunities at several firms and then either applying on WayUp or reaching out to their recruitment team to find out more about the roles and the requirements.
5. Build your network
Having a strong professional network is important in every industry but it’s especially important in a field like consulting, which relies heavily on teamwork and collaboration. Luckily, networking is essentially built into the consulting industry with firms sponsoring social events to help consultants get to know one another and build relationships both within and outside of their firms.
Pro Tip: One of the most effective ways to build your network is by reaching out to alumni from your school. You can do this by attending career fairs that your school offers or even by looking through your school’s alumni network on LinkedIn to identify those who are working in the industry. Added bonus: Many alumni are actively involved in recruitment efforts at their alma maters so connecting with them before the recruitment process starts will put your on their radar at the right time.
Working as a consultant can be both challenging and exciting, giving you the opportunity to learn a lot about how businesses function and how you can help them succeed. The best way to find out if being a consultant is right for you is by interning at a consulting firm and getting a feel for what the industry is all about.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Write a Thank You Note After an Interview and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Strengths?