Consulting as a career is one of the most popular career choices coming out of MBA classes right now, aside from investment banking and private equity. Generally we see a range of graduates joining top consulting and strategy firms all across North America, many of my friends and colleagues followed the same path. The reasons for this are obvious – considering the excellent opportunity it offers to work with the smartest people and gain cross industry exposure through solving some of the most challenging business problems with the biggest global organizations. The top salary offered to direct entries from MBA programs and undergraduate degrees are another key attraction, considering the vast sums paid to get your foot in the door:
The cost of an MBA degree can vary, but the average tuition for a two-year MBA program exceeds $60,000. If you attend one of the top business schools, you can expect to pay as much as $100,000 or more in tuition and fees.source TopMBA.com
Management consulting is a challenging and varied field with many different entry points, from undergraduate to postgraduate and masters degrees such as MBA’s, to experienced hires and even direct from high school apprentice programs recently introduced.
Joining as an Undergraduate
Typically I’ve seen two key entry points for Undergraduate students into consulting: junior-year internship recruiting and final year full-time recruiting, both of which kick off as early as September. Summer internships are often a stepping stone to full-time offers, and the path which I followed to break into consulting as a career. I completed an internship in my senior year in university and after 10 weeks was offered a full time graduate position along with over 85% of my internship cohort. Students who don’t receive internship offers can still leverage their junior-year summer to gain valuable work experience in other areas and fine-tune their case study skills to successfully pivot from internship rejection to full-time offer acceptance.
I have found the earlier you engage in the process and become aware of how recruiting for consulting actually words the better and easier it is to break in, especially if you do not have an MBA as so many entrants now have. Preparing yourself for a successful recruiting process begins as soon as you step foot on campus. Here are some top tips I followed if you are an undergraduate looking to stand out from the crowd and grab an offer at the top consulting and strategy firms out there:
- GPA Results: Top marks are a given in order to land an interview or pass the recruiting application stage. Focus on keeping your GPA score high which demonstrates your intellectual capability and ability to work hard
- Plus Ones: Demonstrate as an undergraduate your ability to take on additional responsibilities outside of academia, don’t pigeon hole yourself – any area which demonstrates your leadership capabilities and your ability to do more with your limited time and multi task
- Strengthen your quantitative skills: When interviewing the key and even when I am looking to staff my own consulting projects the number 1 skill I look for in an analyst is evidence of quantitative skills. Mathematics, computer science, finance, engineering and economics all demonstrate that you’ve experience with numbers and don’t mind being quantitative and analytical. No matter how boring it sounds excel is still a key skill to have and having quant skills (e.g. ability to write VBA) is still highly valued
- Become a leader: See Plus Ones above – this is your chance to stand out and having a leadership role in the organization outside of your normal coursework is a key way to differentiate yourself from the crowd
- Think Strategically: Become a strategic thinker – develop those skills and apply them to your coursework. How do you structure your approach to the question? What are your assumptions and key considerations? What framework are you applying? Start thinking about what the consulting organizations are looking for… and practice thinking strategically backed by analytics
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Online case studies, interview prep courses, whatever you get your hands on – once you do get an internship interview make sure you take your chance and come prepared!
Management and strategy consulting offers an amazing chance to start your career, both from broad exposure to companies biggest and most complex problems right out of undergrad to building a great networking base of like minded driven colleagues while also having fun and being rewarded financially at the same time. An MBA is a great to have but not a prerequisite for not only breaking into the industry but thriving! Good luck on your journey – I am happy to connect and offer my advice from a decade in the industry!