Contributed by: Udayakumar
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/udayakumar-devaraj-b1615a66
- What’s more than the usual advice to earn a degree, get experience and apply for the job?
- Gain in-depth understanding and a practical view on the consulting roles with examples.
- What is the next big thing in consulting and how to build a structured learning path that has an edge among other candidates?
The demand for Consulting roles is always high, even in a tough economic condition. The kind of exposure, travel, and knowledge it provides is admired by many individuals across the globe. While the demand is high, naturally the aspirations will also be very high. So, it is highly recommended for any aspiring consultant to spend a good time in preparing oneself. This article mainly focuses on developing many skills that are not like the usual process of getting a degree, earn a work experience, and look for openings with leading consulting firms. Let’s focus on an effective process that will put you ahead of the queue.
I have put the entire process in the picture on the right. The whole process involves a complete understanding of self and the role itself, focusing more on the researching skills and developing an efficient networking skill which not just helps one to get a job but also helps to be a resourceful consultant while being on the role as well.
Understanding the Role
If you are working in a business function/domain and your feedback for improvement is not bought by your management, don’t be disappointed because you are not their Consultant. A consultant brings a lot of business expertise, understands the environment of the company/market, and suggests solutions that help your company achieve its objective.
What does a consultant do? Please visit the video link which was created by former McKinsey Consultants to understand the nature of the role.
I would also recommend reading a lot about the Consulting,
- What Consultants do? and Day in the life of a Consultant
- Understanding the different roles of Consultant
- Require Lucrative training? Learn from Former McKinsey Consultants
- What makes a Great Consultant?
- Book Lover? – “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” one of the best Leadership books written by Lawrence Bossidy & Ram Charan (Consultants)
- Speak to people in the role already – A pro tip, they are always busy to ensure you have your set of questions before talking to them.
- Understand the job descriptions – I would recommend Linkedin, and leading consulting firms career pages (I have compiled them for you in this article)
It is normal to learn about any job role before applying, (this applies to any role), but in my experience I believe consulting is a role that you will understand greatly when you put in more time. Below are some interesting articles I came across from fellow consultants who shared their experiences.
So You wanna be a consultant?, by Sam McAfee, Trainer and Individual consultant
How I became an IT consultant: Interview Q&A, by Alexandre Gonfalonieri.
Once you have a good understanding of the role, do a personal evaluation of how you will fit into these kinds of roles, write a resume, and start preparing.
I have put this bubble chart to let you understand the amount of time involved in preparing for the role. You will require more time in networking and getting ready.
To get a better understanding of the role, I am listing some of the assignments that Consultants in Bain Consulting has done previously. (Source: their career page)
- Building a 5-year strategy for a Financial service firm.
- Cost reduction for a consumer products company.
- Investment strategy for Funds in financial markets.
- In-depth Market trend & Projection analysis.
- Exploring new potential areas to expand.
Motivating? Let us look into the process of fixing the destinations.
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We have seen that many good consultants can understand the business problems so deeply and solve them from the roots. This is possible because of the skills they develop over time.
Start from the domain which you have already worked in. Start identifying the problems in your industry and explore the possibilities in solving them. The advantage of starting from a familiar domain is that you will know the root of the problem and do not require more time in researching to understand the basics of the business. You can even start with your function. For eg: If you are a sales executive, you can start from identifying the slow-moving products and understand the pros and cons and look for the possibilities in altering the nature of the product and increasing its sales. You already know many participants in the industry like Dealers, Suppliers, business partners, cost, profit margins, customers, etc. Hence it will be easy for you to open doors and close the deal. You can then transform this initial confidence into exploring the same business problems in similar industries and start solving them. This way you become specialized in multiple businesses with a complete understanding of what you are doing.
If you look at the consulting jobs, initially they recruit you for a specific process like doing a forecast, market sizing, competitor analysis, etc. Only when you become senior you handle a complete assignment, so starting narrow and doing the basics will help you gain more reputation before anyone would hand you with larger responsibility.
As I insisted earlier, understanding the job description will help you develop a structured learning. Understand what you will be doing and what skills are expected to be known?. Based on that, you can build the required qualification and skills. I downloaded the job description for consultants from leading firms like BCG, McKinsey, Bain, etc, and compiled them into a word cloud as shown below.
One can summarize that skills like research, understanding the business, developing strategic thinking, solution providing, analyzing, ideas, client engagements, etc. are most expected. Then the job description will narrow down depending on the exact positions. The table will show some of the specifics like experience, certification, degree level, key skills, etc. (this can vary depending on the type of consultant, industry, and position level).
|Degree Level||In a Nutshell there is no particular qualification mostly mentioned.|
|Certification||Skills like statistics, data related experience – Business Analytics certificate could give an edge.|
|Experience||More than No. of Years, it’s the potential in research and analysis were highly mentioned. However, for roles like consulting, a few years of experience in domain/function is always an edge.|
|Key Skills||Strategic thinking, Research, Client Management, Problem Solving, Collaborative, creative ideas, etc.|
|Annual Salary (2020)||Ranges from 10lakhs to 25lakhs.|
There are 3 major types of consultant roles-
- Internal Consultants – working with the internal teams of the company.
- External Consultants – working with externally hired clients.
Depending on the type of consultant you are applying to, the JD would differ and be quite specific. As learned from industry experts, most new entrants are recruited for internal consulting and experienced consultants are preferred in external consulting. A small introduction about these two in this link.
The next step is to draft a preparation plan and execute it.
I have broken this process in to 3 steps-
- Acquire necessary certification, skill & knowledge.
- Understand the interview process.
- A Solid Resume.
- Acquire necessary certification, skill & knowledge: You earned a degree, worked in some other role for a few years, and now want to transition to a consultant role. How do you do this? The best possible way is to get certified in a business analytics course. Many of the consultants I spoke to have agreed on the need for a strong background in research and analytical thinking. Now why an Analytics course? You would be turning a lot of data into meaningful information. You would deal with a lot of data. It would require you to perform data cleaning, feature engineering, model building, etc, all by yourself.
Jasmine Bedi, a Senior consultant with experience in consulting and a PG Business Analytics and Intelligence quotes,
“No Consulting is dateless”
All businesses are moving digital, the need for consultants to be data-savvy is a minimum qualification. Businesses have moved beyond Excel sheets. Machine learning models helps a consultant to process the structured & unstructured data and extract meaningful insights. A certification is not compulsory, but there is an advantage already witnessed in the industry. You can trust me after going through this link.
The best way to learn is to look for a consulting internship and get the best out of it. Internships offer the best opportunities to learn the real-time applications of your techniques, methods, and insights, and also a work experience. With this you have justified your resume.
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2. Understand the interview process: The advantage in the selection process is that it is a very transparent and predictable process, the preparation works! The interview rounds are plenty, but these rounds are mostly interactive. Many shortlisted candidates have said they are called by the person who interviewed them to pass on the good news. One Particular round that I will briefly discuss here is ‘Case Interview’, if you are ready for this your goal is closer.
The case interview is where the interviewer will give you a business problem or an expansion plan. You are required to solve this problem. What matters here is not your final answer, it is the method you follow in dissecting the case, and questions asked. The impact that is created in your methodology is what matters most. Please go through the case interview of BCG here, and a brief look on Market sizing, guesstimate here.
One of the important aspects of the case interview is a framework. You can apply preset business models to the problem given to you. By doing this, your framework looks clean and easily convincing. I recommend The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking (click here). This is one of the best sources for learning the frameworks.
3. Solid Resume: Keep it simple, stay relevant, focus on your accomplishments, qualifications. Don’t hesitate to get your resume help from a professional.
Most jobs never get posted. Job portals are the last option for recruiters, so if you want to stay ahead you need to start networking. Speak to people who are already working in the firm you are interested in and find out if they have job openings. Connect with relevant people on Linkedin, start sharing your work, write blogs, and try to get noticed. Try to secure every opportunity you get. To me, anyone should spend enough time on getting out, meeting people, sharing ideas, learning, and discussing. If you are looking to get your dream job, you need to be patient and build your network. Openings for important roles never reach the job portals first, so continue networking.
Networking can help you after you get the job too. If you know someone who can be helpful in times of trouble, it would show that you are a resourceful consultant, and this builds trust in you. This is why it is important to continue networking.
Review every Interview
Never forget to get feedback from the interviewer after the interview is complete. As I said, the interview will be interactive and you will get constructive feedback. After every interview, write down all the questions asked and your answers. Review your answers. This is a great way to learn and will help you in upcoming interviews.
I have listed many of the possibilities here, the hurdles are real and it is tough to list all of them. While this plan worked for many, there are many ways to land a job in consulting. The need for a good consultant is very high. Adding to that, due to COVID-19, many businesses are left with plenty of opportunities for consulting.
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