How to Get Into Consulting: Step-by-Step Online Guide
Do you know how to get into consulting without experience? Read this article to start the career of your dreams.
Do you know how to get into consulting without experience? Read this article to start the career of your dreams.
Consulting is an attractive industry to build a successful career. It involves business trips and meetings with lots of people. At the same time, the demand for various vacancies is growing. For example, the number of management consultants is over 709,000 , and it continues to grow. In this article, we'll talk about how to get into consulting, what you need to get a job, and how to develop your career.
Types of Consulting
Consulting is a vast industry. That is why you should first understand its main directions. At the moment, there are 6 main types of consultants in the job market.
Considered to be the highest level in the field of consulting, these specialists solve strategic problems and provide options for the most effective way of doing business, managing political or economic processes, and more. Strategy consultants help senior executives make important decisions.
These specialists mainly focus on the problems and prospects of doing business. They offer enterprise management strategies, solve organizational issues, make personnel decisions, and partially overlap with strategic consulting.
The task of these consultants is to improve the efficiency of internal processes. They look at the different functions of the enterprise and design and implement strategies to increase productivity. Such consultants can make decisions at individual department levels or for the business as a whole.
Financial Advisory Consultant
The sphere of activity of these specialists is everything related to finances. They help to solve both personal issues and business-related tasks. This includes consultants for real estate, mergers, taxes, risk management, and so on.
Human Resource Consultant
HR consultants help organizations in matters related to human capital. They develop high-quality selection strategies, optimize the work of the HR department, and establish a social policy within the company. They also train employees, create a suitable microclimate, manage talent, etc.
IT consultants work on IT projects. Besides performing IT operations, they also provide services related to the development and implementation of IT products. These are specialists with technical experience who think globally.
Qualities That Candidates Need to Get a Job in Consulting
You need solid experience to get a good consultant job and advance your career. But to become a real rock star in this industry, a suitable candidate must have certain soft skills. This is what allows you to interact effectively with other people and excel at your professional duties. So, it is good if you have the characteristics listed below. But if they are absent, you should make an effort to develop them to pave an impressive career path in consulting.
Be a Team Player
This position involves teamwork, especially in the early stages. A suitable candidate must be willing and ready to learn from the rest of the team by studying their experience and knowledge. They must be prepared to help if the team needs it. It is also essential to maintain good relationships with other consultants. It will help you meet more people in your industry and quickly find out about new job offers.
Good Listening Skills
Working in this industry, you will interact with many people, some of whom may differ in mentality. Some will be very sociable, making it easy to quickly build connections, while others may be quiet or uncooperative. A good consultant must have powerful communication skills. Listening to other people is a useful skill that will save you a lot of work time and help you avoid making mistakes when providing services.
Manage Your Time
Time is the most valuable resource. A good consultant can competently manage their schedule to provide timely assistance to clients. Time management is essential, especially if you are on a cut budget.
Puts Clients First
Your clients are your money. Their priorities should always be higher than yours, especially if you plan to work with large corporations. You must make sure that the client's image is at its best, and their business is flourishing.
When thinking about how to build a good career in consulting, take care of your reputation. Your image and reputation significantly affect your work in this area. It is very difficult to regain your high and respected position if you fall from the pedestal. So, build a positive reputation starting in college. If you come across contracts that can potentially worsen your image, it is better to refuse them to avoid irreparable consequences. Choose your clients wisely. If their actions are unclear, or they cross the border of the law, refuse to cooperate.
How to Break Into Consulting
As we have already seen, consulting is an extensive field of activity. Specialists can provide services in various industries. Let's take a look at the basic steps to help you get the job you want.
#1 Determine Your Area
The most important question should be what area you want to work in, maybe business, politics, human resources, legislation, etc. Pay attention to your strengths. They will help you determine in which field you can reach success. Decide your entry point. You can get into a consulting firm in 3 different ways:
- after earning a bachelor's degree
- after getting an MBA
- as an experienced hire
Let’s look at how to get into consulting without experience. Suppose you are still a student and have not completed your bachelor's degree. Naturally, you have no work experience. In this case, you can get hired after a summer internship. It is very convenient. You will get the first work experience, make useful contacts, and if you successfully complete all tasks, you will get a permanent job. To find out about internship options, visit your institution’s administration office, and ask about current offers.
Get an MBA to land a new job. That is if you are thinking about how to get into consulting after undergrad. MBA is one of the most demanded degrees, and it allows you to advance your career significantly. Candidates with an MBA are much more preferable than applicants without one. MBA covers various areas, and, within the framework of this degree, you can take various courses, but in general, the training takes 2 years.
Many consulting firms hire professionals from other fields to expand their spheres of influence. So you do not have to have a bachelor's degree in consulting if you want to work in this industry. But you do have to be a professional at something.
#2 Build a Professional Resume and Cover Letter
Two of the most important papers that will help you grab a recruiter's attention are your resume and cover letter. A resume is a more formal document that demonstrates your professional background, hard & soft skills, and general qualifications.
A cover letter is a powerful addition to a resume, in which you tell the recruiter how well you fit the company requirements and why you should be hired.
If you want to be noticed and invited for an interview - resume and cover letter are must-haves! There are several secrets to help you prepare quality documents.
Each document must be personal and reflect the needs of the company where you are submitting your application. In other words, create custom resumes and cover letters for each job opening that you answer.
- Use numbers to demonstrate your qualifications. For example, “Increased revenue by 120% for 2 years due to changes in the marketing department.”
- Don't make long documents. A cover letter should be no more than one page, while a resume should be no more than two.
- Never copy catchy parts of a cover letter from the Internet, as the document's lack of originality could lead to you being weeding out.
#3 Build a Network
The importance of building a network doesn't depend on whether you are a recent graduate or seasoned pro. In any case, you should have a large number of professional contacts. Experts agree that this helps to get a good job and significantly advance your career. Quality networking is not just about having a lot of friends or giving out as many business cards as possible. The bottom line is to have contact with the right people. If you want to land a consulting job, you must build and maintain relationships with specialists from this field. Monitor social networks to find out what consulting events or conferences are taking place near you. You can visit them, gain new knowledge, and make useful contacts.
#4 Prepare for an Interview
Let's say that a recruiter approved your candidacy, and you received an invitation for an interview. This is a good result, but it is too early to rejoice. Without proper preparation, you can fail and not get the desired job. 7 main types of interviews are used to select candidates for consulting roles.
- Brain Teasers
The task of the recruiter is to understand how well you can analyze. Therefore, be prepared to be asked tricky questions.
In this case, the recruiter wants to assess your train of thought and how well you can work in a stressful situation. So don't come up with an answer right away. Take some time to collect your thoughts and maybe do some calculations. Round the numbers; for example, if you get 104, say "about 100". Also, do not use ranges of numbers. It will lead to gross errors. If you have doubts about your calculations, it's okay to talk about a mistake. You demonstrate the ability to think critically, which is essential for making informed decisions.
- Consulting Math
There is a consulting industry that deals with evaluations. Accordingly, you may be asked questions where you need to give answers that are close to correct. Expect to work with fractions or percentages.
Usually, you are given about 2 minutes to resolve a task and have to do it orally. You can also face many tasks from the MBA course during the interview.
- Market Sizing Framework
Questions about market size are also common.
“How many hamburgers are consumed in the US annually?”
“What is the market size for graphite rods?”
You will be given up to 10 minutes to respond. At the same time, the recruiter is not at all interested in the size of the market. They need to assess how well you can analyze and how you came to your conclusion. That is, you need to do more than just provide a solution. Describe the steps that resulted in the answer. Also, be prepared to offer clarifying data after you calculate the solution. Again, not to understand how well you calculate, but to see how you draw conclusions.
- Profitability Framework
Profitability is the most important performance indicator of any company. During the interview, you will also face questions regarding the assessment of the organization. To do this, you will be provided with a more detailed task, indicating a fictional company’s internal data. The questions will sound like this:
“What's the best way to optimize costs?”
“What should the company do with total profit?”
Questions about profitability are not always related to income, but they can also indicate the company’s internal problems. Therefore, you should carefully analyze the situation and provide a detailed answer that includes recommendations for optimizing the processes described.
Sometimes these issues are not related to revenue or financial problems, but decisions regarding a political campaign. Think about the problem from all sides and evaluate all the advantages and disadvantages before providing a solution.
- Market Study Framework
During the interview, you may also be asked various questions regarding market conditions. For example, a company is releasing a new product, and you have to come up with the most effective launch strategy. Or you must provide recommendations on how to increase the profit of an already operating store. Or investigate issues related to the decline in market share.
In all types of questions, the candidate’s main task is to identify any possible factors that a potential company faces that prevent it from achieving business goals.
- Merger & Acquisition Cases Framework
Mergers and acquisitions is a vast field with many excellent opportunities to advance the career. It also involves high compensation. Not surprisingly, there are many candidates on the market who want to provide merger consulting services. Interview questions could include complex tasks based on all of the above cases. Your goal is to focus on methods of increasing profits in acquisition-related transactions. This is exactly what both the buyer and seller want.
- Behavioral Cases
When interviewing in the consulting industry, you will also respond to the behavioral interview questions. The recruiter will ask you about specific situations from your experience. The hiring manager wants to understand how you behave in some instances to predict your future behavior. The most common questions are:
“How do you face challenges?”
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“How do you prioritize?”
“How do you resolve disagreements with management?”
“Tell me about your failures.”
Best Entry-Level Positions to Get a Consulting Job
We have compiled a list of some relevant positions from which you can start building your professional path in the field of consulting.
This role includes analyzing economic events, writing reports, providing advice on financial processes, studying economics and statistics, and so on. A bachelor’s degree is desirable to get this job.
Specialists in this area assess the company’s financial condition, analyze investment plans, assess the options for capital increases, advise on buying and selling shares, etc. Some companies hire students during their final college years.
Such consultants solve issues that are related to monetary compensation for employees of the firm. They cover areas such as providing balance to trade legislation, developing compensation and benefit plans, creating opportunities and prospects for wage growth, evaluating existing compensation models, and setting salaries for new positions.
The main component of this position is powerful communication. A suitable candidate must be customer-focused. Their tasks include understanding the client's requirements, providing the most effective solution to their problem, working with various databases and operating systems, cooperating with internal technical staff, etc.
When applying for this position, rest assured your career path will begin with a call center. Such personnel’s responsibilities include processing customer calls and requests, maintaining confidentiality, providing detailed answers to customer problems, having technical knowledge on the product, and preparing reports.
For this position, you will have to organize and monitor the implementation of business projects, meet with clients and collect their requirements, analyze data and build implementation strategies, and formulate recommendations taking into account the client's business goals. An MBA degree will be a big plus.
A tax advisor enhances clients' knowledge of tax law and accounting. These are financial specialists who give recommendations on strategies for tax minimization in a legal manner. They might be new to consulting but have experience as an accountant or lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I break into consulting without an MBA?
Sure! You can get a consultant position even without a bachelor's degree. But you should understand that this will be a less promising position. If you want to be successful in this industry, you should take care of quality education.
Can I get a consulting job without experience?
Yes, you can take a position in the consulting industry without even having experience. For example, many companies accept students for internships, with subsequent permanent employment. You can also go into the consulting field if you have, for example, experience as a financier, accountant, lawyer, etc. Even if you have no work experience, you still have the chance to get a position by showing your strong soft skills.
What are the key competences for consulting careers?
A good consultant must have several weighty skills to build a great career. They include the ability to manage time, be part of a team, take care of your image, be able to listen, and put the client's interests first.
What are salaries in consulting?
Salaries vary significantly across the consulting sector. According to Payscale, an entry-level employee can expect to earn from $32,000 per year. In comparison, a seasoned pro can expect to get $150,000 and above.
As you can see, consulting offers many opportunities for candidates with limited work experience or a strong background in other fields. In any case, you can search and find a good offer for any qualification. But given that the competition in the consulting industry is high, you must do your best to present yourself as a strong candidate. Make sure you have a professional resume and cover letter and practice interviewing at home. Quality training increases your chances of getting your dream job.