Consulting is a fairly broad term that can have a variety of meanings depending on the industry it refers to. For example, you can work as a marketing consultant helping companies create and optimize their marketing campaigns or as a software consultant, designing software systems for an organization. However, although the term has many applications, it’s generally used to refer to management or strategy consulting, the practice of helping companies increase their efficiency and profits by addressing the major operational or strategic challenges they’re facing.
What do consultants do?
Consulting roles can vary greatly depending on the type of consulting firm you work for and the companies you work with. For example, if you work for one of the large management consulting companies (such as McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group) you’ll be following a fairly structured career path, starting off as a junior consultant and moving up to a senior consultant role within two to three years. Working at one of the larger consulting firms also means that you’re more likely to be a generalist in your early years since you typically only become specialized in a particular vertical, industry or type of work after working in consulting for several years. At smaller consultancies or boutique firms, you’ll generally focus on a particular industry from the beginning (such as healthcare or technology) and work exclusively within that industry.
What are the challenges of working in consulting?
Being a consultant is an exciting career path but it does have its share of challenges. One of the main ones is traveling. Although many other careers require travel (e.g. sales), few are as travel-intensive as consulting. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear of consultants who travel four out of five days of each work week, meaning that your non-travel time will usually be limited to weekends. Additional challenges include long hours (12-hour days are standard) and working closely with a new team every few months. Although these factors might take a little getting used to, most consultants adapt to them fairly quickly and are able to thrive in their roles.
What are some of the benefits of working in consulting?
One of the main benefits of being a consultant is having the opportunity to learn about multiple industries and business models. Diverse project work is one of the biggest perks in consulting as you get to try out different roles and industries all the while at the same job. In fact, this knowledge will serve you well throughout your consulting career (and beyond), allowing you to quickly spot operational and managerial problems and come up with creative solutions to solve them. And although travel can be a challenging part of the job, it can also be an exciting one, giving you the opportunity to see new parts of the country (and helping you build up some frequent flyer miles in the process!). Consulting will also improve your presentation skills, teaching you how to build impressive presentation decks and communicate your point effectively to any type of audience.
What skills are needed to thrive in consulting?
As consultants, Excel and PowerPoint are admittedly the go to tools on a day-to-day basis to help synthesize multifaceted ideas to clients in a digestible, actionable manner. Consultants need strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Soft skills are highly important to communicate your ideas and manage client expectations, both of which are equally important when working in consulting. Strong writing and verbal communication skills are essential as is the ability to present findings and proposals to groups. Consultants tend to travel frequently and work long hours during crunch periods with projects, so evidence of adaptability and a high energy level are valued.
Management Consulting is the business of analyzing and offering solutions to complex problems within an organization. This is a valuable service because consultants can offer an outside, unbiased perspective to the problem and devote their full attention to solving it. Management consulting firms include top strategy firms such as Bain, BCG, and McKinsey. These firms hire business-savvy problem-solvers to help their clients:
Strategy consulting involves bringing a third party to of analyze client operations and challenges to provide appropriate recommendations.
Strategy consultants usually have considerable industry knowledge and are expected to assess high-level business issues objectively. They take a holistic look at specific problems companies are dealing with and give advice on how they should approach them. Sample job titles:
Operations consultants are hired by clients to support them with improving the efficiency of their value chain. These services include developing and implementing target operating / service delivery models, executing cost reduction programs and optimizing business processes.
Sample job titles:
They primarily focus on assisting clients to develop and apply IT solutions within the organization. In IT consulting, your role is to facilitate the transition of projects into the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) scene so that they can become more effective. Sample job titles:
These consultants are a part of an internal team that is tasked with providing management consulting services to the company. They are essentially employees of the organization, and their primary role is to track the operations of the business and propose new strategies for growth. Internal consulting teams are beneficial to businesses because they are already aware of company operations and can provide in-depth solutions to complex problems. Internal consultants are also fully vested in the success of the company, because their financial well-being is dependent on the company’s success.
Having the right talent within the organization is a key focus of many businesses. Human Resource (HR) consulting helps clients manage their employees and improve the performance of every team member. As an HR consultant, you will often tackle problems regarding organizational management, terms of employment, talent management, and retirement plans. You may also be involved in transforming company culture and other core systems & processes that relate to the HR team. Sample job titles:
Large accounting firms also offer consultation services to their clients. This group mainly targets financial advisory roles within a business. On top of evaluating financial capabilities, financial consultants tackle questions regarding financial reporting procedures, techniques for improving cash flow, tax-related questions, and risk management.
In most cases, financial consulting falls under larger management consulting firms such as Deloitte, PWC, and KPMG. Sample job titles:
Follow these steps to prepare for the job search process!
When using job search platforms, such as Handshake, utilize keywords to find appropriate positions the industries you are interested in.
Below are consulting job titles Gies Alumni have had:
It’s important to customize your application documents for the industry/position you will be pursuing. Highlight your relevant experience by incorporating desired skills and qualifications into your application documents.
How does your experience align with the skills the employer is seeking?
A simple way to get started is by learning more about the companies that hired Gies students in the past. Once you have identified your target companies, follow these companies on Handshake to be informed about opportunities and info sessions, in which you can network with recruiters and professionals.