Competition for consulting internships is fiercer than it has ever been, so what should you do if you don’t manage to secure one? First of all, bear in mind that most consultancies, unlike many firms in the finance sector, offer many more graduate level consulting positions than they do internships. We interview a lot of graduate consultants, and can state with confidence that a large number of of them have not completed an internship before they start their graduate role. Secondly, remember that consulting internships are not the only way to demonstrate desirable attributes. The key is to get involved – use your existing skills to help others or take time to build new skills. Find ways to participate and take on responsibility. You might consider, for example:
- Applying for work experience in other sectors. Consultants tend to work with a wide range of clients from different sectors and work experience in ‘industry’ can be viewed as relevant, equipping you with useful, transerable skills and experience of working with clients, by employers assessing your CV when you’re after that full-time consulting job. Work experience in other client-facing professional services firms is also likely to be viewed favourably. Alex Gordon-Lennox, a senior consultant at Newton Europe, worked in the financial sector and spent time managing the operations on a shipyard in Kenya, before starting his consulting role. Claudia Bates, a senior consultant at Roland Berger, worked for a market research firm before starting consulting.
- Visiting your careers service and its website, and also the employer hubs on this site, for a wealth of information available on alternatives that will be seen in a positive light by potential employers. Bear in mind, when looking at job ads, the key skills that consulting employers will be looking for. Could you see how an alternative job would help to develop any of these?
- Volunteer work – ranging from helping local charities in everything from shop work to caring, through to national or international volunteering (eg VSO).
- Getting involved in local community activities, either through formal associations or informal ‘self-starting’. Skills don't have to be picked up through work or study alone.
- Earning extra funds by signing up with a temp agency to place you in ‘real’ working environments.
- Take off on that adventure! Genuinely interesting stories of trips abroad create opening conversations at interviews and show a human side to your CV. Difficult challenges and those with a charitable angle are likely to be viewed more favourably than lying on a beach in Thailand.
- Generally being proactive – not all opportunities are advertised, so consider making a speculative call or writing to offer your services. Corporate websites and LinkedIn are good sources for contacts.