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An internship at a consulting firm

How I got an internship at OC&C Strategy Consultants

Chessy Whalen is now a consultant at OC&C Strategy Consultants. She studied history at the University of Oxford.
I’ve made proper friends here, not just work colleagues.

We asked Chessy ten questions about her consulting internship to find out how she got the role and what it was like.

1. Why consulting?

When I was at university I wasn’t sure which career I wanted to pursue, but after doing some research I decided consulting might be a good fit. I applied to a few firms for an internship, and at my interview with OC&C I really liked the people I met. The internship itself felt like an accurate reflection of the job as a whole and I realised it would really suit me.

2. What was the toughest aspect of the application process?

I applied to a lot of firms, which meant that it was difficult juggling all of the applications and online tests with my uni work. The case study interviews were particularly challenging, especially the first few, but some of my friends were also applying to consultancies so we practised going through them together.

3. What do you think made your application successful?

I’d done a lot outside of my studies at university. I was very involved with debating, running the administrative side as well as competing, and was also a member of the college hockey team and the choir. I think these activities demonstrated that I was able to look beyond the library and manage my time well.

4. What sort of training did you receive?

We had a three-day induction, which mirrored part of the training full time graduates get when they start. We learnt to get to grips with Excel, PowerPoint and the house style of presentations… all the wizardry of the job! It was nice to start with the other interns and learn about what to expect.

5. What sort of work did you do?

We were put on two different projects during the internship, so we could get a sense of the breadth of work in the firm. One involved a strategic review of a gardening centre company that had approached our firm to find out what they should be doing over the next five years to increase profits. The review involved visiting stores, researching consumer behaviour and analysing internal data to come up with a strategy.

6. Were you given regular feedback?

We were given formal feedback halfway through the process, where we discussed three strengths and three development needs. It was very reassuring and helpful. I learnt that I needed to be more confident about speaking up, which meant I could focus on that and get the most out of the rest of the internship.

7. What skills did your internship equip you with?

  • How to think about data – how to approach it and present it back to my colleagues
  • How to approach problems strategically – learning what information to extract from detailed analysis that will be useful to the client
  • A lot of business language I had been unfamiliar with previously!

8. Any surprises? 

I really didn’t expect the work environment to be quite as fun, vibrant and sociable as it is. I’ve made proper friends here, not just work colleagues.

9. What advice would you give to graduates looking for consulting internships?

Try to get a real sense of what is different about the firm you’re applying to. At first glance many consulting firms can look the same, but narrow down what makes each unique. You can do this by attending presentations and speaking with people working at the firm you’re interested in.

10. Any tips for turning an internship into a full-time role?

No one is expecting you to know everything when you start… the important thing is to have a really positive attitude and ask for help when you need it. Be engaged and a little bit keen!

Chessy was offered and accepted a full-time position at the end of her internship.