How to get into consulting without relevant experience

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:38

What should you do if you haven't got a consulting internship on your CV, or don’t have any relevant experience?

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Read our practical advice to boost your employability and make sure you’re submitting an application to employers that will show you in your best light.


Are you worried that you haven’t done a consulting internship, or any formal internship at all? Don’t panic. According to Cibyl Research UK, 38% of students interested in consulting employers have undertaken an internship – usually in the summer between their penultimate and final year of uni, or in some cases between their final year and starting postgraduate study. The key time to apply for a consulting internship is usually from October to January in your penultimate year. But this statistic reveals that the majority of students interested in consulting haven’t done one, so you are not alone if you are a graduate who has not got a consulting internship on your CV.

Most consultancies, unlike some 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 them had not completed an internship before they started their graduate role. Consulting internships are not the only way to demonstrate desirable attributes. The key is to get involved – use your existing skills to help others, get alternative experience or take time to build new skills. Find ways to participate and take on responsibility. You might consider, for example:

Work experience in other sectors

Consultants in most firms (although there are exceptions) 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, transferable skills and experience of working with clients – by employers assessing your CV when you’re after that full-time graduate 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.

Virtual internships

Many consulting employers run mini ‘virtual internships’ ie online courses, usually free for all students in any year. Accenture , for example, offers consultant and developer programmes. BCG’s One Day at BCG, which is free to everyone, is advertised as ‘the perfect opportunity to take on practical tasks similar to what our very own BCGers would work on and get a true feel of what it is like to work at BCG as a strategy consultant’. Sections include market research, data analysis, understanding consumer needs and project management. Completing one of these will prove your motivation and interest to employers, as well as your ability (most courses offer you a digital certificate upon successful completion). They’re also a great chance for you to get a feel for consulting as a career and help you decide if it will suit you.

Make use of resources

It may sound obvious, but make sure you visit your careers service and its website, and also the organisation 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?

Skills gained from volunteer work

Skills don't have to be picked up through work or study alone. Volunteer work can range from helping local charities in everything from shop work to caring, through to national or international volunteering (eg VSO). 38% of students interested in consulting employers have done some volunteering or charity work, and employers value the skills you’ll have picked up doing this work. Ellie Dryer, who works in consulting at KPMG , says that her experience ‘volunteering at North London Hospice… was as valuable as any of my transferable skills’.

Get involved in local community activities, either through formal associations or informal ‘self-starting’.

Part-time work

Earn extra funds by signing up with a temp agency to place you in ‘real’ working environments. 50% of students (according to Cibyl Research UK) interested in consulting employers have done some kind of part-time work. And don’t assume that your part-time job behind a bar or stacking shelves in your local supermarket will have no value when it comes to applying to consulting firms. If you can demonstrate that your job has given you the kind of transferable skills consulting employers seek , you’re on your way.

Make your gap year count

Make the most of a gap year and 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, of course!

Get proactive

Not all opportunities are advertised, so consider making a speculative call or writing to an employer to offer your services. Make the most of LinkedIn – it’s a great source for contacts and inspiration. Proactive job-seeking graduates are actively using LinkedIn to meet people working in the professions they’re interested in, to gain useful careers advice and do careers research, to find jobs and internships, and to make more successful applications.

Recognise your value

Recognise that the experience you have, even if it is not ‘related’ to consulting, will be valued by consulting employers. 25% of students interested in consulting employers have held leadership roles, for example, in student societies: leadership ability is a quality sought by consulting employers. Have you started your own business or taken part in an enterprise project at university? These kinds of activities will have given you the sorts of transferable skills (problem-solving, organisation, innovative thinking) that are highly valued in the consulting sector.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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