Working life

Starting your first graduate job in consulting: what to expect

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Rachel Gregory, an associate at Oliver Wyman, explains what a graduate starting out in consulting can expect in the first few weeks.

Group of diverse professionals in business attire collaborating and smiling over a document at a table.

All new consultants receive a ten-day training programme which aims to build and strengthen key consultant skills.

The first weeks

On my first day as a consultant I met other new recruits from the UK and around the world. We were hosted by the London office for a two-week induction that would not only introduce the culture of the firm but also furnish us with a toolkit of skills to apply to our first client projects.

Learning and training are embedded throughout the career of a consultant, and although the learning curve is steep at the beginning, the training is designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of pre-existing knowledge or experience. All new consultants receive a ten-day training programme which aims to build and strengthen key consultant skills, including problem solving, analysis, communication and EQ.

As well as training sessions, we were introduced to the various groups that contribute to the local office culture. Most people are involved in some way in these initiatives, which include volunteering opportunities in the local community, sports teams, and a social events committee. There are also networks for women, LGBT+, people of racial and ethnic minorities, and their supporters. Everyone is encouraged to get involved.

The first client project

Client projects can involve anything from multi-billion dollar global businesses, to small local charities to governments of foreign countries. No new project is the same, so it’s important to read up on the industry and company as much as possible, as well as the information from the project’s manager or partner. Being able to absorb new information quickly and think on your feet is a key skill to learn for any new consultant.

As a new consultant, I was supported in the team by a senior consultant and the project manager, both of whom shared their experience on the best way to conduct and structure the data analysis. This apprenticeship model allowed me to see how the knowledge and skills I had acquired in training could be applied in the real world, and allowed me to learn analysis tips and tricks from someone who had been in the role much longer.

Advisors and buddies

Even before my first day, I was assigned a buddy who had been with the firm for a couple of years. The buddy relationship is immensely important: it provides informal support for new consultants during their early years at the firm. A buddy can act as a sounding board or agony aunt and is someone who will likely have had similar questions when they started out.

There is also more formal support provided by a career advisor. Again, every new consultant is assigned one. They are usually at the principal or partner level – so quite senior with a lot of experience to benefit from – and are there to provide mentoring and guidance. The career advisor provided me with an important sense of stability, especially when having to move between different projects and teams relatively rapidly.

Office culture

Every week there are activities to get involved in, for example exercise classes, working with local school children, theatre trips, volunteering at a homeless shelter, discussion breakfasts, as well as Friday Happy Hour. My advice would be to get involved as much as possible with these. And if there’s no event or network that you are interested in, you’ll be fully encouraged to use your entrepreneurial spirit and organise it yourself!

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