Consultants offer advice and expertise to organisations to help them improve their business performance in terms of operations, profitability, management, structure and strategy. Although the workload can be heavy, consulting is a sociable profession with plenty of networking opportunities. The work stretches across a variety of areas, including management, strategy, IT, finance, marketing, HR and supply chain management.
The projects you are involved in and the tasks you are given depend on the area you are working on, but general responsibilities include:
- conducting research, surveys and interviews to gain understanding of the business
- analysing statistics
- detecting issues and investigating ways to resolve them
- assessing the pros and cons of possible strategies
- compiling and presenting information orally, visually and in writing
- making recommendations for improvement, using computer models to test them and presenting findings to client
- implementing agreed solutions
- developing and implementing new procedures or training.
Most management consultants are employed by international consultancy firms, professional services firms or strategy sections of financial organisations such as accountants. Consultant firms can range from generalist consultants offering a wide range of services, to specialist consultants within the different business areas, such as strategy or IT. Consultants are contracted by organisations in all sectors seeking help and advice about business problems.
Vacancies are advertised by careers services, in national newspapers, in relevant publications such as TARGETjobs Consulting, The Economist, People Management, Consulting Magazine and TARGETjobs Consulting online. Some consultancies recruit all year-round, but many have closing dates in November and December.
A career in consulting is mostly open only to graduates. However, it is possible for school leavers who have a minimum of two years’ business experience to undertake entry-level qualifications with the Institute of Consulting (IC), which are valued by employers, although it may take you several years to qualify to a high enough level for employment.
Graduates can have a degree in any discipline, although business, management, economics, mathematics or statistics can be advantageous for entry into some firms, and a 2.1 classification is usually required. However, some professional services firms have recently changed their entry criteria, making it not impossible to enter the profession with a 2.2. An MBA can lead to entry at a higher level, but normally only for candidates possessing several years of experience.
Larger employers run vacation courses and placements which can give a useful insight into the profession. Competition for graduate vacancies is often fierce, so an internship can be a boost for your application. The closing date for many consulting internships is in February. In addition, gaining membership of the IC by undertaking their qualifications shows commitment and may aid your application.
- Commercial awareness
- Good numerical skills
- Attention to detail
- Analytical skills
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Tact and persuasive ability
- Teamworking skills
- IT skills
- Good oral and written communication skills
Foreign language abilities can also be useful.