When you imagine a career in “consulting” – a team of people in suits from a consulting firm giving other business people advice about how to run their company – what you’re probably thinking of is actually management consulting.
The bulk of entry level consulting jobs are in management consulting, so check out this primer to learn more about management consulting, what it’s like to be a management consultant, and how to get a job as a management consultant straight out of school.
What is a management consultant?
Management consultants are third-party analysts who examine information in order to provide management and operations recommendations to help an organization improve its performance.
These recommendations will ideally result in an increase in revenues, a reduction of costs, hiring the right people (and potentially firing the wrong people), and a clear strategy or direction for the future.
Organizations of all types and sizes, including corporations, non-profits and governments, hire management consultants to help them be more efficient and successful. Some companies have teams of internal management consultants as well, but they tend to be more experienced consultants who have worked at one or more of the large consulting firms earlier in their careers.
What’s it like to work in management consulting?
Depending on the size and scope of a client’s situation, a consulting engagement can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or even more than a year! Typically you work on with one client at a time so you can devote all of your energy and attention to them.
Management consultants often spend a lot of time at clients’ offices to meet with key players and obtain the information required to develop a solution. They also have the opportunity to travel across Canada, North America and even around the world. Management consulting is definitely a global career!
In recent years, due to the mobile nature of their workforce, some consulting firms have started to move away from the idea of a home office where everyone has their own desk, cubicle or office. Employees of these forward-thinking firms are able to either telecommute or show up to any of their company’s offices in Canada or even around the world, choose a spot at a table, and work there for the day on their laptop. This kind of arrangement helps consulting firms ensure there is enough space for everyone while simultaneously saving money on energy costs and renting or leasing space.
Entry level management consulting jobs
This may come as a surprise to most students and new grads, but management consultants don’t necessarily need to be “experts” in a certain field or industry in order to consult – management consulting is all about finding the right information, analyzing it carefully, and coming up with creative and effective solutions to help clients improve their performance.
Many large management consultancies, professional services firms (e.g., accounting firms), technology services firms, and outsourcing companies hire entry level or junior consultants – often called Associates or Business Analysts – with undergraduate degrees in business, arts, science and technology, who train and work alongside mid-level and senior consultants. These teams collaborate to come up with solutions to their clients’ problems that combine both innovative new approaches and established best practices.
As a result of this collaborative approach, new grad consultants tend to receive a tremendous amount of mentorship and coaching from more experienced colleagues, both formally and informally, and have very early exposure to senior- and executive-level people – including presidents and CEOs.
In addition to this, junior consultants at large firms are typically required to complete months of ongoing training, seminars and online courses to bring you up to speed and prepare you to serve the firm’s clients. You might also have the opportunity to rotate through a number of different specialty areas.
A key part of starting a career in management consulting is acknowledging that, although you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, there is still a lot to learn, and you’re keen to learn it!
Landing a job in management consulting
Companies that hire entry level management consultants typically accept applications from graduating university students in September for full-time jobs that start the following year in February and late summer. Some firms have school-specific application deadlines while others ask all students to apply online via a campus recruitment or associate job listing.
There aren’t many co-ops or internships in management consulting, but there are plenty of opportunities to meet with employers on-campus at events such as information sessions and career fairs.
Photo credit: Young Banker by Dave King on Flickr