Consulting, as an industry, offers a wealth of opportunities and diversity for graduates. This does mean that expectations are high, but if you are ambitious and like problem-solving then this could be the industry for you.
Consulting is the practice of providing a third party, typically another company, with expertise. This can involve either just advice or the implementation of services. For a consultant, taking an independent and unbiased stance on an issue for a company is central to the role and this is the main reasons companies hire in consultants to tackle problems.
Types of Consulting Sectors
- Strategy Consulting. This area of consulting actually represents around 14% of the global consulting market. Within this job you would be in charge of helping your clients in their process of making key, strategic decisions that might have long-term consequences to the business. You will tend to work directly with executives and high-ranking managers in their own offices. Projects are also more likely to have tighter deadlines and last for shorter time periods.
- Financial Advisory Consulting. Here you might be advising on elements of mergers, acquisitions, projects, restructuring and even real estate. Typically, this market has been dominated by firms in tax and audit services but nowadays it’s opened up to strategic consultants and economic experts.
- IT & Technology Consulting. IT consultants can help clients develop, design, and implement technology in order to improve their operational processes. This can also include implementing and coordinating security systems or identification systems. Within this job you will frequently be using market research to test ideas with relevant stakeholders.
- Human Resources Consulting. This involves advising companies on the management of their human capital. The key disciplines of HR consulting include organisational change, talent management, benefits and learning development. For example, HR consultants will have to look into the attitudes of employees, the effect of press attention on the company or the levels of bonuses.
The Consulting Career Ladder
You might be wondering where consulting can take you in the future and what your career progression is like. Firstly, the skills you will develop within consulting, such as analytical skills, strategic planning skills, flexibility, the ability to cope under pressure and team working skills will be valuable to lots of other careers, should you choose to transfer these skills to another industry.
If you remained within the consulting sector, your career ladder might look like this:
- Analyst. This is the typical entry point into consulting firms. They spend the majority of the time on client sites and have responsibilities within the problem-solving process, supporting a team in researching and analysing data.
- Associate. After 2 to 5 years as an analyst you’ll move up to an associate. In this role you will be responsible for identifying issues, forming solutions and helping with the implementation of change. Associates will manage larger aspects of the projects and be responsible for presenting findings and recommendations.
- Senior Associate. These associates will oversee an aspect of a large project and can be appointed project manager on smaller projects. They will also be in charge of assigning work to their team and leading members in that team.
- Senior Manager. It is their responsibility to manage all phases of the project and be accountable for the deadline. They will also manage the talent and development within their team and have to tackle some of the bigger business problems.
- Director. As a director, you will be a senior expert and strategic adviser within the firm. You will also be responsible for generating new business, new client relationships, the growth of the firm and definitive innovative strategies.
Consulting Graduate Schemes
Here are some examples of top graduate schemes:
- PwC Consulting Graduate Scheme offers opportunities in a range of consulting practices and is one of the best employers. https://www.pwc.co.uk/careers/student-careers/undergraduate-graduate-careers/our-programmes/graduate-opportunities/consulting.html
- EY Consulting Graduate Programme has 6 different paths you can choose from. https://www.ey.com/en_uk/careers/students/programmes/graduates/consulting-graduate-programme-options
- KMPG Consulting Graduate Scheme offers great training advantages. https://www.kpmgcareers.co.uk/graduate/consulting/
- Deloitte Consulting Graduate Programme offers great benefit packages. https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/careers/articles/graduate-opportunities.html
The Consulting Recruitment Process
First up is the online application where you are typically asked to submit a CV and cover letter as part of an online application. You might also be asked to answer some specific questions; these might ask why do you want to work for us or tell us about the most relevant work experience you have or even please describe yourself in 3 words. Make sure you pay attention to what the role is asking of you and that you fill the criteria to apply.
Second is usually the testing stage. These online tests can be a mixture of numerical, situational, logical, literacy, game-based or all of the above. The company should give you an insight into what the tests will be before you take them so make sure you find free websites to go and practice on first. Try here for some tests: https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/
Third may be a virtually recorded interview. This is where you will be sent a link to do your interview in your own time and will include a selection of questions for you to answer in a video response. A lot of these will give you a set amount of time to read the question and answer it.
The final stage is usually the assessment centre. This is a process that takes up most of the day and involves tasks, activities and interviews that test your suitability for the job. You could be getting involved in case studies, group discussions, presentations, or social events.
What Your First Week Might Look Like
Your company won’t be expecting you to walk in and be proficient and fully skilled. Graduate schemes are there to be a steppingstone into the working world and give you that extra training and reassurance.
Some companies have residential programmes designed to ease you in and get to know what specific skills you have and what needs developing. You will take part in practical sessions, as well as possible some in-classroom learning. During your first few weeks, you will be expected to learn data analysis and how to use different tools including forecasting, surveying and reporting.
There will also be plenty of opportunities to socialise to get to know your co-workers and managers. Lots of places also have a mentor system where you will be allocated a buddy. Make sure you use them because they are there to help you transition and if you have any problems. If you are unsure, don’t suffer in silence, talk to your buddy.
After your initial development training and getting to know everyone period you’ll begin to settle into the job and find your feet. You might start noticing that you can predict what your manager is going to ask of you or what strategies will be used when talking to a client.