The Basics

What is Consulting and Is it for Me?

For any of you approaching graduation and/or looking for a career to be passionate about perhaps Consulting may be the answer. Here’s a brief insight into the sector and what these companies typically look for to help you decide if this might be the career for you.

Generally, Consulting is split into three main areas: Strategy, Management and IT Consulting.

  1. Strategy is typically described as the high end type of consulting where issues revolve around the big picture supported by strong factual and numerical analysis, things like analysing whether to acquire a company or providing advice on developing a new product and how to go about introducing it to the market. This is sometimes described as ‘blue-sky’ thinking work. The big players are the likes of Mckinsey & Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company.
  2. Management consulting is, funnily enough, more about issues around management, including the structures, people and processes of organisations. Major players are the likes of PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young.
  3. Finally, IT is quite self-explanatory and focuses on fully capitalising on and exploiting the power of technology to help businesses do more. For example, putting in a new IT system to help with handling orders or processing transactions or improving customer service or integrating old and new systems. Outsourcing is also a key service line. This is where the likes of Accenture, CSC, IBM, Atos Origin, Fujitsu and Capgemini enter the fray.

Naturally, there is cross-over as you need to marry both business issues and technology to make things work and you need a strategic vision to bind the whole conceptual endeavour with direction and purpose.  Therefore, all of this really boils down to helping clients do three things:

  1. Reduce costs
  2. Accelerate growth
  3. Improve efficiencies

So what do they look for?

The Strategy houses are supremely fussy and typically recruit from Oxbridge or red-bricks. A minimum 2.1 though normally a 1 is required in a numerate discipline, ideally engineering, although other degrees are occasionally accepted such as languages and history. Positions of leadership must be exhibited in extra-curricula activities and work experience or internships are desired if you hope to get an interview.

Management and IT consulting cast their nets slightly wider though the benchmark is normally a 2.1. All degree disciplines are often accepted though some of the technology firms specify IT related degrees for technical positions beyond strategy or management consulting.

What will I have to do?

The role involves working with lots of different clients, potentially across various sectors, working on a variety of business and technical issues and challenges. The variety is therefore excellent. However, if you like routine, then such a dynamic environment may prove troublesome to manage. Because the work is client-focused, you may be based in your home town but you will more than likely have to travel to or stay over 3-4 days a week at the client site when needed, which may be anywhere (sometimes within reason)! Expenses for hotels and travel are covered. Sound exciting? Then keep reading.

You will have to be comfortable with networking and building professional relationships with people all the time in order to advance your career and get things done on projects. Pro-activity is key, as is strong teamwork and communication skills.

To start with, you will learn the ropes and be allocated a project after an induction period of a couple weeks in most cases, where you will be expected to help out any way you can and act like a sponge. This may involve creating powerpoint presentations, doing excel spreadsheet work, gathering requirements from clients and keeping senior members updated. After 2-3 years you will typically be promoted into a discipline for specialisation in areas such as IT Effectiveness, People and Change, Software Development or any of the other many service lines within these firms.

How much will I get after all this hard work?

Starting salaries generally range from £25-32k. The Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte etc.) weigh in at roughly £27k. For approximate guidance: 3-5 years down the line you should expect £42-62k; 8 years, £70-80k plus bonuses and benefits.

Excited? Start applying!


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