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As a college student, what sort of experiences would best prepare me for a career in consulting?

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Aaron’s Answer

Hi Christie,

For strategy consulting, I would recommend four potential areas of focus.

1) Seeking an internship at a consulting firm: the large firms are very competitive and recruit on some campuses, but there are many firms out there. Even if the conventional on-campus recruiting path doesn't work you can try to network to a smaller and/or industry specialist firm (which often have less formal internship programs). In either case, find contacts who work in consulting and speak with them about their experiences - which will help with the interview process and confirm your interest.

2) Quantitative major: focusing on computer science, economics, math, physical sciences, engineering is more typically sought out by strategy consulting firms (though I myself did not have one of those majors)

3) Developing analytical tool experience: take some side courses/study focused on statistical/analytical SW beyond Excel such as Alteryx, SPSS, etc. Analytics is becoming increasingly important for strategy consulting

4) Join consulting club at school: can hopefully get some experience and a flavor for the type of work

Hope this helps,


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Nikki’s Answer

It's good that you are looking into building a good foundation for a career that you are interested in! I worked in consulting for a few years and one important skill in this field is the ability to learn quickly. You will be working on projects where you may not have a lot of familiarity or expertise in and to be successful, you will need to quickly understand the problem that is being addressed, learn to work with a new set of people and in some cases, learn a new tool.

One experience that may help in developing this skill is to join a new club or group in your school or local community and offer to work on a new project they are undertaking. Ask a lot of questions, do some research that may provide value to the project and exercise your creativity and innovation when coming up with solutions for the project.

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Carolyn’s Answer

That's great you are interested in consulting! I have been consulting for almost 6 years now and it is a lifestyle. I personally love it. I hope you like to travel and experiencing new places/people. I agree with the comments from the others that consulting is all about learning, networking, and delivering the best value for your client. You won't know the client's specific business or technical requirements day 1. But bring an open mind, willingness to learn and your base knowledge of your tech or functional expertise (inc. all MS products such as PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and Project Plan - all super helpful) and everything else will develop.

Also, one piece of advice that I provide all new joiners is to always research and do as much due diligence before asking a question. People are always willing to help when they see you have put some effort into figuring out the problem beforehand.

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Chi’s Answer

Consulting is a field that highly values relationships and the ability to demonstrate whole leadership - of yourself, your team, your client, and your firm. As a college student, any experiences that offer you the ability to participate in a team and have leadership opportunities - whether that's in school, a job, sports team, etc. - will inherently help you build these behaviors. The technical capabilities and business acumen will come, and is the foundation of delivering quality that your clients will view as valuable. To become a truly "trusted advisor," you will also need to differentiate yourself as someone who can take that knowledge/expertise and translate it in a way that is relevant and impactful to your client that is targeted and tailored to who they are as an executive, as someone who needs a partner in strategically enhancing their organization, and as a human being.

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chiara’s Answer

That's wonderful that you want to consult.

Consulting takes a lot of time, learning and experiences.

Other then building a solid portfolio in your experiences, and this takes time, I would start out by making sure that this is something you really innately want to do and that is best suited for your personalty type and naturally beautiful innate skill sets.

This is a fun time in life to explore curiosities and learn so very much, there are hundreds of personality and career enthusiast tests out there, but these sources, and tests, I have found to be interesting, fun and somewhat accurate (if the questions are answered most honestly to the self).

This is a grand time in life to develop further innate skills, pursue a passion and/or a dream!

Have fun:

- https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
- https://www.truity.com/test/big-five-personality-test
- https://careerwise.minnstate.edu/careers/clusterSurvey

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Vito’s Answer

I've been in consulting for just over seven years now, and the one experience I had that was incredibly formative was my time in a co-ed business fraternity. Not everyone in the fraternity went into consulting, but it surrounded me with fun, hardworking people who were all passionate about business. We had professional events where we had to dress in business attire and listen and engage with interesting speakers. We joined case competitions together. We all went through internship and interviewing process together. Overall, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, enjoying their company, and pushing each other to be your best will be a huge asset, whether that is a co-ed business fraternity or something similar.

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Ethan’s Answer

For undergrads pursuing a career in consulting, there are two primary 'feeder' tracks most large firms recruit for:

1. Technology Consulting

If you have a computer science or similar quantitative background along with the ability to solve problems and communicate with impact, you would be a strong candidate for an entry level position in an IT consulting role. Because consulting is a client-facing professional service business, your communication skills along with your emotional intelligence (EQ) will be just as important (if not moreso) than your technical ability. Consultants are also expected to demonstrate a high degree of professional maturity as in many cases you will be interacting with clients who are significantly older and more experienced with a corporate setting. This will get tested in your campus interview through a series of behavioral interviews which test how you respond to situations such as what you would do if a client asks you a question you don't know the answer to.

2. Management / Strategy Consulting

This track tends to be more difficult to get into as an undergrad because unlike those when strong technology backgrounds, you need to demonstrate the ability to solve unstructured problems. It is more difficult to demonstrate this in an interview vs. demonstrating you understand technology. In my opinion, it would be more beneficial that you understand how companies operate, what challenges they face, and how those challenges are typically solved. In other words, a strategy/management consultant needs to be able to solve problems that might require a combination of business process change, organization change, technology change, or a combination of the three.

So what experiences do you need?
First, any experience you can get that allows you to talk about a situation where you solved a business problem for a real company would be great. Some practical ways to do this are through your school's consulting club as was previously mentioned. Another option is to perhaps find a local business and approach the owner about volunteering to help them with their business in an area you are passionate about.

For example, let's say there's a local apparel store and they want to start selling online, but a struggling to keep up with what inventory they actually have to sell since it's going out of the front door with in-store purchases and out of the back of the store through shipments from online orders coming from eBay store, etc. Perhaps your 'project' could be to research solution options based on their needs and develop a presentation where you walk through through a thoughtful analysis of how you approached your research, what options your reviewed, how they ranked vs. your 'client's' needs and then a final recommendation.

If you have a technology background, another example would be to take the same approach and see if you could a side project leveraging your technical skills. This could be anything, but if you could demonstrate awareness of typical phases of a project (Design, Build, Test, Deploy) that would similarly help you articulate this in an interview setting.

While these are small examples, they demonstrates passion, 'hustle', and give great real-world experiences that might help you better understand what a Fortune 100 company might go through.

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Eric’s Answer

If your school has a consulting club, getting involved there would be a good start. If not, maybe you could start one. Invite firms to campus, host case study competitions and have teachers or some other outside parties be the judge. Getting used to presenting ideas with incomplete and imperfect information and getting a response will definitely help shape your consulting skills.

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Rose’s Answer

Hi Christie! Like some of the answers above, I joined a co-ed business fraternity my freshman year and it was one of the best decisions I made in college. Even without the formality of a club / group, I would suggest reaching out to upperclassmen who have interned / signed on to full time careers at the firms you're interested in. I also participated in several case competitions, which helped hone key consulting skills like presentation design, wrangling data, making financial models, storytelling, working in teams, etc. You definitely don't have to do case competitions to be a successful consultant, but I would suggest trying at least one to see if you like them. Finally, the career counseling center and professors at your school are there to support you and can provide tangible advice specific to your path. Good luck!

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Tracy’s Answer

Great question. Consulting is about bringing your clients solutions to their problems. Typically when you are a consultant, you bring an expertise. That expertise can be in a number of different fields: Technology, operations, talent, communications, marketing, data analysis, etc. As you experience college or internships, think about what courses or projects that are piquing your interest. Get involved in various roles on teams or as a leader to learn more about teamwork, collaboration, project timelines, etc. Also, work on your all your EQ skills: interpersonal skills, active listening, relationship building, organizational awareness, self-awareness, initiative, and more. These are all skill sets that are crucial to being a successful consultant.