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Best advice to entering the world of professional consulting?

I am very curious about the consulting industry and have some exposure through my on-campus non-profit consulting club, but would love to learn more about how to prepare for recruiting in the professional consulting realm.
#consulting #curious

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Jon’s Answer

Consulting is wonderful career path and it will certainly open many doors to you, but it also does come with certain nuances to be aware of.

Even in consulting, you generally need to determine what field you are interested in pursuing. Information technology, public service, healthcare, engineering, accounting/auditing, etc., really the list is truly endless, so you would need to have a reasonable idea of where you want to head so you can tailor your schooling, certifications, etc. around it.

Next you can start to choose between really large well-known companies, smaller niche shops, or medium-sized regional firms. Each has its benefits. Large firms with big national names look great on a resume, but you will also see a lot of competition in ranks and you be narrowly focused at first. Small firms will expose you to a lot right from the start, but they may or may not offer the "rungs on the ladder" for you to easily move up in your career. Medium firms will offer a little bit of everything. Just getting started is typically the most important thing, but do consider this aspect.

One thing to be aware of up front... consulting can have its challenges. Many gigs come with tight deadlines, long hours and a fair amount of "stress" with that. Some consulting firms will take on work that be may slightly outside their comfort zone just to keep you "billable" with paid client work. If you can't find a way to get and stay "billable", you'll find consulting a challenge. And finally, consulting can sometimes imply a lot of travel; some times this travel is 4-5 days a week too. When you are younger, travel at that pace can actually be exciting, but when you have kids, it can be a drag as you aren't there for your kids events. Just have awareness on this as you go into interviews and think about your preferences now and for the long-term.

Lastly, consulting is not necessarily a final destination. Many people start by consulting, earn their reputation and experience, and then use that to springboard into a well paid corporate position. Of course that takes you out of the consulting field at that point but hopefully you've found the field you're interested in and a good salary and benefits are often worth it.

Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! This is really helpful! Sydney
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Lance’s Answer

Lots of good content in this thread! If I had to give my own little summary of what I consider most important when preparing for a consulting interview it would be the following:

1) Be yourself! It may seem silly or cliché to say but recruiters see tons of candidates during recruitment so bringing forward your personality and how you uniquely contribute to the work culture will help you to stand out in the recruiters mind! Also, different companies and consulting firms have varying cultures, some of which might feel more natural for you than others. When you talk to the recruiters, imagine yourself working with people who are similar to them and ask them questions about the company culture. By doing all of these things you can do your best to work somewhere that feels right and to work with colleagues you enjoy being around!

2) Have realistic and achievable goals. Knowing what you want from a career or position allows you to seek opportunities that will help you achieve those goals! Knowing things like what industry you are interested in (e.g. health, finance, insurance), what skills you want to develop, and defining short-term goals are all good preparation steps for an interview. Consider why you want the position, this can help explain your interests and goals in a practical sense (e.g. "I want to work at [insert company name] because I want to develop [skill] so that in two years I will have successfully become an experienced consultant").

3) Practice! It may seem obvious but practice will be your best friend for acing interviews! It's normal to get nervous during an interview and forget some of the things you planned to say, but by practicing a lot you don't have to worry about forgetting things. If you are comfortable coming into the interview, it will flow more like a natural conversation and you can bring up details about your experience that fit into the conversation! Speak out loud into the mirror if you can, or practice with a friend.

4) Lastly, don't be afraid to put yourself out there and try even if you feel like you don't have all of the right experience. Proving that you are enthusiastic about learning and growing can sometimes mean more to a recruiter than having an answer to everything! Once you enter the workforce and potentially start consulting, the learning will never stop because there is so much to learn and we can always better ourselves.

Best of luck to you and be confident!
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Kiran’s Answer

Hi Sydney - I shared this article with someone earlier and might help you as well. Good luck!

https://hbr.org/2020/07/is-consulting-the-right-career-for-you
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Vic’s Answer

Hi! The best advice I would say:

1) Network and Talk to People: I think a lot of people think that consulting is for them without a good understanding of what it is. People also have the tendency to speak upon the most positive things about their job and may not focus on the negatives which are also important to hear about.

2) Victor Cheng: If you have cemented the idea that this is what you want to do - I recommend his free online resources. Then keep on practicing, read the news, etc and really think about how you would fix problems in your daily life.

Best.
Vic
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Rajani’s Answer

Great answers above! I would summarize them by saying, be open minded when starting new. Observe and learn while trying to find one's own interest in industry type, project type etc. Focus on being a great team player, be always available and most importantly ask for help when required. No one succeeds alone ever :) Other than that, soft skills helps a lot. Learn, improvise and perform almost every day :)
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! This is great advice :) Sydney
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Paul Anthony’s Answer

Networking is one of the most important parts of the recruiting process. If you attend a school where consulting firms do on-campus recruiting, you should attend every recruiting event you can and get to know some of the people that are attending. Chances are at least one of them will be on your interview panel and having a connection with one of the interviewers can improve the flow of an interview. Networking is a bit of a long-form interview about how well you interact with people. You want to make connections with people, but be aware, and show good EQ. Don't be a pest or hog the time with your questions. Help others get involved in the conversation. Then make sure you are listening, you can utilize what you pick up in a networking environment to help shape your interview answers. It also helps if you do a little homework on the company before attending so you can have some intelligent questions to ask.
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Jelani’s Answer

I would say to always stay positive, be willing to learn, get comfortable with working remote, and working towards improving your skill set.
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Jeff’s Answer

As many people have mentioned in their responses, networking is always a great first step to entering into Consulting. As there are many different sectors you could consult for, find someone who has either similar interests or works in a specific industry that you might be more interested in working in. Try setting up 30 minutes to ask them questions about their work in the industry and if they have any tips for building a resume, interview process and a career in that sector. They will hopefully be able to provide you high level overview of the types of projects they work on and some suggestions for entering the consulting workforce. But be ready with specific questions and your interests in that line of work. Definitely want to come prepared for any type of networking conversation but also casual enough so it doesn't feel like work for the other person. And don't forget, they have been in the same position you are currently in!
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Robin’s Answer

Given the world we are in today, get comfortable working remotely! Learn to use virtual tools, facilitation and design thinking skills.

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Trevor’s Answer

A lot of great answers already here, but I'd just add that be open to being uncomfortable. You will constantly be in projects with new (but exciting!) challenges that might require a lot of thought and research.
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Chris’s Answer

Consulting requires a good ear as much as knowledge. Being s good listener to the issues client is facing and asking open ended questions is key. You also need to learn and gain experience. Do not over stretch, but get help when issues are outside your comfort zone.
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Reese’s Answer

Hello Sydney,

Embarking on a consulting career can be truly rewarding, especially if you have a passion for continuous learning. As a consultant, you'll always be discovering new technologies, and embracing various certifications and technologies will surely make you shine!

Keep in mind the importance of adapting to remote work and engaging with clients face-to-face. Each client is unique, so honing both of these skills is crucial.

Remember, taking risks is a part of the journey! It's through these experiences that we learn and flourish as consultants.
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Ani’s Answer

For consulting you need the following:

(1) having an open mind for problem solving as there are no definitive steps solve consulting problems. Such problems typically need a lot of brainstorming.

(2) get exposed to the field of Data Analytics as these skills could come in very handy for you enter the consulting world

(3) Be prepared for 80% travel to Client places. You shouldn't be afraid of being a road warrior.

(4) get interested in solving puzzles

(5) develop good presentational skills and the art of public speaking
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! This is really helpful! Sydney
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Trevor’s Answer

So many great answers on here that I think really hit the nail on the head! What I would say is probably the #1 item to focus on is what TYPE of consulting you want to do. Consulting is so broad that nailing down exactly what you want to focus on in consulting is one of the more important things to check off the list!

I wish you luck in your research!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Sydney
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Landon’s Answer

Hi Sydney

Networking is a great way of both learning about the consulting industry and getting your name out there. A budding consultant should be inquisitive and self-motivated so showing that curiosity and initiative to network goes a long way. Other traits I have found that makes a consultant successful is willingness to take on a variety of challenges even if you are not the most knowledgeable on the subject and ultimately making it work to get the job done. If you can apply these same skills to your consulting recruitment process, you will be in good shape to enter the field.

Best of luck!
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