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Breaking into MGMNT consulting?

Hi! I hope you’re all well and safe. I just wanted to know what I could do now as a second semester freshman to make it easier for me to break in to management consulting, preferably at a big 4 accounting firm? Thank you!! <333 #career #finance #accounting #consulting #big4 #advisory #college #internship #freshmen


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Jerel O.’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,

I just wanted to mention that there is no one path that leads to a career in management consulting. Regarding my own experience, I received my undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in chemistry, and immediately began a career as a research scientist. I eventually transitioned from my role in the laboratory and obtained a position as a project manager within the public health sector. During my time as a project manager, I was able to acquire transferable skills that have served me well in my current position as a management consultant at a big 4 firm. As you continue your educational journey, I just wanted to point out a few core consulting skills that can lead you to a career in management consulting. Listed below, are a few valuable consulting skills that I believe will serve you well.

• Creative thinking – Creative thinking will allow you to share ideas that go beyond the standard and normally accepted ways of approaching the business of the industry. It encourages brainstorming and listening to ideas from all kinds of people.
• Problem-solving – As a management consultant, you may be called on to help a client solve a business need and provide additional guidance or expertise. Your ability to listen carefully to the concerns the client presents to you and react quickly and thoughtfully to help propose solutions may be among the most valuable skills you can possess.
• Collaboration with all staff levels – As a management consultant, you may interact with clients and stakeholders of all staff levels. It will be useful to have a sense of confidence when working with both clients and stakeholders. Developing poise, politeness, friendliness, excellent listening skills and public speaking skills will serve you well in any circumstance.
• Time management – Time management will also serve you well as a management consultant. Good time management will allow you to focus your time and energy on your most important activities, so you can achieve more in less time. Managing your time will help you get clearer, more focused and more productive on your most important activities.

Thank you so much Jerel! I really appreciate the advice you gave me here, I think what you shared about the skills necessary will help me in interviews as well! Abdullah M.

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Simeon’s Answer

Honestly, the biggest difference maker is who you know. Make a point of going to networking and hiring events. If you manage to land an internship, make a point of going to all the social events you can. I've been working in the big 4 for almost two years and I can tell you that networking will also be one of the most encouraged activities after you enter the firm. We are encouraged to get to know the clients that we help and build connections with anyone we can. Even higher up managers and directors are very focused on networking. It's kind of a never-ending process if your goal is to keep moving on up. Even being a part of groups and clubs not directly related to your goal can have surprising results for opening doors.

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Alanna’s Answer

Hi there! Great question. It's great that you're thinking about these next steps early on!

The three things that you can actively do right now is: 1. Keep your grades up, 2. Focus your energy on getting a great internship, and 3. Start to build and expand your network! A bit more detail below:

1. KEEP YOUR GRADES UP. This is definitely an important factor in determining what internships and (later) what careers paths you will be competitive for. For the ultra competitive consulting / finance / corporate business internships, you will want to have your GPA above a 3.5. Some recruiters even require this (job descriptions will have a minimum GPA requirement sometimes and will normally list it on the job posting itself). If you are below a 3.5, don't fret! There are a number of resources and other areas to help boost your resume (like networking, previous job experience, etc.), it will just require an extra boost of effort. But with you being so early on in your college career, definitely aim and work hard at keeping your GPA up!

2. GET GREAT INTERNSHIPS. Competitive internships look amazing on your resume when looking for competitive jobs (like big 4 management consulting). Make use of your school's career center or equivalent and use their guidance to get individualized advice on how to make yourself not just qualified, but a competitive application for an internship. And the more internships / job experiences you get, the better. Even if your first internship isn't exactly what you wanted, focus on what you can learn from it and start to develop your "why" story. Why do you do what you do? Why do you want to do consulting? What do you like? What don't you like? All experiences will help shape your future career for the better because the more data you have, the better informed your future decisions can be. And experience is experience. Don't feel confined to having only "business" internships to later pursue a consulting career. Consulting is so amazing because it can truly take you anywhere. Having a diverse range of knowledge and industries can only help you / make you stand out when building your future career (especially for consulting).

3. START AND EXPAND YOUR NETWORK. Congrats! You have already taken the first step of starting your network. This already includes your peers, your professors, your advisors, etc. Now, it is time to further build it. Take advantage of your school's resources like clubs, sports, activist groups, etc. All of these are groups of people that share similar interests. The best part about college is that if you want to learn something or meet a certain type of person, someone probably already thought about it and a group of resources is already at your fingertips. Join groups specific to your major or specific to your career path. Or even join groups for a hobby you might have (e.g. dance, arts, sports, running, chess, etc). You never know who you might meet or when your paths may cross again. Expanding your network to not just like-minded people pursuing the same career path as you, can help introduce you to a whole new world you never knew existed. I would also encourage you to reach out to faculty (professors, speakers, etc.) for informational interviews. With the world being virtual right now, people are more readily available to have 15 min calls to chat. Send simple emails introducing yourself and a quick blurb about what you are interested in. If they accept, have specific questions ready for your chat and feel free to drive the conversation. In accepting, they are there to help you learn and subsequently, you have also just expended your network.

Overall, it is really great that you are thinking about how to best prepare yourself now. Time is key for a lot of this; nothing happens overnight. Keep working hard and thinking critically! Wishing you the best of luck!

Thank you so so so much for the thoughtful response Alanna! I feel so much more confident about what my action plan needs to be in order to break into this field. I really appreciate all your help :) Abdullah M.

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Lauren’s Answer

Hi!
Great question. It's great you are already thinking about your career! I'm only 6 months out of college and starting to network sophomore year of college is a great way to set yourself up for getting internship interviews when junior year rolls around. I agree with previous answers that an internship the summer following your junior year is a great way to have a post-grad full-time offer before even entering senior year. Some things you can begin doing now include:
1. Strengthening your LinkedIn profile and highlighting academic and extracurricular achievements on your profile to show business acumen/tech skill development
2. Start networking with recruiters at companies you are interested in working for - either through LinkedIn or through programs at your school (like career fairs/ company info sessions). I think attending company info sessions for your school is a great way to gain a connection with recruiters who are looking for students for intern and entry level roles. Especially with a lot of these becoming virtual due to the pandemic, don't be afraid to attend even if there's no roles available for students going into their sophomore year of school. Making these types of connections early is a great way to show ambition and interest.
3. Start networking with school alumni who work in management consulting or at companies you are looking to work for. Through searching on LinkedIn and some playing around with filters, you should be able to find some alumni of your college in roles you are interested in and a simple LinkedIn connection request and message is a great way to begin a conversation with individuals who were once in your shoes and can provide great advice to helping you get to that next step. Even if you don't get immediate responses from these individuals, start taking a look at profiles of people who are in roles you are interested in and see what types of skills/certifications and other experiences they have had. Doing this is a great way to get a better of understanding of what employers are looking for and what skill-building you can do outside of school work to help strengthen your resume.
4. Keep good grades in school and try to make positive connections with professors if possible. I know especially with the pandemic this may be harder than ever before, but its still an important factor in your future success. I also mention making a connection with professors as many times they weren't teachers for the entirety of their careers and have worked in business/consulting field. Having these types of connections can be great as you begin to navigate internship/job searching as even if they are unable to refer you to a company they had previously worked for, they most likely have stayed in touch with some of their old students who may be working in roles and/or at companies you may be interested in.

Like other commenters have said, this whole process takes time and effort but keep up the great work!
Wishing you the best on all your endeavors!

Thank you so much for the thoughtful response Lauren! I’m starting to realize how important networking is in these competitive fields. Will definitely keep your advice in mind! Abdullah M.

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Adam’s Answer

I think you definitely want to take a well rounded set of courses. Definitely some math and analytics mixed in there which I think are part of most standard curriculums. What I've found in my experiences thus far is that you need the basic skills along with the soft skills in order to be successful. You need to understand how you can add value and then applying that to your clients specific need(s). Obviously you need to understand what those needs are first but those should be uncovered more in a discussion with open ended questions vs yes/no questions such as what is a pain point within xyz area of your business? What do you need to help the business grow, etc. Then applying your product/solution to help them achieve such or aid them thus adding value.

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Maura’s Answer

Although I am not employed with a big 4 accounting firm, I work with them. Grades are very important to the big accounting firms, so I would make that a high priority. I would also seek opportunities in the summer to apply what you learn in the classroom. If you don't have the opportunity to work with one of the big 4 right out of college, do not get discouraged. Seek an opportunity with another accounting firm, pursue your CPA and apply again. Best of luck!

Maura recommends the following next steps:

Work hard and get the best grades possible.
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Seek summer employment/internships in accounting.
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Apply to the big 4 for internships (probably early in your junior year for employment for the summer after your junior year)
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Apply to the big 4 for permanent employment early in your senior year.
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Get accounting experience with other firms, pursue your CPA, and apply again.
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Kristen’s Answer

I agree with all the answers above! Currently I am an intern at a big 4 firm and one of the most important things I did at the beginning of my college career was join clubs/extracurriculars that were related to my career goals. Most business schools have their own clubs and associations where you can get access to recruiters and networking events and teach you valuable interviewing skills and allow you to enter firm sponsored case competitions. Additionally, these clubs of students often provide more insight into your career options and give you an understanding of what you truly want to do. Not to mention the other students you meet will be like minded and also capable of helping you with career goals. Remember another huge aspect of your network our your peers in college. Right now you are all just college students but 5, 10, and even 20 years down the line they may become the connection that leads to your next career opportunity! I commend you on thinking about this so early on in college. You are already off to a great start. Good luck!

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Laura E.’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,

Thank you for your question. I agree with earlier responses that grades can be an important measure when looking into a competitive field or company; if there are classes available at your college that could align with your future jobs, those may also provide additional background. Many major companies offer internships which can be useful both in terms of experience and also making connections in a field you are trying to enter. Depending on your location, the school you attend, and the firms you are interested in, there may be specific recruiters mapped to your area that you could contact about job opportunities and what they look for in candidates. Finally, I would add that networking within your college or university can be equally important; sometimes opportunities may not be well advertised and word of mouth is the only way to learn about them.

Thank you so much Laura for the insight! I really appreciate it and will keep all of this in mind :) Abdullah M.

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Don’s Answer

Hi there!

Many of the consulting firms have areas of focus when it comes to consulting. Identify what is important to you (e.g. digital transformation, blockchain, etc) and see which firms are putting an emphasis on your interests. Then, do research on the skillsets that you think (or your research says) to focus on. Your course load should be fairly general business (and computer science, if you're going down that route) but make sure you can also map the more specific skillsets to your future curriculum. Obviously the available courses school-specific, so know what's out there and available for you. Also, if applicable, see if there are clubs or fraternities you can join that are most relevant to what you want to do.

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Chris’s Answer

Over 30 years ago I started my career in consulting, working for a global firm. I have stayed in the business for most of my career, and am now a leader in my own consulting firm.

Many of the comments above are very accurate - keep good grades, network like crazy, go to the events, join the clubs, and get the internships. However, internships are often hard to come by and are about the most competive jobs you will ever apply for. If you are fortunate enough to get one, great. But many great consultants never have an internship before working for a consulting firm. There are other good paths.

My path into consulting was not through an internship. I had the grades and all that other stuff, but never got the choice internship. I was never quite good enough. Instead, I spent those summers and part time during school working for several tiny, no-name companies doing interesting things that were relevant to the field of consulting. By the time I graduated from college, I could tell employers that I had over 6 years of relevant experience, so the internship wasn't so important.

It doesn't really matter what job you get as your first job in high school or early parts of college. What matters is that you have applied yourself and learned something useful. Also, you looked at the job as a way to grow your skills and help your company be successful, regardless of how simple the job. Every job can give you that if you look for it. Find ways to learn new skills and help the company you work for to improve their business - sell more, fix broken processes, provide better service, change something - as part of your job. That's what consultants do.

I think that will help you as much as an internship if you want to get into consulting.

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Bryan’s Answer

I'd say that getting your career started in a field such as accounting (public accounting, specifically) in either audit or tax is a great place to get your "feet wet" if you later want to transfer into management consulting. It's a great way to make connections with people (it's all about WHO YOU KNOW!) as well as get a taste of different industries and learning data skills, people skills, time management skills, etc.

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Kabir’s Answer

If you attend any interviews, information sessions, networking events etc, please make sure that you have buckets of enthusiasm as this will set you apart from other candidates. Truthfully, at an entry level, you need decent grades, and enthusiasm - anything beyond that is a bonus.

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Nikki’s Answer

Hi Abdullah,

I worked as a consultant in one of the big 4 accounting firms and my path to getting a job offer was through in-campus recruiting. After I joined the firm, I also helped in recruiting so I can share what I have learned from both sides.

1. Grades are definitely important. At the time when I was interviewing, there was a definite GPA cut-off so as a freshman right now, make a plan to achieve the best grades possible (while still having fun, of course!). Your GPA is a record that you will always carry with you so figure out an effective way to keep that record stellar.

2. Network with people in your school who are most likely to join one of the big 4 firms . In my first year in the firm, I was asked to select resumes from my school's graduating class for a short list for interviews. Of course, only those who I knew either through projects we worked with in school or people who I am familiar with in terms of performance and background, were the people I was able to recommend. From the list of graduating students that I recommended, one person got a job offer.

3. Consulting firms hold numerous recruiting events in key target schools. Be sure you are informed of these events and be an active participant. One of the recruiting events we held was a case competition and the top three teams had the opportunity to present their case in front of directors and were offered an interview slots.

4. Prepare for the interview. When you finally get the interview, make sure you are able to perform at your best. Prepare for behavioral, case and team interviews. Learn how to structure your answers quickly and clearly, where you are able to walk the interview through your points in a very logical manner. They are looking for people who are good communicators and have the ability to convey a clear idea.

Best of luck to you!

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Nick’s Answer

You can focus on people skills in college and business solutions. Consulting is all about formulating and selling your ideas and presenting yourself as an expert in the field. Your clients will look to you to solve problems, drive change and give them the road to implement. Focus.

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