Jul 7, 2011

Know your post MBA Career: Consulting

What do you want to do after MBA?
What kind of?
“Strategic Consulting”.
What is that?
“umm…ehh… create the future strategy of the company’.
Isn’t that a CEO’s job requirement!?
‘umm.. ehh..”
This is the stock conversation with almost 50% of our MBA candidates/clients who mention consulting as their post MBA career choice. Consulting is one of the top choices not only amongst the applicants but also the business school students. At the same time there is also a lot of unawareness about consulting as a post MBA career. So let’s take a look at what is this career all about –
What is Consulting?
Advice for $$ – The basic mantra of consulting. As a consultant you find, and sometime fix, the issues and problems that the management sometimes can not. Consultants are recruited to identify the problems and find out solutions through providing new information, in-depth analysis, brainstorming and execution.
Is consulting an industry? Yes. A ~100+ Billion industry and growing. Most of the income is generated in the field of technology, strategy and enterprise consulting. As more and more countries develop, they try to find better ways to improve their economies and thus a large driver of growth is currently in the emerging economies.
Consulting Firms
There are two basic types of consulting firms. The largest ones deal mostly with very big clients, and focuses on issue such as such as profit and cost management, strategic alliance, emerging market entry, while the other ones keep their focus on their specific industries or business functions such as restructuring, customer management, etc. Following are the major lines of consulting services in this industry:
  • Strategy: Focused on planning, strategy and services. 
  • Technology: Focused on systems, IT integration and implementation, and technical support.
  • Service Line: Focused on Customer Relationship, turnarounds, organizational efficiency, etc. It may involve advice as well as implementation. 
  •  Industry: Focused on particular industries such as telecom, energy, health care, chemical, etc. It may involve strategy as well as implementation.
While subject knowledge experts, such as in energy, multimedia, logistics, brand, e-commerce, are in great demand in this industry, there is a lot of demand for generalists too. The common factor that the top consultancies look out for their consultants is the strategic thinking.
Consulting is similar to working in a team project. Most of the consultants belong to firms and very few consultants make it good just on individual glory. The biggest and most prestigious firms, like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, etc, are very selective and extremely competitive to get into, and usually hire only from the top 15-20 MBA schools.  
Responsibilities and Skill Sets
1. Soft skills:
  • Solution driven outlook:  Consulting companies creates ideas, solutions, and new ways of approaching a problem. Intellect is their core product. Quick thinking and an ability to use data, research and experience to generate new solutions and find innovative ways of doing things is critical.
  • Personality: Find the problem and fix it. Do you enjoy case studies? Are you good in relationship management? Pedigree might help you get into a top class consulting firm but your success as a consultant depends on how you perform. Consulting is a service industry and you need to have the right approach to fit into this industry. Best consultants are motivated to help their clients. Those who achieve excellence in this are more likely to find the consulting experience a satisfying career path.
  • Be a Team Player: You work in a team, internal and on client side, and a large factor on your success as a consultant will depend whether others like to work with you or no. The best consultants enjoy being around the people they work with.
2. Business skills:
  • Pitching: You should be good to help sell and market the firm you are working for. Other skills include writing proposals, presenting sales pitches, etc.
  • Research:  You should be able to transform data into valuable information by performing research through news sources, market trends, interviewing customers, employees, etc.
  • Analysis: You should know how to build DCFs or other models and how to use the statistic to drive the recommendations
  • Reporting: You should be not just ready but also excellent in preparing slides after slides. Consultants eat, thinkpower point powerpoint slides.
  • Implementation: You should be good in planning and executing the ideas that you present to the clients or to your own team members.
  • Recruiting: One of your responsibility may be to act as a gatekeeper for recruitment and you should have the skill set to identify the right people for the right job.
How to get the Consulting job offer?
Most of the consultants get the job by legwork, persistence, and pure hard work. Following are the main components of a consulting job search
  • Resume/CV: Main elements of a good consulting resume: skills, schooling, and experience. Stress the skills that are relevant to the consulting industry and though schooling can’t guarantee your success in this field, a top brand always make it easier to get the first step in. Your experience should show that you have expertise that the firm can  make use of.
  • GMAT and GPA: Top consulting firm look at your GMAT and GPA pretty closely, especially during the interview shortlisting phase.
  • Networking: Networking can’t cover for a lack of competence, it is an important step in getting into the shortlist when the firms decide whom do they want to interview. Many schools and sometimes the firms themselves give you the resources to network but it  is upto you to make the most of it.
  • Telephone conversations: Phone calls are the best friend of a MBA student who wants to get into consulting industry. A lot happen over the telephone conversations – networking, case practice, interviews, etc. Hence, it is critical to look at how you present yourself on phone.
  • Face time:  That’s the best networking tool. Travel to firm’s offices and know the partners, consultants, etc. You will probably be hired by one of those you meet.
  • Solve Cases: Cases are the bread and butter for the students who want to get into consulting. You can be good at all other skill sets but if you cannot solve cases in the interviews, it is next to impossible to break into top consulting companies.
Consulting is one of the high paying industries for new MBA graduates. Most of the MBA graduates join the consulting industry at Associate level. The base compensation for the top consulting companies such as BCG, etc starts at ~$100K-140K. Add to it the sign on bonus and the annual bonus and we are talking a first year package of ~$150K+. Some other top consulting firms (such as Deloitte) even offer to pay the tuition for the second year MBA - ~ $45K!
Keep in mind that here can be a vast difference in compensation depending upon the firm you choose to work for and the total package for the first year can vary from anywhere from ~100K+ to $150K+. However, $/hr may be a more realistic comparison because typical consulting work weeks are usually close to 80 hrs and involves a continuous traveling. Check out this article to know the other side of the consulting career.

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