How to Make Consulting a Career Choice, Not a Career that Happened to You

Often, students start their career in consulting through campus recruitment. Students who are attracted to consulting are not fully aware of what kind of consulting they might actually be doing, but are easily swayed with job perks such as the dynamic nature of work, travel, office parties, big bucks, etc.

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The intention of my blog post is to help you tell the difference between the types of consulting if you are considering it as a career choice and help you choose rather than blindly sit through the consulting recruitment process without knowing what your job profile would be. Recruiters will often place you in a consulting category based on your academic proficiency (like it or not). You can relate to this confusion if you have applied for consulting jobs that read – Business Analyst, Associate, Experienced Associate, Business Consultant etc. Majority of the times, the title and job description is totally unrelated to what you might actually end up doing. If you can tell the difference and are sure your academic choice or prior work experience can definitely land you a job in your area of (interest) consulting, read no further.

Consulting can be broadly classified into three major types – Strategy, Management and Technology and it doesn’t stop here, each of these categories can get complex quickly and diversified when one starts thinking about a specific industry and specialization within each category. Here is my take on attempting to tell the difference between the type of consulting and the possible skillsets or academic background and/or prior work experience you should have to get into large, well-established consulting firms.

Strategy Consulting

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Strategy consulting is for those who want to work on client projects that require them to solve problems from an organization-wide level and tie all their recommendations to financial implications it could have for the client. As a strategy consultant, you would also be working on the client’s global growth plans, perform market research on their target customers, how they can diversify their business, and maybe even take government regulations into account while making decisions.

To be a strategy consultant, the easiest route is an MBA if you are looking for a career shift, or a specialized degree in finance, economics or a numerically extensive coursework.

Popular firms into Strategy Consulting are the Big Three – Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company.

Management Consulting

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Management consulting is for those who are looking to focus on specific operational areas within every business structure, such as Project Management, Supply Chain Operations, Financial Management, People and Change Management, Human Resources, Risk Management, Security and many more specific to each consulting firm but sure you get the idea. The works here involves optimizing the existing processes for each of these functional areas and eventually help clients reduce costs and improve efficiency.

To be a Management Consultant in a specific area, it is a given that one should have extensive work experience in one of the domain they are interested in or for students they should have graduated from a degree that has allowed them to gain an in-depth background in their area of interest.

Popular firms into Management Consulting are the Big Four – Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young and KPMG.

Technology Consulting

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Technology consulting is for those who are looking to implement technical solutions to streamline clients’ existing business processes. This type of consulting has two faces to it – Technical and Functional roles. The terminology varies across firms, and in few these roles are not as clearly demarcated and one is expected to play a Techno-Functional role (blend of both). But what they broadly mean is – Technical consultants are involved in the implementation part of a client engagement (read coding in layman’s term) and Functional consultant are involved in mapping client’s business processes onto the technical platform. The IT solutions could be customized IT systems built in-house or standard ERP solutions.

To be a Technology Consultant, recent graduates (with no experience) are generally trained on a specific IT platform if they have some sort level of quantitative and business academic background. It is a preferred choice for those of you that are inclined towards IT.

Popular firms into Technology Consulting are the Big Four – Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young and KPMG. Also firms like Accenture, CTS and Capgemini are well-known players.

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A lot of these consulting areas overlap depending on the client engagement, but the broad classifications would stand in-terms of which department within the organization you would be working in. Exceptions are called so for a reason – so this isn’t about a friend or a friend of your friend or that someone you know who has made a career transition within consulting without satisfying the above criteria, my blog speaks to what is applicable majority of the times in my experience as a recent graduate looking for a job in consulting.

Getting any role in consulting is competitive, but when you are looking for a career in consulting your search gets easier when you know what exactly you should be targeting at rather than throwing random arrows in the air.

 

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Guest blog post by Gitanjali Murthy, Recent Graduate of Northwestern’s MEM Program

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