We spoke to Career EADA Advisor Rosita Cordasco about the consulting field. Rosita shares the different aspects of consulting, and how you can prepare for the selection process. According to Rosita, consulting is the right career path for students who like a challenge.
What makes a career in consulting so attractive?
There aren’t many careers that give you as much breadth and on-the-job experience as consulting. The level of exposure you can get is one of the main reasons why many people pursue a career in this field.
Consultants work with senior business leaders to help solve challenges and make decisions about future growth and change. So, for a fresh graduate, having the opportunity to work in close proximity with people who have been in their careers for 30 or 40 years is pretty unique. It provides a great chance to learn and gain exposure to experienced professionals.
Additionally, in consulting you can expect to work with smart, hard-working individuals as it is a sector that tends to attract graduates from very diverse educational backgrounds who have one thing in common: a very strong hunger for intellectual stimulation.
Last, but surely not least, consulting offers continuous variety. Individuals who are happy and confident to adapt to new situations and learn new things constantly, and to whom the idea of change is stimulating, may find that they are happy in consulting.
What does it take to be a successful consultant?
Regardless of your academic background and specialisation within the sector –finance, HR, marketing, supply chain or technology–, consulting requires three basic skills:
- Problem-solving skills – an analytical mindset, a rigorous approach and excellent calculation abilities)
- The ability to manage relationships – you should be a natural leader and have great communication skills
- The right attitude – you should always be eager to learn new things, to take on new challenges and to drive projects.
Consulting involves researching ideas, conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis and applying complex frameworks to solve challenging problems, so you need to have a true passion to tackle intellectual challenges.
What type of consulting is a good fit for me?
Consulting operates across multiple sectors. Within consulting, you can develop different areas of expertise, so it is important that when starting to consider consulting as a possible step in your career, you ask yourself what exactly is your area of interest. You should also consider what your ideal workplace would look like – would you feel more at home in a global firm, a boutique firm or maybe in the local community?
How will I grow as a consultant?
Consulting typically involves quite a structured career path. It normally involves 5 to 6 steps from entry level to partner and moving from one position to the next takes, on average, from 1 to 3 years. This means that becoming a partner could take 10 years or more, depending on your starting level and the speed of your promotions.
As you grow in your career, your role will transform from an analytical position to a more strategic one. If analysts are more focused data gathering and delivering presentations, senior managers will be involved in conversations with clients – their main focus is on making sure that projects are run smoothly. Partners focus on selling and building client relationships.
How do I get into consulting?
Consulting may be one of the most competitive careers to break into: the privilege to improve the way a business works comes at a high price and a lot of expectations.
Qualifications and grades are just one part of the game. Other factors are equally important: a keen awareness of your field of interest and a demonstrated commitment to extracurricular activities, academic projects and internships are important, as well as a proven soft skills.
What kind of questions should you expect in the selection process?
Some of the questions you will be asked will be common interview questions you might be asked for any type of job; they are motivational questions and questions about yourself. These questions help any interviewer identify your strengths and weaknesses, measure your value and gauge if you are a good fit with the organisational culture and current teams.
A consultant will handle diverse projects and probably various clients at a time, so be prepared to answer questions about time and stress management. Other types of questions in consulting interview include:
- Behavioural interview questions: These are questions about how you have handled various work situations in the past. For example, you may be asked how you have handled an issue with a difficult employer.
- Situational interview questions: These focus on possible working scenarios. In this case, the interviewer is interested in knowing how you think.
- Case interview questions: These are the most common type of questions in the consulting field, and are related to a case or brainteaser that requires you to solve a problem. What is important here is to show the interviewer how you use logic to solve problems, so make sure you show your mental thought process out loud, as well as the steps you are considering to find a solution.
In all selection processes, preparation is key. Prepare ahead of time by researching the employer, find out about industry trends and practice common interview questions and case studies. Participate in mock interview exercise and never underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication.