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Career Development

Careers Advice

—Help and advice on a career in consultancy

Management consultancy is an attractive career for many, offering a variety of projects, constant challenge and great opportunities for personal development. In a large firm this might involve working all over the world with multinational clients. The biggest firms have several hundred or thousand employees, but there are a growing number of niche players across the UK, with between ten and 50 consultants.

The following information is designed to answer some of the most common questions about consultancy, and give an overview of the profession.

In addition to the information below, you can download a free copy of Inside Careers guide to Management Consultancy produced in partnership with the MCA.

Download here

Common Questions about Consultancy

  • What qualifications do I need?
  • What’s it like to be a consultant?
  • Which consultancy should I join?
  • Useful resources

Remember...

  1. People become management consultants at all ages and from all backgrounds. There is no standard career path into the industry and firms recruit in a variety of ways. Some firms recruit large numbers of graduates, others just a handful of experienced consultants.
  2. During the application process you will be required to demonstrate an aptitude for certain skills including client handling, practice development, strategic planning, business analysis and team building. Prospective employers will also be looking for evidence of creativity, flexibility and interpersonal skills.
  3. Becoming a consultant can be a long drawn out process. Recent candidates have faced several rounds of interviews and attended assessment centres before joining a firm, so be prepared to be patient and persistent.

What qualifications do I need?

  • Some firms recruit graduates on a regular basis, others a handful of experienced sector professionals as required
  • For some firms, an individual with an MBA (Master of Business Administration) or an MSc will be of great interest - but they are by no means universally required
  • Degrees in Business may be a benefit, but generally consultancy is not a degree-specific industry. Skills such as client handling, practice development, strategic planning, business analysis and team building will be of equal importance to prospective employers
  • People become management consultants at all ages and from all backgrounds. There is no standard career path into the industry and firms carry out their recruitment in a variety of ways
  • In recent years the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification provided by the Institute of Consulting has taken on more significance. This enables qualified consultants to demonstrate that they have achieved an internationally accepted standard of skills and experience. However, consultancy remains some distance from the closely regulated professions of accountancy and law.

What’s it like to be a consultant?

What’s great?

  • Consultancy is a well paid career. Remuneration packages can vary enormously according to the size of the firm. Large firms can pay junior consultants a basic salary of £25-£30,000. More experienced consultants earn up to £50,000 within a few years and senior consultants earn a great deal more through profit share and performance bonus schemes.
  • Work is varied, as consultants work on an array of different projects – you’ll get a lot of experience.
  • There’s plenty of scope for personal development, expanding your skillset and enhancing your CV. Most consultancies offer good training opportunities, along with the skills you’ll acquire ‘on the job’.
  • As client work becomes more international, firms are beginning to operate and organise on a European and even global basis, so there are opportunities for travel and work abroad.

What’s not so great? – things to consider

  • Long hours – intensive work on large bids can often mean working all night. If you’re looking for a 9-5 job, this is probably not for you.
  • Consultants spend a considerable time away from home. For a lot of consulting jobs you will be signing up to being mobile, so it is important that you are prepared to flexible. Most of the larger employers have their head offices in London with a few regional establishments, but as work for clients is primarily on site anyway, location is rapidly becoming less important.
  • Tough targets – many consultants are expected to be ‘utilised’ i.e. working with clients for the vast majority of their time – targets are set and need to be met on time.
  • You will be under pressure to deliver – if you are the shy and retiring type, this is probably not a good career for you.

Which consultancy should I join?

  • Some consultancy firms specialise in certain types of work – do as much research as possible into what a firm does and what career options it offers. Talk to the firms you are interested in and to people who have worked with them.
  • Some consultancy firms specialise in certain types of work, and therefore may be interested in people who have some industry experience. It is important also to look at the training available, both formal and on the job, as this is an important part of what a firm can offer.
  • The websites and publications of the firms themselves can be a great source of information. These vary in style and detail, but are generally pretty informative. Larger firms have a dedicated HR department, which should be able to help you with information on a career within their organisation. Smaller firms will normally expect individuals to forward a copy of their latest CV with a covering letter. Find out about ourMember firms.

Useful resources

  • The main trade publications inclue top-consultant.com and Consultants News.
  • Some of the larger firms attend the ‘milk-round’ presentations at universities and business schools. Others host open days when they encourage individuals to come along for an afternoon or an evening and learn something about how they operate. Keep an eye on the Inside Careers Management Consultancy section for information on companies recruiting students and graduates.
  • Specialist recruitment consultancies Mindbench and Prism Executive Recruitment, they both offer recruitment solutions and careers advice to prospective candidates (please click here for careers advice from Mindbench and here from Prism Executive Recruitment). Other specialist recruiters include BLT and head-hunters such as Heidrick & Struggles. Please be aware that many of these will only consider candidates with relevant experience.
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