Life as a graduate consultant

Every year over 2,000 graduates start their professional career in a management consultancy training scheme. With many of the consultancy firms' graduate programmes regularly ranking in The Times top 100, there is fierce competition for places. We asked Louise Suen what her first experiences as a consultant. Before joining Deloitte in September, she studied History at the University of Birmingham, and then took a year out travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore while learning Mandarin.

Why did you decide to become a consultant?

Consulting gives you a chance to really understand a client's business and the variety in consulting seemed never ending. It’s a role where you get to learn new things everyday and meet new people.

Did you have any concerns about the job before you started?

Before I started I was concerned about how my skills would transfer over. But once the training started, including a two week residential course, it all fell into place. History isn’t a vocational degree, but there are skills from university that I didn’t think were significant at the time but now play a part in my every day work. 

Are there any other skills you feel it would have been useful to have had before starting?

Presentation skills; not seeming nervous is the real skill.  I got the opportunity to give a presentation to senior partners and it was scary; I had a dry mouth and sweaty palms.  I would love to have learnt to disguise that fear. Also just more detailed knowledge of PowerPoint and excel would be useful. 

What’s it like working client side?

You do the training and the build-up in house. But until you get to client site the role doesn’t come to life. Now I’m here I’m learning really quickly and feel like I’m contributing to a wider project. It’s only been a few weeks and I’ve been given ownership of a deliverable, putting together the weekly presentation updating the wider team on what is happening. I keep everyone informed and include alerts and updates about whether we are on schedule. It’s given me a really solid understanding of how the project is working, and what everyone does.

What is the best thing you’ve done so far?

Firstly, I’ve nearly completed my foundation level of CIMA. It’s been challenging and intense but it’s been really rewarding to learn the theory and see how it transfers across. Everything about it has been practical and job related.

But also there’s the range of people; some are graduates, some have experience from elsewhere and they come from all over the world, which is just a fantastic experience for my first job.

What are you most looking forward to?

The opportunity to work aboard; Deloitte is huge, spanning 147 countries, including emerging markets, so there are lots of opportunities. It’s one of the things that attracted me to consulting, it’s great to work in London, but to understand another culture and get under the skin of how other countries operate – I’d love to do that.

Is there anything that has surprised you?

The approachability of everyone. You work closely with partners and senior managers and you are constantly exposed to their expertise. But they are really approachable, which makes you want to learn and develop and ask questions.

What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about applying to be a consultant?

To be open to new experiences and challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone and stay there. That’s what helps you learn and develop, and take your career forward.

And also to just enjoy it; if you get the opportunity make the most of it.