Each week in this column, I will seek to explain unusual graduate career paths and how you can best prepare yourself for submitting a job application in the relevant industry. This week, for your job-hunting pleasure, Jessica Richards and I researched the world of management consultancy.
Management consulting is the practice of increasing the value of organisations and businesses by offering advice that improves operational performance and success. The profession involves providing objective business counsel and putting business solutions into practice so that a firm can develop further and faster than it would on its own.
Consulting companies offer services in a broad range of operational areas including IT, finance, marketing, banking, healthcare, retail and human resources. Work can be found in the public sector as well as the private one through the provision of cost cutting and economical spending advice.
According to the UK Consulting Industry Statistics Report, carried out in 2014, the UK consulting industry is worth around £9 billion and employs more than 80,000 people.
Although management consultancy is open to graduates from any degree discipline, one that is either numerical or analytical in content will be recognised as desirable by some firms. Examples of these courses are management, economics, statistics, accounting and business law.
Of utmost importance is a strong academic record, as it is more likely that employers will focus on your degree classification more than the subject of study. Often a 2:1 at degree level or equivalent is required to be eligible for positions in management consultancy.
A postgraduate degree is almost never essential, but can prove to be advantageous when producing reports and could set you apart from other prospective employees. A masters degree in business administration is particularly valuable, as it will enhance your abilities to analyse and evaluate the successes and shortcomings of a business.
Continuing your education can also provide you with the opportunity to make important contacts, which can be utilized when you start your professional career. In summary, a Masters is useful but only a necessity in rare circumstances.
Candidates hoping to secure a position at a management consultancy firm will also need to provide evidence of many key skills and attributes. These include the ability to work and lead a team, a fresh perspective, interpersonal and communication skills, problem solving capabilities, strategic planning expertise and the ability to work under pressure.
It is useful to gain relevant work experience before entering the consulting profession. Real-world experience is a definite advantage, as you will gain an insight into how to implement the theories and content learned during your education. Graduates with practical experience in the field are more attractive to recruiters for this reason.
Therefore, it would be recommended to keep an eye out for annual summer internships where you can gain experience on the job. Companies often open their applications in the autumn preceding the year of the programme. Keeping records of any achievements you have made is vital so that you can validate your abilities to future employers.
Other options such as voluntary work and extra curricular activities that involve developing, and exercising skills such as team leadership, can also help enhance your CV.
In general, competition for job placements in management consultancy is extremely intense as emphasised by the high entry standards and requirements that come with such positions. If you wish to get into consultancy work immediately after university you should start applying for positions at the beginning of your final year.
Upon starting your professional career as a consultant, long hours are common to fulfil demanding deadlines, and it may be expected of you to spend considerable amounts of time away from home. As work for clients is primarily on-site, mobility is often considered a must.
However, a career as a management consultant is worthwhile and definitely has its perks. This profession allows plenty of scope for travel, as client work has become more international. It also allows the chance for personal development, as you are required to bring specific skills that must adapt to a variety of environments in addition to an outside perspective. This is turn expands your existing skill set and enhances your CV and potential for promotions and further career progression within the industry.
Salaries for new entrants into the profession can range from £25,000 to £30,000, and vary greatly owing to a number of factors such as size, location and type of consultancy firm. After some years of experience senior consultants can be expected to earn between £50,000 and £60,000 per year while salaried partners can earn a salary more in the region of £200,000 per year.