There is more than one way for a determined individual to reach his or her consulting goals. The most common road that many consultants take is through a relevant degree from a recognized university or an internship in a top tier firm.
Not Your Ordinary Path
However, this does not mean that one who comes from other backgrounds such as law, the military, or even health care cannot break into the consulting world. Even though these paths are unconventional, there are still a number of successful management consultants today that come from these industries.
Shifting into management consulting from an unrelated degree or expertise can be difficult. A consultant’s skill set takes years to develop with exposure in the relevant field. As a result, individuals from other sectors must work twice as hard to make up for the lack of knowledge and experience.
Below highlights some of the most popular backgrounds that consultants have started from.
After a service, many soldiers that return home are looking to transition into a new career. You may be surprised to know that there are a notable amount of veterans who take on a career as a management consultant. An individual with a military background is recommended to study from a recognized university. Furthermore, one must maintain a high GPA and work extra hard in building a consulting network from scratch.
There are some downsides that people coming from a military background face. Years of deployment means that by the time an individual applies for a consulting position, he or she might be at the same age as a mid-level professional. This can be a problem if the firm is looking to invest their time in young graduates. While age discrimination should not be tolerated during the interview process, it is a reality that many applicants face. Another concern that individuals with a military background have is lack of experience. A recruiter will most likely choose an applicant who has a background in the relevant field rather than someone who spent time doing military duties.
From another perspective, there are several reasons why a military personnel is suitable to transition to consulting. The competitive nature of deployment can serve as a solid foundation for breaking into the consulting industry. The drive and motivation that a veteran holds is an asset that many recruiters are looking for during the consulting interview process.
Though somewhat relevant to the industry, auditors may have a frustrating time landing a consulting job. This is due to the type of work auditors are accustomed to. Consulting requires “out of the box” and strategic thinking. On the other hand, the nature of audit work is very repetitive and monotonous. In order to break away from how individuals view auditors, it is recommended to get an MBA from a recognized university. This can show a recruiter that the applicant is capable of doing tasks outside of auditing.
For professionals with an MBA, moving into consulting from a career in auditing can be complicated. One of the best ways to do this is to get into a firm in a non-related field, and get relevant experience. If possible, transition within the firm through an entry-level position or consulting training program.
Information Technology (IT)
Individuals with a background in IT may consider a career in consulting, under the right circumstances. In order to get recognized by a recruiter, and stand out from the competition, it is advisable to be a top performer or have distinctions. It is also essential to have a strong consulting network. Because one may lack experience in consulting, he or she may need someone to vouch for work ethics and professionalism. Ideally, IT specialists looking to make the career shift should consider taking on relevant projects before the change, depending on the type of clients the prospective consulting firm specializes in.
With a high GPA, and internships from reputable companies, engineers can transition towards a career in consulting. As mentioned earlier, it would help if such an individual graduated from a top university. A great way to get one’s foot in the door is by attending networking events, as this is a big part of the consulting world. Because engineering and consulting are not directly related, it may take some time to get to know the right people that can help you get access to these types of events. This is the time to use one’s university contacts and call alumni’s and other graduates.
Starting with a 2nd tier firm is a great stepping-stone to consider for those in the engineering industry who want to be consultants. Moving to a larger city with hopes to find more opportunities is not advisable to do immediately due to the level of competition. Alternatively, one may also use LinkedIn to establish a strong set of consulting contacts. Joining online communities is another venue that is starting to become popular due to the information shared in the groups.
History and Literature
Individuals who are highly considering a consulting career without background in financing or business have a lot of catching up to do. Even with a high GPA, one of the best ways to ensure a positive transition would be to get in relevant companies for internships and volunteer work. At the same time, it is recommended to learn basic financing during off hours. Accounting is also suggested. These two topics can help an individual stay up to speed in consulting conversations and when talking to recruiters during the interview process. An individual may need to prove that he or she has knowledge in these subjects. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take a form of certification program from a prestigious institution. Getting an MBA will probably be necessary for many candidates to shift to management consulting.
One of the main issues that individuals encounter when making a career shift to consulting is building up relevant experience. Because one’s degree isn’t related to consulting, recruiters rely on experience to gauge how suitable the applicant is for the consulting industry. The first step in gaining relevant experience is to set a target. You should first know what kind of consulting you want to do, what projects you want to take up and which firm(s) you want to work for.
Secondly, think outside the box. Consider internships, certifications, volunteer work, temp work, freelance and etc. Be prepared to invest time in these areas to show that you can do more than your current area of expertise. It also helps to do what you can on your own time. In order to be able to compete with other prospective consultants, one needs to be well versed in terms, phrases and the latest news circulating the consulting world.
Once you are equipped with the right experience, you may use your consulting network to get the inside scoop on possible openings. The complicated part in this step is if you have no way to start building your network. If you started building the foundation correctly, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you should have stumbled upon a few leads, which can help you break into the consulting industry.
Which Firm Should I Apply for?
Depending on where you are, it is recommended not to completely disregard 2nd tier firms. These types of firms are a great place to gain solid consulting experience, which can help catapult one’s goal of working for a top-level firm.
On the other hand, don’t get too comfortable in these types of companies. Once you’ve gathered enough experience from relevant projects, and you feel confident about the knowledge you’ve acquired, it is a good idea to move on to the next step of your plan. It is common for individuals without a relevant background in consulting to lack confidence in their skills. An effective way to overcome this mindset is by staying updated and gathering more knowledge in the relevant field.
A great tip in knowing which firm to target is by knowing what type of clients they are working with. This may help narrow down your choices depending on your previous background or degree. If you’re looking into a completely different speciality, one that you have no prior experience or knowledge in, it is essential to start as early as possible in planning your transition.
In conclusion, an individual without ideal starting credentials can still land a consulting job. However, one has to work extremely hard to achieve the same level of success as a consultant who has taken a relevant path. Never underestimate the foundation of a high GPA and a degree from a top university.
Getting a MBA can solidify one’s chances in getting into a high caliber firm. This can prove to a recruiter that you have the capacity to take on a consulting role. Finally, be prepared to work hard until you’ve closed the knowledge and experience gap.