What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into management consulting?

Kevin on our team shared his tips about getting into management consulting in a video post this week. Now, I’d love to hear from you. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into management consulting? I look forward to your suggestions.

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Be prepared for the case interview. These require practice, practice, and more practice. Case interviews translate well to typical problems we solve here everyday. So if you enjoy working on these problems, management consulting could be a good fit for you!
Management consulting is obviously a very general and broad term, and consulting firms run the gamut in terms of their industry and service area specialties. The first step to going down this career path is determining what type of consulting services fit with your background, skills and experiences, and personal and professional interests. This will guide your decisions around: 1) Whether you would like to have a specific industry focus (e.g., life sciences, retail, media, energy) or a generalist experience (i.e., exposure to a range of industries) 2) What type of service area(s) you would like to work in (e.g., strategy consulting, financial consulting, M&A consulting, human capital consulting, etc.) 3) What type of firm culture / environment you would excel in (e.g., high travel, strong mentorship program, professional development / training opportunities) Have a clear view of what type of consulting services are a good fit for you and what you can bring to the task. This is a great starting point to differentiate the diverse firms out there.
Talk to your school's career services center! They have great resources and are there to help you. Definitely take advantage of any resume workshops, cover letter reviews, and case interview practice sessions.
Get to know the firms, and seek out networking opportunities (e.g., career fairs, info sessions). Network with your best foot forward - ask something thoughtful about the firm to a representative, not just a generic "So what does your firm do?" question. Thoughtful questions reflect good preparation, which goes a long way in making a good first impression on a recruiter.
Get to know the firm to which you are applying. Understand key differentiators for you and be ready to highlight them during a networking event or interview. Get to know consultants at different firms either through on-campus events, through social networks (e.g., check employers of Facebook or LinkedIn connections), or by emailing the recruiter and requesting an informational interview. Get involved - join a consulting club at your school, apply for internships, if you're currently in the work force read as much as you can (e.g., publications posted on consulting firm websites, case examples, etc.) Be well rounded - diversify your extracurricular activities to make yourself more valuable as a consultant. If you're a scientist look to take some business courses and become saavy with lingo such as NPV, M&A, and ROI. If you're in finance look to learn more about mAbs, siRNA, or the FDA. If you don't get a consulting internship don't give up. Internships are typically much more competitive than full time jobs. Typically an internship class will be a tenth of the size of an incoming full time class. Have fun learning about consulting - most of us enjoy consulting because of the variety of project work, the intelligent colleagues who you get to solve challenging problems with, and the excitement of helping a client address their most critical issues!!
Be confident in yourself, especially during interviews. You've definitely an intelligent person if you can get a few management consulting interviews, and it's important to not doubt your abilities or discount you're achievements. Firms look for people who can think well under pressure and who have a history of success. If you can work towards convincing a firm you have both of those qualities, you should be in a great position to land a consulting job.
There are two main hurdles to address if you want to become a management consultant: 1) getting an interview, and 2) interviewing well. This post deals with #1, as I have gotten many questions about this topic during my 5 years on the job. Many firms have standard entry points for most candidates: a) straight out of undergrad for Associates, and b) straight out of business school for Consultants. For these standard entry points, consulting firms typically schedule on-campus recruiting in the early fall at 'core schools' (that tend to be top-tier) and supplement those applications with referrals from exisiting employees. So, if you are at a top school, you have overcome one hurdle, and need to make sure that you have built a solid resume and cover letter that will pass the screener. My best advice here is imagine being the person who has to sit down and read through 100 resumes in their 'spare time' and make a yes / no decision. The screener will probably only spend 30 seconds - 1 minute reading your resume, so make sure you put the most important points near the top, be concise, use digestable languages and sentences (i.e., don't use big words just for the sake of it), have a friend or colleague read it in 60 seconds and ask: what did you take away from this? ... does that align with what you wanted them to take away? Do this several times until you're satisfied. If you are not from a core school or have been working in industry for sometime, you will need to network, network, network! If you find someone who currently works at your target firm of choice and you are a good candidate, usually they'll have an incentive to help you - i.e., a referral bonus. I came from a non-core school and get emails and calls about management consulting all the time. I have an initial informal discussion, review resumes, and determine whether I'd feel good about passing that person along to recruiting - some aren't a good fit, many are. For those who I feel are a good fit, I will help them tighten up their resume and cover letter before passing them along to recruiting. I'll stay in touch during the interview process (but will never offer tips that other candidates don't receive to keep it an even playing field). Ultimately, the decision to interview is based with the recruiting team, but it can really help to have someone on the inside helping you out. It's best to apply during the major recruiting season (early Fall) because there are more spots, but firms may hire in the 'off-season' if forecasted demand exceeds initial expectations. Even if you are off cycle and a firm is not recruiting, networking and developing good relationships can take some time, so it's better to get started sooner than later! Good luck!
Learn to love to think about how business (any size or industry... from a small coffee shop to an international outsourcing company) are run, generate revenue, and grow as if you were the CEO. Be creative and confident in your case interviews and don't forget to let your personality come through!

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