Career as a Consultant

Editor - CoolAvenues | June 16,2014 10:34 am IST

If you're considering a career as a consultant, a summer internship is a great way to learn more about the business, find the firm that best fits your style, and add some real-world experience to your resume.


Competition Is Fierce

Consulting is a popular choice among business majors.

Firms offer higher entry-level salaries and better benefits than most companies in the financial services or technology industries. Consultants also get to work inside Fortune 500 companies and meet high-ranking executives who can help them further their careers.


It shouldn't come as a surprise then that competition for internships at top-tier firms is intense. Applicants must prove their merit before they even get in the door. PricewaterhouseCoopers receives more than 75,000 resumes annually for fewer than 250 summer intern positions. Candidates are expected to have a 4.0 GPA, letters of recommendation from recognized faculty members, and a substantial extracurricular portfolio. Other top firms will consider only candidates who have a personal recommendation from a current staff member.


How to Get the Job

Begin by networking. Find out if anyone you know works for or knows someone who works at the firm you’d like to join. “[At the end of my junior year,] I was talking to one of my professors about what I wanted to do after graduation,” says Denise Shainer, a recent Carnegie Mellon graduate. “He asked me where I was planning to [do an] internship. When I said I’d been trying to set something up with KPMG, he put me in touch with one of his former students who worked there. She helped me get an interview, and I was ultimately offered an internship.”


Next, you should go to company websites and familiarize yourself with their projects and goals. Also thoroughly review recruiting materials for any special requirements. For example, many firms accept applications only during very specific windows of time. “One recruiter told me that if I had gotten my resume in a few days sooner, I would have probably made the callback list,” says one recent B-school grad who asked not to be named.


Lastly, be willing to apply to and interview with smaller, so-called boutique agencies, such as Gartner or Value Partners. Although such firms have fewer positions available, they often provide interns with more direct, hands-on experience and mentorship opportunities. “I [interned] at Value Partners and worked closely with a senior consultant there," says Gail Sheedy, now a consultant at Cap Gemni. "I learned a lot from her, and she has remained one of my best contacts."


The Interview

Consulting-internship interviews can be intimidating and often involve multiple visits with various members of the staff. You’ll be tested on your ability to think on your feet and probed to see if you're a good personality fit for the firm.


“At my second [Arthur] Andersen interview,” says Steve Keller, a senior at Boston University, “the recruiter started asking me some off-the-wall questions, like which Survivor cast member I resembled most. It threw me for a second, before I realized what he was really getting at.”


Your interviewer will probably ask you to complete at least one case study. These problem-solving exercises are designed to see how well you know your target industry. Case studies test your strategic and analytical skills and measure how well you function under pressure.


On the Job

Interns typically earn more than $25 an hour, but expect to work as long and hard as the full-time consultants you support, without the benefit of overtime pay.


Many firms lack adequate support staff and expect new recruits, particularly interns, to take up the slack. “Interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers was like being a serf,” says Evan Juliano. “I answered to ten different consultants, and was expected to do anything and everything they asked me to do, including getting their cars washed and picking up their dry cleaning.”


“I usually started before six a.m. and left after seven p.m.,” says Denise Shainer, a former KPMG intern. But, she adds, “[the money I earned] more than made up for the long hours and intense workload.”


And despite his serfdom, Juliano says, “The best thing about interning at Pricewaterhouse was the recognition I got when I applied for a permanent position.” Many students who excel as interns are asked to join the company after graduation.


“We are always looking for quality candidates,” says Nan Jacobs, a recruiter for Deloitte Consulting. “If an intern proves [to] have the right stuff, we will want to keep that person in mind for a permanent position.”



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