Consulting is considered a prestige career choice by many graduates as it offers intellectual challenges and financial rewards. Firms can offer services in IT, finance and HR in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and the public sector. Many larger empoloyers offer graduate training programmes, but while an outstanding academic background is usually a given, the type of degree is less important. A recent Management Consultancies Association (MCA) survey reported two out of three young consultants rating their job satisfaction good or very good.
Stephen Isherwood, head of graduate recruitment at Ernst & Young
There are three things we look for: bright people who have the practical intelligence to solve complex problems; people who work well with others; and drive. There can be tight deadlines and pressure, so people must be prepared to work long hours.
We also look for flexibility. Consulting isn’t for someone who likes to map their diary out for the next six months – sometimes you can’t plan a meal out tomorrow because you might be needed urgently. Consulting is very unpredictable: I know one person who hasn’t been in his office for two years because he’s been at client sites.
Our graduate programme lasts for 18 months and trainees will usually do rotational work.
Paul Thompson, head of talent at Deloitte
When it comes to career progression, we look for three elements: core consulting skills, such as basic analysis, how to engage with clients, and how to run projects; content skills because you have to know what it is you consult about; and the industry elements – consultants need to demonstrate expertise in a sector. A successful person is one who will address all three.
To progress you have to take advantage of your opportunities and consider something a few degrees from where you want to be, as you may still get to where you want. People leave a consulting firm because they want some time in industry or a change in lifestyle, but check if your company offers that indirectly through a secondment or a transfer. If you set up on your own, the remuneration and independence can be good, but you might miss the development opportunities.
View from the inside
Rob Edmonds, member of the Young MCA and graduate trainee at CSC
I studied computer science at university and a master’s in information systems. After a short spell working in online media I applied to three different consulting firms and chose to work at CSC based on its assessment centre, where I liked the people I met and what they said about the company.
Consulting seems best suited to people who want to put a lot in and get a lot out of their work. I’m 18 months into a two-year graduate training programme and initially, work at a big American company was a bit of a culture shock. But it is constantly challenging and stimulating and you get to meet a lot of fantastic people in fantastic places. The work is project-based but you can have several different workstreams at the same time, so it never gets boring. There’s something for everyone too, from cloud computing in the finance sector to IT delivery.
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