Develop a career in consulting: a complete guide

Embarking on a consulting career can be a rewarding endeavour, but it demands the right strategy and preparation. This comprehensive guide will unveil how to break into the consulting sector, the essential skills and qualifications needed, and effective networking and application tactics. Whether you're an undergraduate, an MBA, or an experienced professional, discover each step to start and advance your consulting career with confidence and ease.

Building a career in consulting

Building a career in consulting involves developing a diverse skill set, gaining relevant experience, and fostering a network of professional relationships. Aspiring consultants need strong analytical abilities, excellent communication skills, and the capacity to solve complex problems. 

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Overview of consulting industry sectors

Consulting spans diverse sectors, including Strategy, Operations Improvement, and Technology Consulting. Among these, Strategy Consulting focuses on high-level decisions, Operations Consulting improves internal processes, and Technology Consulting integrates advanced tech solutions.

Common entry points into consulting

Typical entry points into consulting include Undergraduate recruitment, where firms often hire through summer internships; MBA or advanced degree recruitment from top-tier universities; and Experienced hires, seeking candidates with niche expertise.

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Typical career progression in consulting

Career progression in consulting usually begins as a Business Analyst, advancing to an Associate/Consultant, then to a Manager/Project Leader, followed by Principal/Director, and ultimately reaching the role of Partner/Shareholder. Each level brings increased responsibility and significantly higher compensation. For more detailed steps on starting your consulting career, visit

Essential skills and qualifications for consultants

Top consulting firms highly value analytical abilities, structured thinking, and leadership. Analytical abilities involve breaking down complex problems and interpreting data effectively. Structured thinking ensures solutions are logical and coherent. Leadership encompasses guiding teams and influencing stakeholders.

Educational requirements typically include a bachelor's degree, often in business, engineering, or economics. Advanced degrees like an MBA can significantly enhance prospects. Certifications, such as PMP or Lean Six Sigma, are advantageous.

Mastering consulting methodologies like MECE principles (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) and various business frameworks (SWOT analysis, Porter's Five Forces) is crucial. These frameworks aid in methodically approaching and solving complex issues, making them indispensable tools for any consultant.

Networking and application strategies

Effective networking and application strategies are essential for advancing your career and securing desirable positions. Networking involves building and maintaining professional relationships that can provide guidance, support, and opportunities. 

Effective networking techniques

Building relationships with consultants is vital. Attend industry events, join relevant LinkedIn groups, and request informational interviews. Send personalized thank-you notes and follow-ups to maintain connections. Consistent engagement keeps you on their radar for future opportunities.

Crafting a standout application

An EPIC CV (Evidence-based, Precise, Impactful, Concise) showcases achievements with quantifiable results. Tailor your CV to highlight skills relevant to the consulting sector. Write a compelling cover letter: clearly explain "why you" by emphasizing unique qualifications, and "why them" by demonstrating alignment with the firm's values and goals.

Navigating the hiring process

Prepare for screening tests like the McKinsey problem-solving game or GMAT-type exams by practising data interpretation and logical reasoning. Excelling in case and fit interviews requires mastering frameworks like STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and ensuring your problem structuring and data interpretation are flawless.

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