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How to Score A Strategy Consulting Job: A Moving Target

Feb 17, 2021

When internal hiring can’t solve the problem within necessary timeframe. When the entire IT infra needs an overhaul. When big governments, private businesses, and non-profits feel stuck. When post-merger staffing needs mediating. Strategy consultants step in.

Do you think you have what it takes?

Consulting is a space where every project spring from a client’s need for help. It’s where consultants work on the toughest of problems with the top executives.

Entering this field is as grueling as the high-stake decisions these professionals make every day.

Are you professionally certified and qualified for consulting?

Consulting has consistently ranked as the most desired job among all age groups. Every year, thousands compete for a coveted spot in the Big Three and Big Four – and only the best get in.

What is it they possess?

Consultants are like chameleons. From Google to Shell Oil and SMBs, they work with an extensive set of clienteles and adapt with every project. Management consultants become the component the client has been missing, the remedy to the problem.

They have an instinct to identify value and opportunities wherever they look. They are razor sharp about numbers. They are problem solvers who focus on the nth level of detail in a case. And above all: they have a superlative strategic mindset and solid business acumen.

The road to strategy consulting is surely challenging, but the rewards are pleasing. If you’ve decided to get into consulting, take a moment to understand the industry, the nature of work, and the best ways to prove your smarts.

A Profile of Consulting Careers

Consulting firms are existent in virtually every industry, from pharma to manufacturing and high tech to green energy. What you, as a consultant, will work on would depend on the type of consulting firm you are in, and your 3E’s – education, experience, and expertise.

Management consulting touches on all types of “pure strategic” problems businesses face. Marketing, HR, operations, finance, or technology functions. That said, the uninitiated must know that there are many areas of business consulting, which don’t come under the ambit of management consulting . Take, for instance, technology consulting. A large part of it is not strategic (even though the lines between management and IT consulting seem unclear sometimes). In Accenture, over lakhs work as “technology consultants” within system integration, and programming, while only a small portion (few thousands at most) work as “technology strategy consultants.” Latter forms a part of management consultants. Similar is the case with operations and financial consulting.

According to Statista, all management consulting markets will see average growth annually.

Source: Vault 2021 Rankings

Consulting firms are further organized by the type of projects they take up in what industry. A firm may focus on only solving strategy problems across all six areas (depicted in the image) in all industries (a.k.a. generalists). Bain & Company is one such management consulting firm. Then, some may target specific industries, and advise them on all functional areas (called boutiques). Blue Matter is a boutique firm that caters to the life sciences industry.

Having taken that macro view, the bottom line is: Irrespective of the firm, individual consultants and partners may specialize in one functional area or a type of strategic problem.

Typical Projects You’ll Work On

Pure strategy consulting is about projects that are totally strategic in nature and aren’t specific to only marketing, operations, HR, among others, and that’s where strategy consultants find their home.

They often brush shoulders with super senior management and advise them on macro-level challenges. To give a few examples of the projects they help CEOs and boards with:

  • Evaluate and suggest best investment opportunities across industry sectors to lead growth aspirations of an MNC

  • Recommend a strategic direction for an internet company

  • Figure out why theatres are losing money, and how to position them for profit in new markets

  • Examine the value of a computer manufacturer and suggest possible divestment options for its non-core business

Though, don’t get too big-headed about it! Companies and people who hire consultants are no amateurs. Often, they are more aware of the problem, and possibility also the solutions than the consultants. They bring in consultants for the extra industry knowledge and unique turnaround expertise.

Consultants have to spend hours in research, undertake painstaking analysis, and maintain thoughtful communication with the client to persuade them of their knowledge and suggested changes. Below we go beyond their job descriptions to learn which kind of wizards actually deliver value in consulting.

What makes a stellar business strategy consultant?

There is no one-size-fits approach to strengthen your resume for consulting. If you are a working professional switching to consulting, you will be in a very different position than a fresh graduate seeking an entry-level position.

Whatever path you follow to develop business insights and technical knowledge, some baselines will help. Here are five expert tips you can consider to plot a career in business strategy consulting:

  • Earn a professional certification.

  • People from a variety of backgrounds – accounting, economics, finance, engineering – become management consultants. If you don’t have direct relevant business training, don’t sweat it too much. A professional certificate in business strategy can help you build a global perspective and acquire skills in a way that’s flexible, and convenient.

  • MBA before consulting isn’t vital.

  • It’s a common practice among consultants to pursue an MBA after a few years of experience. If you don’t have a master’s, you can begin as a business analyst in consulting firms. Boutique firms even hire for senior positions from a variety of sources, including non-MBA graduates and specialists (MSc, MA, MD, Ph.D., and others). Non-MBA, but postgraduates can strongly look upon these options.

  • Develop backroom skills.

  • Consultants don’t fly solo with their ideas until after some good years of experience. They start as a backroom breed. The projects they work on stretch for countless hours (even a semester sometimes). From essential business frameworks and basic math to analytical skills, you will count on your technical know-how in your initial years.

  • Personality and soft skills are huge swing factors.

  • Along with competencies, consulting is much about ideation. Consultants are smart people who know how to create their own brand, and perhaps a patented problem-solving approach. Your people skills, attitude, and leadership style can turn the tides in your favor during the interview.

  • Network is more valuable than anything.

A 2021 study on business education by FT shows networking, and alumni connect holds quite a sway in career progress. In consulting, it reflects your ability to make an impact on people and potential client engagement skills.

Have your heart set on business consulting? Match the high competition with equally high enthusiasm and passion.

Arm yourself to teeth with a global business strategy certification curated by industry experts to secure the dream consulting job you’ve been eyeing. Deepen your business intelligence and bolster your resume!

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