Management consultants have very different backgrounds, personalities and goals when entering consulting firms. But there are some common traits that could help you decide if management consulting is right for you.
Management consultants tend to be overachievers. If you want to enter right after graduating, you should have excellent academics, no matter what subject matter your studied.
FYI: most consultants will come from business programs or engineering programs, a few from will come from medical school, law school, and a small number from other majors like history, literature etc.
On top of academics, and still in line with the overachiever personality, consultants will have spent a lot of time one extracurriculars, be it sports, clubs, volunteering, and often in leadership positions.
If you have already some work experience, your grades become less important but your professional track record should still demonstrate excellence through high impact projects, leadership and extracurriculars such as the ones mentioned above.
Management consultants work long hours, in stressful environments with tight deadlines, sometimes with uncooperative or even hostile clients. If you want to be a management consultant, you should enjoy working hard, and welcome being pushed and challenged on work load, quality and speed.
You are afraid of flying and can't sleep anywhere else other than in your bed? Forget it! At least if you aim at a top consulting firm. Consultants love to travel and explore new countries and cities. Many firms also give you the opportunity to transfer, or work for several months abroad. Discussions about how to beat jetlag and queues is one of the favorite topic of conversation among consultants. You will learn to pack smart, and accumualte so many hotel and airline points that you will go on vacation for free. Nice! But be aware, travelling is also pretty tiring and demanding on your body in general. Talk to your partner about being away Monday-Thursday and see what works.
Fast impact seekers
Many people seek to have an impact in the world and consultants are no different. The difference with other profession is that they don’t have a lot patience. They want to work hard and fast, and make a measurable impact quickly, then move on. Many PhD graduates join consulting for this reason, i.e. they didn’t like the speed at which they were making an impact during their PhD. Same for those who transfer from large corporations when they realize that their impact will be limited by organisational and cultural hurdles.
You will always be part of a team as a management consultant. Often a team of 2-3 people full time on the ground, plus 1-2 partners popping in and out during the week. Because work is intense and stressful, you will rely on your team to overcome hurdles and blow off some steam during the week. You should therefore enjoy team work, have a natural propensity to help others, coach and be coached. Consulting is not for loners, and one of the main questions that consultants will eventually try to answer during the interview is this one: “would I want to have this person on my team?”
Eager to learn (and a little unsecured)
Let’s admit it: consulting will pay good money per month, but not if you compute it per hour. You might even earn less than the hourly minimum wage if you join as a business analyst. You will also get criticized (we call it coaching), sleep too little, eat too fast, have vitamin D deficiency, bad posture and develop a new language that your partner cannot understand at first (KPI, ROI, to be on the beach, SPG etc.). So why put up with all this when you could land a nice 9-5 job that pays almost the same? Well, consultants are eager to learn and develop. Management consulting firms are known to develop their consultants at a fast pace, with your role changing every 2-3 years, with many training programs, regular reviews and caring mentors.