We often hear about Consulting as a prestigious career path, with top firms only recruiting the cream of the crop. And of course, these employees attend the “top target” universities where head-hunters cherry-pick them.
Suppose you have not been to the target university or achieved a specific university classification or picked the right university course itself. Do you still stand a chance of succeeding in Consulting?
The short answer to this question is “Yes”.
In this week’s post, I will be sharing my personal experience. I neither attended a prestigious university nor the right course to land a job in Digital Consulting.
I still managed to work my way through the ranks and stand out from my peers, who ticked all the typical boxes.
Let’s dive into it!
Suppose you are looking to break into Consulting as a Graduate. In that case, there is an unwritten rule of needing to be graduating from the right university. What “right” means is very flexible across different kinds of consulting firms.
The graduates I worked with at KPMG usually ranged from Russell Group universities to top business schools.
Depending on the Consulting role you apply for, it would also be ideal to have a university degree aligning with that area. For example, for Data/Digital Consulting, it would be good to have a Data / Computer Science degree.
The experience I am sharing here is not from a Graduate entry perspective.
I graduated from the University of Bolton (UoB)! And yes, no one else had heard of it either.
When writing this article, UoB ranks 113 out of the 130 universities across the UK. Needless to say, this is not a prestigious University 🙂
I also graduated with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering.
When I was graduating, I knew that I would not end up working for a top consulting firm.
And that is okay!
My university or degree choice did not impact me when I applied as an Experience Hire a few years after gaining experience in the industry.
There isn’t enough conversation about ‘Experience Hire’ and how having just a few years in the industry can set you up in a perfect position to break into Consulting.
I was headhunted by a recruiter working for KPMG as my skillset aligned neatly to an open role.
I demonstrated to the interviewers that I have built up the relevant skills working in the industry.
Studying Engineering in any capacity in university helps develop problem-solving skills. As an Engineer, you are constantly looking for ways to improve from the status quo. This aligns with consulting goals; hence I have noticed that many engineering and even architecture graduates end up working in Consulting.
So, the right university & degree is essential if you are coming in as a Graduate. Still, there is more flexibility if you are bringing inexperience.
One hurdle is to get a job in Consulting; the second hurdle is sticking it out.
Consulting is not like any “normal job”; there are endless challenging projects, difficult senior stakeholders, and the expectation to work long(er) hours.
The biggest shock moving from industry to Consulting has been the fast-paced way of working. It certainly isn’t sunshine or rainbows.
Another thing to learn is your communication skills with the client, which quickly leads to perception creation.
The point here is, Consultants cost a lot of money, the client expects results, and they expect them to come in fast. As an experienced hire, you are expected to hit the ground running.
You do not have a long list of greenfield training that you can attend and upskill.
You cannot hide behind the senior people in the team as you may be, as a graduate.
It would be best if you are committed to sticking it out and being prepared for many impostor syndromes in the middle.
All this is a small price to pay for setting your career trajectory in the right direction. Exposure to senior client stakeholders, learning many new skills and high earnings are some of the key benefits of working in Consulting.
So yes, you can break into consulting without a prestigious university on your CV or an aligned degree.
You can also adjust to life in Consulting and succeed at it. In some respects, the diversity of skills you bring to the table will help you firmly stand out against your peers.
Suppose you are in the position I was in 6 years ago. In that case, I recommend that you update your LinkedIn profile and reach out to some of your networks in the Consulting space. If you are based in the UK and need some help understanding the life in consulting, check out my blog and feel free to reach out to me for any use.
Do you agree with what I’ve said above? What are your thoughts? Feel free to reach out to me via my email at [email protected] if you have some feedback or want to say hello!
If you’re still reading this, I hope you’ve found some value in this blog post.
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Also, check out my other blog on Solving Challenging Problems