Consultancy is the process of advising companies (clients) on the practices that will improve performance, increase efficiency, save money or generate money within their business; consultants produce plans after a review of operations and strategy and are then responsible for implementing these proposals and training employees accordingly.
There are many different routes a consultancy graduate career could take, from Management to HR and IT to Strategy. Within each sub-sector there are different industry practices, but all have a similar overall goal: to add value to a client's business in response to a specific brief.
The largest consultancy firms are household names such as KPMG, Deloitte and PWC. There are also many smaller, niche firms that take advantage of providing a targeted offering to their clients.
Average Consultancy Graduate Salary
Consultancy Graduate Career Path
Here at the GRB, our experience shows that a consultancy graduate career is becoming more appealing to graduates; they see the field as an alternative to entering the Banking and Finance sector. It can offer the same kind of intellectual challenge, with similar financial rewards. Furthermore, a career in consultancy offers a graduate the opportunity to actually use the transferable skills they gained during their degree (something many graduates tell our GRB consultants they are looking for). Analytical skills, presentations skills, numeracy and communication skills are all essential requirements to make a successful consultant.
Because it is such a broad sector, no two graduate consultancy jobs are instantly comparable - however there are certain activities that most types of consultant will perform. On a day to day basis a graduate consultant might:
- Interview clients and clients' employees to assess a business situation
- Organise and attend conference calls and client meetings
- Collate data and build models Assist with process mapping
- Formulate work plans
- Create clear presentations of complex information
- Build tools and systems for clients
- Client training
- Carry out trouble shooting final solutions
A consultancy career can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Graduates will get the opportunity to utilise the transferable skills they picked up at university whilst enjoying the perks of working in a big firm. Consultants will have to get on with long working hours but have lots of opportunity for travel.
Graduates will start their consultancy career at 'analyst' level, a supporting role to an established management consultant, researching or actioning data driven requests. Client facing work can also be required at this stage when a new recruit is responsible for processing data and presenting it in a user friendly format to the business. You might also be number crunching at this stage but will soon move on to the strategic consultancy side of the business.
Most consultancies are meritocratic environments, where the individual is responsible for their own success. Progress through the ranks can be swift, but graduates must understand that they first have to learn and master the trade. The ultimate goal for many consultants is to make partner of the firm, or to break out in their own specialist or niche consultancy.
Qualifications and Skills Needed
What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Consultancy graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.
GRB Placements for Consultancy by Degree
Typical Candidate Attributes
Most degree disciplines can be transferred to make a successful graduate consultant, but students with a 2:1 or above from IT, Economics, Mathematics and other numerate subjects may find it easier to specialise earlier on in their consultancy careers. Languages can also be a particular advantage, as many organisations operate internationally and need good communicators to build on global relationships. Any work experience gained within the sector is invaluable. An internship, a placement, even a week's work-shadowing would make a graduate application more desirable. Most of all, graduates must display the certain personality that is required to be an effective consultant; these include a savvy, clued up nature, the ability to work at pace and the consistency to always produce accurate, thorough work.
Desirable skills and attributes include:
- The ability to work in a team;
- Interpersonal and communication (both oral and written) skills;
- Creativity and innovation;
- Problem-solving and strategic planning ability;
- Analytical skills;
- The ability to cope with pressure and challenges;
- Commercial awareness and understanding of business environments.
Sources for Further Information
Management Consultancies Association www.mca.org.uk
Jana, University Of Warwick
"After finishing my masters in Environmental Economics at the University of York I found a job with a small company that specialises in economic consulting. I have had hands on experience in a number of high profile projects and since I am the only environmental economist on the team I get to work on all the environmental projects which is great experience. I think the most important thing is that I work in a team where my expertise is appreciated and where I am encouraged to give my input and my opinions are respected. I would encourage new graduates to focus more attention on the work environment than on the pay, a good first job should give you the self confidence to go on and do greater things with your career."
William, University Of Sheffield
"Having left University not knowing exactly which industry I wanted to enter, I was initially unsure as to where to apply. I decided upon a career in consulting due to the potential exposure to a diverse client portfolio that only working for a consultancy firm could bring. My degree was in Engineering and having secured a place on the graduate scheme of an international information technology services company, I have been able to put to use all technical, managerial and operational elements of my degree knowledge.
The IT industry particularly, underpins almost every aspect of the world's economy and every major business operating in any country on a macro and micro scale. Having also been involved in projects in the financial, engineering and enterprise sectors I now find myself with a rounded knowledge of a number of industries and as a result even more equipped with the knowledge and more importantly, industry experience to move my career onto the next level.
You will always get what you put in from any role and it is important to ask questions and make contacts from the start and my role has been no different. Working as a graduate for a consultancy company has brought new challenges every day. Whether that is that the clients managed IT services have suffered an electronic attack and they need the issue resolved, or whether that is the client looking for long or short term strategic, operational or managerial advice on how to run their business; there is always the drive that what you do has real benefits for the client.
If you want a career that will not only allow you to make visible differences but also challenge you to do all of this then consulting should definitely be considered."
Clare, University College Chester
"After graduating, it took me a while to find a job and following a short spell of temping, I got offered a position as ‘Cover Supervisor’ in a Secondary school in my home town. Not knowing entirely what it would entail to begin with made the role exciting and since I have had the opportunity to work alongside members of SLT (Senior Leadership Team), it has been an invaluable and insightful experience in a thriving educational institution.
The Cover Supervisor title is a role that the government created as a sort of loop hole - I am someone who is always on the school site and can get asked to cover a lesson either in advance if a member of staff is off, or last minute if someone falls ill. It basically saves them money because they don't have to employ as many traditional 'supply teachers'. I'm also a part of the Sixth Form management team so when I'm not covering lessons, I'm involved with something to do with them.
My contract has since been extended and I can say with ease that I love my job. Due to the nature of the environment and the challenges that a large comprehensive school and its students brings, every day is varied – one day I could be covering in English all day and the next I could be mentoring Sixth Form students in need of some advice on revision, university or just coping with stress.
The communication, leadership and organisation of my workplace is outstanding and I applied for the job with a view to going into teaching, though I wasn’t sure to start with. Two months in, and I was certain that teaching was the career for me, so to boost my English credentials (to go with my degree in Journalism), I enrolled for an online course at the University of Oxford in Critical Reading, which provided a solid foundation (and refreshed my memory) in English literature.
I had also been thinking about doing a masters for some time, so by doing a PGCE next September, I can gain that qualification while also becoming a specialist in a subject I love, in a profession that I adore."