What Management Consultants Do
Management consulting is a broad term to describe any form of advisory role an entity may fulfill for an organization. When companies have challenges that they’re unsure how to overcome, they’ll retain the services of a consultancy, so they can learn their options and make data-driven decisions.
Individuals on the management consulting career track often work for large firms, such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co, and PwC, but they can also work solo and for boutique or smaller firms. They enjoy lots of perks, like high salaries, access to execs, and travel.
Who would enjoy a career in Management Consulting?
People who love puzzles and problem-solving have the right mindset for consulting. It’s also good for creative, yet analytical thinkers. Because a mix of interpersonal skills and technology are necessary to excel, it’s best for well-rounded individuals. Lifelong learners and avid travelers enjoy the position too.
Who mightn't like the career?
Consultants don’t have much say in the hours that they work and are often bound to a timeline established by the client, so the hours can be particularly grueling while managing a project. Whilst consulting can be marketed as strategic, a lot of the work is Excel and quantitative-based, so those who aren’t fond of applied maths or data analysis should consider other careers. Travel is also involved from entry level consulting roles right through to the more advanced stages of the career. For this reason, it’s not a good choice for people who require lighter or dependable schedules.
Strong software skills, like PowerPoint and Excel, are absolutely essential in the entry-level positions. Advanced positions generally require an MBA and top consulting firms generally look for an elite degree at a prestigious institution in their local market, such as engineering, law, medicine or business.
Large firms specifically target the best of the best as they emerge with undergraduate degrees. For this reason, it’s important to begin with a polished resume. Appropriate attire, befitting of the corporate upper echelon, is also expected.
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Moving into Management Consulting from another career
Almost any career can transition into a career in consulting, provided the focal area is related to the original position and/ or degree. For example, someone who managed a group of restaurants may be able to consult for restaurants.
For those trying to get into the McKinseys, BCGs and Bain & Companies of the world, experience in a strategy role within an industry the consulting firm specialises in is one pathway. Alternatively, other common paths to consulting include finance, law and other consulting positions.
Associate Consultant / Analyst
Role: Most people beginning their careers start as an analyst, as the bare minimum educational requirement is typically a bachelor’s degree. Analysts spend their days supporting senior staff, gathering data, and doing research that will be used to propose solutions to clients. They are also often responsible for building financial models in Excel when necessary and for creating PowerPoint presentations.
Role: Generally speaking, people move into an consultant position after obtaining an MBA, although some firms will promote favorite analysts without the degree. Although consultants do much the same work as associate consultants do, they may be entrusted with a higher tier of clients or with handling more research solo.
Role: Engagement managers oversee a project and manage a team of associates and analysts. They also work closely with the partners and may be involved in coming up with solutions.
Associate Partner/ Associate Principal
Role: Associate partners often hone in on a particular industry and work exclusively within the sector. They often meet with prospective clients and demonstrate how the firm can help, securing the organization as a new client. Travel is required frequently. Progressing up the consulting food chain typically requires good sales and business development skills, even at the Principal level, as the nature of the role chances from “doing” to managing others and to eventually winning and retaining new clients and business.
Partner and Director
Role: Many firms offer higher levels for associate partners who have proven themselves in the industry. The positions tend to be coveted, only being offered to those with large client portfolios and effective teams. Partners typically are responsible for winning new business or relationship managing clients who have worked with their firm, so sales and relationship skills are required to progress to this level.
Entry-level positions can involve significant travel, but people in advanced positions travel often to meet with clients and close deals. Whilst at a graduate and junior level the travel can be exciting, consultants often report that the joy of catching planes and commuting has been said to considerably wear off over time.
Entry Level: According to data from PayScale, those beginning their careers have salaries of approximately USD$86,000 in the United States, £48,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$78,000 in Canada, and AU$86,000 in Australia.
Mid-Career: USD$101,085, £58,371, CAD$83,550, AU$102,025.
Experienced: USD$120,467, £75,542, CAD$99,916, AU$138,849.
Late Career: USD$132,422, £85,023, CAD$137,532, AU$160,000.
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission may all be included in the pay a management consultant receives. These may begin at a few hundred dollars each or add as much as 25% onto an individual’s salary.
Why Management Consultants move on
Consulting can become a lifelong career, but the hours and stress can take their toll, making some start to look for new positions after a period of time. Some people view a two or three year stint in consulting as a stepping stone to other internal strategy, finance or entrepreneurship roles. Given the broad skills acquired by consultants in solving business problems for a spectrum of different clients, exit opportunities vary greatly depending on what industry a consultant served and what degrees he or she holds.