Are you interested in a career in consulting? If so, work experience is essential! This guest post by Emma Mannington, Online Content Editor for Inside Careers, offers advice on how to get your foot in the door and gain work experience in the competitive consulting sector.
What is consulting?
Work in consulting involves providing external advice to organisations that require specialist expertise or an objective outside perspective on their business. Consulting is the identification and assessment of a problem or analysis of a specific area of an organisation, the reporting of findings and the formulations of recommendations for improvement.
Consultants are commonly called in for business improvement, change of management, information technology and long-term planning projects.
The benefits of work experience
Work experience has become increasingly important in helping graduates to get started in a number of professions, including consulting. It shows prospective employers that not only do you have an interest in the profession, but that you have also spent some time working in a consulting environment and understand what the job of a consultant involves.
Getting some consulting work experience whilst you are still studying can also help you to make an informed decision on which area of consulting is best suited to you. Consulting is a very broad profession and there are opportunities to specialise in many different areas from technology to HR. Find out more about the different areas of consulting you could work in.
As well as gaining valuable commercial insight into consultancy, you will also develop broader skills such as time management, analytical and presentation skills. All of which will be put to good use in your final year. Most importantly, if you show the right enthusiasm, determination and ability in the job, you could end up being offered a permanent graduate position at the end of your placement.
When to start looking
It is never too early to start thinking about getting work experience. The majority of internships and work placements offered by consulting firms target penultimate year students. Do not let this put you off as many firms host open days at their offices or come on campus to host presentations or skills sessions to introduce you to a career in consulting. Check out the Inside Careers events calendar for more information on these employer events.
Internships typically run during the summer, however you may be able to secure six or twelve month work placements if as part of your course you have a placement year. Applications for consulting work experience often open at the start of the academic year so make sure you check the dates of any schemes you are interested in and get your application in early. Take a look at our internships and placements page for the latest opportunities and deadlines.
Where to look
You may have decided that you would like some work experience but where do you find it? One of the first places you can start is your university careers centre. They will be able to provide you with guidance on which companies to contact and the application process.
The Inside Careers website also has a variety of internships and placement vacancies at various consultancies and lots of information about entering the profession.
Also, don’t forget to carry out your own research. Be proactive and decide which companies you would like to apply to. Don’t limit yourself to formalised work experience programmes as speculative applications are often successful, especially with smaller consulting firms.
Work experience application top tips
- Start early – check deadline dates for internships and plan your applications accordingly.
- Research the areas of consulting you want to work in and the companies that operate within those areas.
- Update your CV.
- Write personalised cover letters and adapt your CV when sending out speculative applications.
- Plan ahead and try to arrange a variety of work experience to use your holiday time effectively.
You can drop in to the Careers Centre 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday with any career related queries or even if you have no idea what you would like to do!