There few industries in which consultants aren’t valued. Organisations need expert help, now and then, from an independent source. The perfect consultant can listen, question and empathise with all manner of people, whilst stepping back to view the black-and-white concerns of how a team might perform better.
With so much choice at your feet, consultancy graduate schemes can sieve the right opportunities from those that don’t appeal to you. Moving through a set, progressive structure is the best way to realise what you want, and to gain the experience that’ll back a successful career.
When we get down to it, though, how does the broad definition of ‘advising others’ pan out as a day-to-day job? And how much will you earn? We’re here to clarify the entry-level reality:
What does a typical consultancy grad scheme look like?
As you might expect, these schemes are a high-energy proving ground for your co-operative and research skills. Consultants have to analyse data from a whole range of sources, very often to the smallest detail. At the beginning of your career, expect to be looking at trends, competitors and market behaviour, fully supported by others in the same field.
You could be working for a single organisation, or multiple clients that seek a dedicated consultancy practice when they need it. The path of your grad training can shift depending on the employer – we suggest scoping out the careers on our website. Yet there’s also a general shape of what to expect, which we’ve already examined here…
Starting salaries are extremely generous, falling somewhere between £30,000-£42,000. This can be influenced by your choice of a management-based consultancy scheme, or a core strategy position. Regardless, you can make a lot of progress in merely a few years…
Grad schemes are designed to determine whether you can not only make crucial data findings, but cogently explain them, and slowly adopt a client-facing role. As you build wisdom and procedural knowledge, those qualities will be tested, rewarding you with a lucrative bump in the career ladder.
Fresh consultants can expect to start in an Analyst position, where they’ll be responsible for gathering data for the wider team. This then progresses to an Associate – the ‘official’ consultancy badge – and, if you show promise, a Senior Consultant, who’ll lead projects within the company.
Each stage (and those beyond what we’ve mentioned here) fortifies your interpersonal skills, as well as preparing you to spot talent in younger recruits and make sense of huge batches of data. Natural leaders are going to excel at the higher consultancy scale, since they’re able to rope together evidence into a single, presentable vision.
As a consultant, there’s a great likelihood that you’ll be based in London. Positions can take the form of a global giant like PwC, tech manufacturers such as IBM, or numerous mid-scale firms that operate independently. Near the head of the pack, here are the Big Three American companies with a stamp on the UK’s capital.
Departments you can dip into
What sort of advice are you passionate about giving? It may be a stint in research consultancy, harnessing your science, maths or psychology degree. Or perhaps management is something dear to your heart – both in terms of a workforce, and the tools they use to get a job done. Consultancy solutions exist, in the main, for marketing, HR, finance and business.
What do consultants do? Find out more just here.
What an ideal candidate looks like
Before you start sharpening that CV, consider what a consultancy position will demand… As we’ve alluded to, it glues a lot of traits into a single package, striking a balance between factual capabilities and the means of explaining them to others. You should have a bright academic background, infused with (provable) attention to detail; cracking a problem should come easily to you.
Beyond showing your aptitude for analysis, organisation and self-reflection, employers want to see that you’re able to share what you know. A consultant won’t get far if they can’t condense their findings for anyone. Speak well, collecting and distilling tough concepts, and you’ll find that those efforts are well appreciated.
It has to be said too that hard workers are essential. When you’re facing a rough 60-hour working week, candidates have to be comfortable with that, and see their teammates as indispensable. There’s a significant amount of things consulting firms look for, many of which can glow via relevant experience and a fantastic cover letter.
All of this is merely a slice of what awaits you. We have lots more advice in the guides we’ve released on the consultancy career ladder. You can find them at the left of this page.