Management consultancy is one of those Businessy words alongside “Corporate Analysis Manager” and suited people yelling “PING ME AN EMAIL. PING IT. PING” down smartphones. We spoke to two experts (i.e. management consultants) about what they actually do, and how you can do it too. Simple. 

WTF is a Management Consultant?

Basically, it’s a very broad word for someone who is paid to advise businesses on what they should do. “It could be a huge range of things – from advising clients on how to go about making redundancies right through to helping them with technical issues,” explains Kirsty Smith who works for global technology company Capgemini. “You work a lot with people, talking through options and making sure they make the right decision – both financially, and for the company as a whole,” she continues. “It’s basically a problem-solving job.” 

Rory Thompson, who works for a large management consultancy firm based in London, came up with a really useful example – in case you’re still not clear: “Take, for example, a supermarket. The supermarket has built a successful business by being good at selling stuff to people. However, it’s probably not good at working out how it needs to structure its organisation to be more efficient and reduce costs,” he says, explaining that it’s probably grown in the past by just adding more stores, which means more staff and bigger, more expensive, warehouses. “This is when it might bring management consultants in – to work out what the current problems are with their business and organisation and suggest ways it can operate better.”

So management consultants are basically superheroes who save businesses but tend not to wear lycra – apart from when running to work or going to the swanky gym they’re a member of which leads us to… 

What’s are the best things about being a management consultant?

Sure, money isn’t the ONLY thing – but it’s definitely a GOOD thing: “The grads we take on can expect to earn quite a lot more than your usual entry-level wage,” says Kirsty from Capgemini, “and I suppose that is quite a big perk. You also get around 15 -20 benefits that you can opt in or out of.” These vary from company to company, but can include cash alternatives to a company car (around £6k – 10k a year), free smartphones and (swanky) gym memberships. 

Moving on from the moola, a management consultant will get to travel: “It’s the sort of role you have to be flexible with – you could be working away from home for a month, and then back to doing just Monday to Friday the next. It depends on the project.” says Kirsty. 

Rory’s obviously a fan of the travel (“If you’ve always yearned to spend six months in Blackpool on an IT implementation, now’s your chance!” he jokes – don’t worry, you won’t end up spending your entire career going to and from Blackpool. Unless you work for a firm near Blackpool.) but also likes the variety: “Every business is unique, with unique problems that require management consultants at some point. You build broad skills which mean that you will most likely never end up working with the same client twice (unless you want to),” he says. His colleagues also count as a perk, and he describes most people that work for management consultant firms as “smart, driven and always willing to help you out”. 

What sort of person makes a good management consultant? 

You’ve got to be career driven, motivated and up for a challenge. “It can be a really creative job, too, because you’ve got to think on your feet and come up with solutions for a variety of people,” says Kirsty. It’s also something to think about if you’re good with others, and come across well; it’s a job hinged on relationships with customers. Basically, you want to be like a nice friend coming over to help them out. Except they’re paying you shedloads. 

If you can think on your feet and remain cool, even if you can’t see a solution, then you’d make a good management consultant. “We always look for people with a bit of creative flair and someone who clearly wants to rise up the career ladder.”

How do I become a management consultant, then? 

While most firms will require a 2:1 degree or above, more and more people (like Capgemini) are taking on apprentices: “More and more firms are taking on school-leavers but, if you have a degree, the subject you studied doesn’t really matter,” explains Rory. “While you can get specifically qualified in management consultancy, most people don’t; management consultancies are looking at potential.” 

The interview process is always advertised quite clearly on a firm’s site, so he advises that you decide which sort of management consultancy you’d like to go into, before you get applying: “Do your research – speak to someone who is already doing it and also take a look at the websites of firms you’re interested in. Most of them will have a ‘day in the life’ section or similar where it will tell you what the firm does, how it’s organised and give you a sense of what it’s like to work there.” 

There are a number of internships and school-leavers programmes offered by management consultancies that will show, early on, how interested you are in the company, and Kirsty is instantly impressed if a candidate has done work experience: “Even if its just a few weeks over the summer, it shows a passion and real dedication,” she says. 

Also, and above all, make sure you buy some appropriate footwear for that swanky gym you’ll be joining… 

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