My Journey Into Consulting: "Be Careful What You Ask For"

I propose we change the name of this forum because I do not think consulting is "consulting" in its traditional sense especially not in the industry that I have experienced in the last 4 months.

Flashback 4 months ago, when I was on these forums searching for hints, tips, ideas on how to get into consulting. I was a experieinced hire with decent amount of years in the Financial Services space; mostly middle office roles. I realized that I hated every job I got and decided I could take a stab at consulting because of the opp to work on different projects, different people, travel, per diem money, etc. I knew I had my work cut out for me because I didnt possess the "slimeball" mentality most consulting "appear" to have so I began applying, applying, applying to the Big 4's with the hope that some HR rep would see a glimmer of hope in my resume deep in the abyss of the Taleo 'black hole' application portal. I remember I spent one weekend applying for atleast 1000 jobs in 2 days. (Yes, that means I had to click thru each annoying application that has a minimum of 7 pages.) But I wanted to be a consultant so bad I told myself I would do whatever it took because I was insecure about my experience.

Obviously, that didn't work. No interest. No emails. No phone calls. No interviews. So then I took my job search talents to LinkedIn. I decided to use the search bar as my friend. I looked up all recruiters inside these consulting firms and cold emailed them my resume and cover letter. Some replied back, some directed me back to the corporate website and most went unresponded. Again, I kept my spirts up using the hate and disgust for my current job as fuel to get to my goal.

I decided the next step was to get my resume in between the eyes of those making the decisions: actual Consulting partners. Using the company's website and white papers, I searched for names for partners and their contact info. Some had their direct emails and some I just had names (obv I used the company's email format to cold call them as well). The result: some responses that directed me to the company website, some directing me back to actual HR reps and (again) most went unrespondened.

Through this whole process, I got a good amount of interviews. It got to the part where I memorized my interview answers, could anticipate questions and knew the entire interview process. All of these firms are exact. The process goes as follows: if interested in your resume, HR calls you to chat about your resume. They just want to make sure you have a pulse and can actually speak thru your resume. If they tell you during the call that they need to forward your resume to an hiring manager then forget about company. That is as good as a NO. If they like you, they will tell you on that exact call that they will have someone from the hiring team to speak to you.

The next step is the behavioral interview. Mind you, these next two rounds are on the phone so you should def have scripted answers handy. Structure answers in a way that you can read it off the paper but it sounds like you are speaking in regular tone. Through in some pauses and hmms, umms, to make it sound believable. Again, they want to know how you "fit" into the company. Traditional 'what if', 'have you ever', 'if you' type quesitons. If you prepare and have scripted answers you should get to the next round which is the skills interview. This is when you have to speak to another consultant usually a manager or senior manager about your experience on jobs. If you dont have consulting exp, then you need to strcuture answers around projects you have done at work and of course embellish. The person interviewing doesnt actually care. They also want to make sure you speak clearly and have a pulse. They are only doing it to check off a box on their performance review as helping recruit for the company.

Once passed that you get to actually meet someone in person. Well mutiple people. Usually the in person interview is with 4 ppl with a case study during one of the sessions. This is where I failed. I either didnt come across consulting ready, sucked on the case study or BOTH.

It took close to 8 months but I used my tactics for good on a "boutique' firm who had me come in for an interview w/o the hassle of multiple phone interviews. I went on the interview with such focus and confidence and do or die attitude that I came off as "consulting ready". They were literally trying to hire me on the spot. I knew I had gotten the role and it was confirmed when HR told me that all 4 of my interviews gave me a 1. I shoulda used that to my advantage during the negotiation process, but I didnt. Silly me.

So I finally get into consulting. Where comes the traveling, great projects, travel points, per diem funds, right?!? NOOOOOOOO! Here comes local projects where you are the only person on the project with no other support ON YOUR FIRST EVER PROJECT. You have to interview for "projects" and are told what time to come in and leave each day. You go to work each day not feeling like you are a consultant or an employee of the firm you are on the project at. The project itself is a joke because the client just needs a body to do administrative tasks and not real strategy type work that the firm promised was in the pipeline. What makes matters worse is that the client wants you to do work of 3 people or of a much seasoned consultant.

So my question is: what is consulting? Is the industry changing to these staff aug roles where companies need short term help but want someone who is skilled (somewhat) in financial services? Does it make sense to join these boutique firms if all of the "real" consulting work is actually going to the BIG 4 which you may not be qualified for?

Whats next for me is to get back into the industry or another field. This type of consulting is not what I expected in soooo many ways. I guess the saying is true: "Be Careful What You Ask For".

Comments (8)

May 25, 2013

i mean its just one engagement man

My drinkin' problem left today, she packed up all her bags and walked away.

Nov 7, 2013


May 25, 2013

I would like to see your resume, see some of your cold emails, and hear some of your interview responses. If you really had that much trouble breaking into consulting, I'd be willing to bet money that you need significant improvement in your job-search skills.

In any case, this seems more like a case of you not doing enough company research before accepting the position. That's really important. It also just seems like consulting was probably not the right thing for you to pursue from the get-go.

May 25, 2013

ever heard of body shops?

May 25, 2013

Hey my friend I would honestly say to just take a deep breath. I think you're learning a little bit about the industry that everyone knows which is...there are great projects, travel, expense accounts, ect. They just don't all come at the same time and definitely not when you would like them.

There's a lot of ambiguity in the industry and it can be frustrating because no one tells you that.

Your next project may be a great project in a terrible location. The next might be great location with terrible hours. It seems like you really have to know the right people and have the right people know you to have the influence to get what you want. From what I've seen that takes some legitimate time.. several years or so.

Just give it a little time.

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May 26, 2013

would be curious to know what firm this is...

May 26, 2013

I only briefly skimmed through the posts above but wanted to add that the disappointment about the experience actually should not be a surprise to the informed mind. "Consultancy" is a term that encompasses a whole lot of professions, all of which gain a branding advantage by helping even very small firms associate directly with the glamour of McKinsey without any justification whatsoever. I find the idea of grouping strategy consultancy - the beautiful discipline - with all other types (process consultancy, IT consultancy, "IT strategy consultancy", "marketing consultancy") to then supposedly together form one field absolutely absurd and am sure that this lumping together of very different jobs has decelerated a lot of careers of young people that were uninformed - arguably at their own fault to some extent, but also as victims of campus marketing strategies - when going into consultancy.

The matter of fact is that you will get probably the best broad business training if you go into strategy consultancy, although I realise that banking will be better if it's clear quite early that finance is what you're after. You will only get this useful type of experience at MBB (even though you have to be careful here; with pure strategy consultancy projects as a loss leader nowadays, you will also find increasingly no-brainer projects there too) and a select number of other firms that are often grouped here as "tier 2". If you find yourself alone on 9-month "engagements" in Bumblefuck to update TPS reports with lunch breaks consisting of getting a Snickers over at the petrol station, I can assure you that you are not in the type of firm that you actually want to be. Updating TPS reports will not get you a basis for career development that you'd receive at MBB. If anyone reading this now sees their current experience reflected and doubts confirmed, I advise that you brush up your CV and go do something else. It's not over, don't worry (I've seen a few of my uni friends get out of seemingly dead-end jobs to move into positions that are regularly salivated over by the WSO community), however as always in business: trust your gut and take action. Fortune favours the bold.

If you're currently at university and are about to join a "consultancy firm that is not McKinsey but still does arguably interesting (TPS report updating) strategy work", use all information sources available to assess your upcoming job as to whether it's actually what you want to do. If not, I recommend lower tier banks or smaller investment firms over non-strategy shops any day, providing that kind of work somehow constitutes what you're interested in (I realise I may be slightly narrow-minded here...).

May 26, 2013