A series of frankly written essays documenting my transition from design to consulting.
“We need to be McKinsey level,” my boss said to me. The first time I was introduced to consulting as a field was in 2015 when I began working at a data science consultancy. I had been working the first several years in design, advertising and marketing so my world was completely different. Familiar names to me were McCann, Ogilvy, TBWA and I had never heard of BCG before until one of my designer friends also moved to consulting. My wardrobe gradually evolved from my freelancing at home shorts and flip flops to blazers, collared shirts and heels.
The first time I encountered my current firm was at a career fair at Copenhagen Business School while I was studying my masters in Digital Communication. I had no idea at the time that I would end up working there but the memory of strolling up casually to some young people in suits and asking them what they actually did is still fresh in my mind. Today, I would be able to give students like myself back then a clearer perspective of consulting life. So what can you expect from this job?
Real World Impact
Consulting is the best career to be in for those who are bright, ambitious and want to make an impact but without a particular industry in focus yet. As long as you have core problem solving skills, good at communicating, have initiative and are flexible and fast at learning new technologies, you would be happy working at different kinds of projects in consulting. The most rewarding part is when you work on the projects that have a tangible result.
Upgraded Business Knowledge
It’s also a great learning experience for those who did not go to business school. Working in consulting is like being in an MBA and in some companies, you even get the chance to earn one. As a young consultant, you can develop on your own ideas and solutions inside or outside a client project and receive support or feedback from peers and mentors.
Diversity of People, Activities and Ideas
Externally, you get to work with multiple industries. I feel like some kind of a corporate spy when I look at all the company badges I’ve collected over the years. Internally, the diversity is also good. Networking skills will be trained. Even better if your firm has a lot of international collaboration. Pre-covid there has been a lot of business travel.
Because of the diversity of the work and exposure to multiple working cultures, my creativity has been challenged in a different way. Previously, I was only thinking visual or UX. Now I think of business goals and think in frameworks, MECE and teaming.
Consulting is a mirror that takes all your weaknesses and magnifies them tenfold forcing you to confront and work on them. To be quite frank, it is not for thin-skinned people as it is a feedback driven culture and people are critical with best intentions and you will learn how not to take things personally. But if you’re willing to stretch yourself, you will come out as the best version of yourself.
I’ve learned to be more structured, and how to work effectively with the quick deadlines. Communication using the pyramid principle is something I am still working on. What makes a difference is only communicating the right amount to the client, neither over nor under communicating. The con in consulting really stands for confidence. I have learned that the client is less likely to trust you if you sound doubtful about your own work. These examples show that you will not always be perfect and then you learn and grow from the mistakes.
There can be some unexpected changes as well, like turning into a morning person when you thought you were a night owl before. This kind of job attracts a lot of overachievers and type A people so you tend to pick up a lot of their habits over time.
Camaraderie and Fun
Most importantly, consulting is fun. I have never partied harder in my life than when I came into this industry. Of course, it might just be the Danish culture. But seriously speaking, it is in the most difficult projects where friendships are forged because it feels like you went through something together. Although not every single project will be your dream project, when you finally get the one that aligns to your interest and where you get to explore something innovative then it all will have been worth it.
I hope that you carefully consider this as a great first step in your career as most people do, or as your forever career as you may aspire to someday be a partner.
Next time I will write about how to prepare for consulting case interviews if you don’t have a business background.