To put it simply, consulting is the business of providing expert advice to a specific group of people. Organizations hire outside firms to come in, conduct various analyses and offer a solution to the company’s problem. These problems range anywhere from decreasing profits, lack of growth, expansion, or even whether they should acquire another company or not. Consultants have the opportunity to affect the future trajectory of a company, country, and sometimes even the world. Although the companies ultimately make the decision and get the credit, the consulting firms are the ones who told them it would work out.
Consulting roles vary greatly depending on the size of the company you work for and the client base they work with. Larger consulting firms (like McKinsey, Bain, or Boston Consulting Group) you will have a very structured career path and will most likely be a generalist, working in many different areas and industries. If you chose to work for a smaller boutique firm, you will mostly be focused on a particular industry, as most of these firms are very niche and tend to specialize in a certain area or service.
The main goal of a consultant is to solve a client’s problem, whatever it may be. Consultants are expected to become experts on the company and its situation before making a recommendation. Throughout the process, consultants analyze the issue, make diagnoses that may result in a redefinition of the problem, and provide information and recommendations to the client. Occasionally, consultants will assist with the implementation of these recommended solutions.
Like all professions, there are potential downsides to consulting, depending on your preferences. Although many careers require travel, few are as travel intensive as consulting. Most consultants on a case will travel four or five days out of the week, leaving them 1-3 days of non-travel time. Occasionally, smaller boutique firms may require less travel since they will have more local clients. Additionally, consultants work long hours (12-hour days are common) and will be assigned to new teams every few months when a new project arises.
There are also many upsides to the industry. As they get assigned to more and more projects, you have the opportunity to learn about a multitude of industries and business models. These experiences will give you the ability to quickly spot operational and managerial problems and find creative solutions to solve them. As mentioned above, travel can be a challenging part of the job, but it can also be an exciting one. You will get the chance to see new parts of the country, and maybe even the world. Consulting will also improve your presentation skills, teaching you how to build impressive presentation decks and communicate your point effectively to any type of audience.
Another benefit of being a consultant is the high earning potential. Although it can vary depending on the size of the firm, entry-level salaries typically start at $63,000 (including bonuses). Consulting salaries increase with each year of additional experience and can go up to $250,000 for a project leader or even $500,000 and above for a partner.
As you can see, consulting can be a challenging field, but it is also an exciting one that can present recent grads with endless opportunities.