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What you should know about starting a career as a consultant

You have several options to break into consulting

No two consultancies are alike. If you are interested in working in consulting, options available to you include working for the typical strategy consultancies, more specialized boutique consulting firms or for the so called in-house consultancies which are basically internal consulting firms of big companies. The big players in strategy consulting know how to set the tone by means of branding, demanding projects, internationality and last but not least through attractive salaries. Boutique consultancies have the advantage that consultants may work in their favorite field in order to evolve into specialists. In-house consultancies are becoming more and more important for the job market, since employees are looking for more promising work-life-balance properties in their employers. Moreover, you'll be able to do your own networking in a big firm, and therefore lay a solid foundation for the transition into the later stages of your career.

Necessary skills for candidates

It doesn't matter what company you end up with, fresh careers in consulting oftentimes resemble each other. After going through job ads and successfully making it through the recruiting and the case interviews, the doors for your career in consulting are wide open.

Of course, you'll have to bring certain abilities to the table, but it's about more than what's on your resume. Despite an excellent academic education, your future employer will also look for working experience, especially if acquired abroad. Particularly if you studied business/economics, you'll be expected to have at least two internships on your record by now.

No education in business economics? No problem.

Consulting may be concerned with wildly differentiating topics which is why candidates with different educational backgrounds may make a career in consulting. Especially students of natural sciences are predestined to work in consulting, due to their organized and analytical working behavior. Also, there are chances for medical and pharmacy students with adequate academic achievements. They have been educated in specified fields and therefore may find a job in a boutique consultancy which specializes in that sector. Strategy consultancies are also always looking for special individuals with extraordinary educational backgrounds. In case they are attracted to your profile, they may decide to shape you in the prime of your career by sending you through workshops and mini-MBA programs, in order to prepare you for the work with clients.

In addition to excellent grades, a candidate has to show promising soft skills. Beginning with the recruiting process, employers will select potential candidates on basis of their communication capabilities and the level of displayed self-confidence. Surely a lack of practical records will be forgiven, however, you should keep in mind that expectations are generally high in consulting. Moreover, the firm is going to expect outstanding analytical capabilities which will be assessed by solving cases as part of your job interview.

Consultants start big — in both, salary and working hours

Beginning your career as a trainee will be a rare case — usually you'll commence as a junior consultant. Either scenario makes high promises in terms of salary, but accordingly, working hours will be much longer than in any other job: Don't expect classic nine-to-five hours, at least not as a newbie. Rather, you'll be going through hard shifts in the initial phase of your career. This may sound like a downside, but in addition to high salaries consultants can expect promising career boosts and possibilities for personal development, even outside of consulting. Many ex-consultants make the exit to big industrial companies, smaller boutique consultancies or start-ups.