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Consultant with non science/non business background?

Anonymous A

Hey!

I just found this website as I am thinking of career opportunities for myself including management consulting. The thing is that I come from a non-business background. Not natural sciences like I've read most "non business" consultants are, but humanities. In two years I'll be graduating with a B.A. in international studies and philosophy from a reputable school in England.

So my question is, do you think it is possible for me to join a consulting firm (and which firms could be suitable for me)? Is it even possible for me to get an internship? What can I do to increase my chances?

E.g. I can still change my minor to business&economics or I could do a masters in business related subjects... Do you think that is necessary? What would you do if you were in my position? I'm just looking for different opinions and viewpoints, and wouldl really appreciate your help

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Francesco replied on 02/11/2017
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (900+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous,

as mentioned by Frank, it would be possible for you to join a consulting firm with your background, although it would likely be more challenging than with a business/engineering background. The degree to which that would be challenging would depend on the country you are in: while in some countries like Italy, although feasible, it would be pretty hard to get invitations with a background in humanities, in others, like the UK and the US, that would not be a major issue if complemented with other elements.

As for your questions on what you can do to increase your chances, this is what consultants usually look in applications, in order of importance:

  • School reputation
  • Degree
  • Academic performance
  • Work experience
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Experience abroad

Given that you cannot change your school reputation, you may work on the remaining points, that is:

  • Degree: add a minor in business/economics, as you suggested
  • Academic performance: maximize your GPA
  • Work experience: find internships in business/strategy related fields, if possible with big brands
  • Extracurricular activities: start activities in your universities, in particular in clubs related to consulting or activities that would involve interaction with C-levels (eg conferences organization with relevant guests and/or fundraising)
  • Experience abroad: join an exchange programme

A final push may be given by a good referral in your desired firm, coming either from Alumni or networking during consulting events.

As for the master, the one that could really make a difference would be an MBA after some years of working experience, in case you cannot join a consulting firm after graduation. After a top MBA, indeed, you should be able to be considered from every top consulting firm, even without previous business/engineering background (I personally helped a former musician to join McKinsey after a top 10 MBA few months ago). Other type of masters could of course also be beneficial, but probably not enough to justify the time and money spent for them, at least if you are applying in the UK and manage to excel in the previous listed areas.

Best,

Francesco

Hemant
Expert
replied on 02/13/2017
Ex-Mckinsey, current strategy guy at Google.

I get asked this question a lot. My response usually is that a degree usually tends to convey what you DO know, but it does not convey what you do NOT know. If you are a psychology student, it might convey to me that you know more than the average joe/jane about human motivations, can likely empathize better, build consensus better, etc. However, it does NOT tell me that you do NOT know math, can't solve a business problem via analysis, etc etc.

Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you have all the "skills" needed to be a great consultant. Most of them are soft-skills and those are the ones that become far more important as you grow, so I'd never look over those lightly if I am trying to be a serious interviewer to get the best talent to my firm. However, to be practical, you do need to know what is essentially high-school level math and data interpretation/analytical skills. Those aren't easy to "re-learn" over a weekend, but you can certainly get comfortable with them over a month of work and training.

There's a good reason why McKinsey hires a lot of people who have, for example, law backgrounds, or worked in political internships as an undergrad, etc etc. They have what are the most critical skills: executive presense, critical thinking, confidence and performance under duress.

Hemant

Frank
Expert
replied on 02/09/2017
Former L.E.K. & Monitor Deloitte Project Leader

Hello,

You can absolutely find a role at a consulting firm, full-time or internship. The strength of your candidacy is supported not by your major but more so by your ability to (1) excel academically, (2) think logically, (3) think analytically, and (4) make a strong professional connection / impression at the firms you'd prefer to target via networking events. The latter situation is important, but hiring consultants are numb to the efforts of people just looking for an easier way in.

As to specific firms and your odds, it depends on how well you've positioned yourself with the things within in your control (e.g., GPA, case prep, etc.). A master's degree won't necessarily bolster your candidacy.

I hope that helps. Please reach out if you have any other questions.

- Frank