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From engineering to strategic consulting, but still no clear view on tangible daily duties of a management consultant?

G asked on Aug 27, 2019 - 2 answers

Some info that might help to place my question in a proper context: finished my PhD in mechanical engineering in 2017 and continued as a post-doc in engineering at university. Currently, willing to transition into management consulting (more specifically: strategy & operations). However, no background in finance nor extracurricular activities that could boost my application. To be honest, I was not aware that it was a possibility (from eningeering to consulting) until I stumbled on this path (by coincidence). Before jumping, I did the research and went to an info session organized by an MBB-firm. And it all triggered me (in a positive way). I took the jump: shaped my CV and applied to all MBB firms (location: Western-Europe), but ended up in the horror-scenario. I did not get an invite for a first interview. None. Nada. However, I'm still interested to re-apply after the waiting period (or perhaps now to a T2 firm ... currently thinking of Deloitte or RB).

I fully understand that as a management consultant, you need to work hard (ie long hours) and dedicate yourself to the work at hand. I'm prepared to commit myself. But what is meant by working "hard" as a management consultant? I guess that everyone is working hard at their respective job (I do not mean this in a condescending way). For example, as a research engineer, I have a clear view of the duties within my current field: designing, building experimental setups, conducting experiments, analyzing data, setting-up collaborations, writing papers, etc. But my guess is that my cover letters were not good enough (hence, the rejection?) or that I still do not have a clear idea/view what a consultant does do and that this perhaps reflects in my letter? My current general view of what a consultant does: setting-up complex forecasting models for the clients, attending meetings to understand the problem, writing final reports and setting-up presentations to present the final findings to C-level. Is this correct or is there more that I'm missing? Any experiences/tips from post-doc engineers that successfully made the transition to management consulting are also more than welcome. Thanks for reading!

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Giulia
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replied on Aug 27, 2019
McKinsey Business Analyst | 3+ years Experience | Extensive experience in case preparation
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Hi G,

I have a BSc and MSc in Mechanical Engineering and after 1 year working in the field, I got fed up and switched to McKinsey: one of the best decisions in my life.

I was too much fact-based and rational in my cover letters and CVs. But that's more for technical positions, in the consultancy world you have to "sell the dream". It took me 5 months of case studies (to be fair, I studied only on weekends because I was working) to switch to that kind of mentality. Your CV will say which your achievements are, but the cover letter has to shout your motivations, the perception has to be that MMB (or the consultancy firm you are applying for) is the job of your life.

Drop me a message if you need a piece of advice, I'll be happy to help!

Udayan
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replied on Aug 27, 2019
Ex McKinsey EM with 7 years of recruiting experience/ received all 3 MBB offers/Real MBB cases
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Hi,

I think summarizing the work that a consultant does is going to be a difficult task because it is not always a defined process. It is highly dependend on the project you are working on. Some commonalities across projects

1. Working with clients to understand issues, structure them

2. Working with data sets to analyze potential solutions to problems

3. Creating slides to synthesize above

4. Working with clients to align on solutions based on analysis, client needs, market scenarios, interviews, other relevant information

This is all very generic. The work can at times involve building apps, launching a new product, working on client operations at a plant, working on complex data sets using advanced statistical modeling etc.

If you are looking for a clear defined role, consulting is usually not the best bet unless you go into a firm with a narrow purview. E.g., firms that specialize in pricing of pharmaceutical drugs

I strongly suggest you do a lot more informational interviews with folks working in companies you are interested in, Just online research is rarely sufficient to truly understand what it is you will be doing. You need to talk to at least 10 people about their roles in great depth to see if it is something that excites you.

As for the rejections - that's okay. There are plenty of good firms out there. From your description it appears you may have applied with insufficient preparation and minimal networking at the firms that interest you. Next time around ensure that you are a lot more prepared and have a few people that can vouch for your application