I have a number of interrelated questions, and would appreciate if you could help me.
I graduated in 2017 with a BSc and MSc from a top British University with strong grades in a "hard" STEM subject (think Physics). I was accepted for doctoral studies in another top British institution, but due to family reasons (serious illness in my immediate family) I decided to postpone my enrollment in graduate studies and took a year off. Unfortunately, my familiar situation did not improve and consequently I decided to forego my PhD studies and gain employment in my home country (a small Eastern European nation).
I work in finance (it has been a year now) in a big regional player, though the company is pretty unknown outside of my home country and its immediate neighbours.
During the last two years (whilst I was a resident in my home country) I was exposed to a number of different industries (both through volounteering and side projects), managed to gain significant leadership experience in the process and became interested in consulting.
Therefore, I would like to apply off-cycle very soon. Consequently, I have a number of questions:
1. My country is very small, and there are few (if any!) major consultancies operating within its borders. However, there are offices covering my nation in neighbouring countries. I attended recruiting events by these offices and obtained some contacts. The point is, I don't really want to work in this region. I have significant connections to two other Western European countries (not the UK) meaning I am fluent in their respective languages and have also lived in one of them. In fact, I hold citizenship of one of these nations (I am a dual citizen). I don't speak the language of the countries' offices that cover my own home country and have literally no connections there. Therefore, I would like to apply to those Western European nations I am familiar with. Clearly, it has been difficult to mingle with consultants from these countries, so I was wondering whether it would be a good idea to contact the consultants I know (from the offices next to my country), and ask them about advice about the offices I am interested in (as well as other questions). Would this be considered very rude? Is it too ambitious to apply to Western Europe off-cycle for an Eastern European?
2. My understanding is that for entry level roles consultants are placed in two batches: the "regular" ones (recruited from University) start in September and the off-cycle ones start in January. I would be one of the former. My understanding is that I would be interviewed in the period between September and November, and hence should apply towards the end of August. However, I've also read that it is not wise to apply in August (due to holidays). Furthermore, I have also heard that interviews rarely take place in December (holidays again). Is this timeline broadly correct? I need to know since I have to tell my current employer that I will resign my job with some advance. This is quite difficult to estimate for me because it appears very unclear how the process works for off-cycle applicants (how long it takes to be interviewed after application/test, etc.).
3. I have started my preparation a week ago. Is 10ish weeks of preparation (at application date) enough to be successful? I have heard very different stories about how long to prepare in advance (and it is unclear whether this preparation is "overall" preparation or preparation before application). I can devote about 4 hours per day on my preparation (less during weekdays, more during weekends).
4. Some companies would require me to apply within two years of graduation. Is applying two years and a month from graduation a definite no go area or are they flexible in this regards? It would be two or three weeks past the two year graduation mark in my case.
Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with me!