Consultancy is a growing field, which no matter your area of interest offers opportunities to work in a variety of settings from management consulting to roles within IT, HR or finance
The increasing number of consultancy graduate programmes has opened up this competitive field, usually the territory of experienced business professionals, to those fresh out of university.
Early in their consultancy careers graduates can now get to grips with analysing an organisation and planning and problem solving in order to improve business performance.
Why choose a career in consultancy?
In this line of work you'll get the unique opportunity to gain an access-all-areas insight into how different organisations operate on a day-to-day basis, providing a depth of knowledge and experience.
'A year in consulting can be worth more than ten years in industry due to the fast-paced nature of projects and the need to be flexible and versatile to understand each client's industry and business,' says Joan Moore, entry-level recruitment manager at Accenture.
'Furthermore you do not need a business degree to consider a career in consultancy. At Accenture we recruit graduates from a range of degree types as we want to ensure that our project teams bring together a diverse selection of skills and strengths.'
Mark Baker, UKI Consulting by Degrees (CbD) graduate programme manager at IBM, says that consulting is an incredibly rewarding career. 'If you want an opportunity to make a difference, often working with the most high-profile client organisations, then consulting should be high on your list of careers.
'If you like the idea of no two days being the same, plenty of travel and work that delivers a sense of achievement then this is the job for you.'
What consultancy graduate schemes are on offer?
Formal consultancy graduate schemes are provided by a number of large, well-known organisations such as Accenture, ATOS, Deloitte, EY, Fujitsu, IBM, HP, KPMG and PwC to name a selection.
According to Joan, as a graduate consultant at Accenture you’ll 'explore a career at the intersection of business and cutting-edge technology.
The consulting graduate programme enables you to acquire a range of commercial and business skills, develop deep problem-solving and analytical capabilities, and gain knowledge and expertise across more than 40 industries while working with ambitious and creative people.'
On the 15-month programme you'll work as part of a project team helping client organisations to address their most significant business issues. Early responsibility is a feature of the scheme as is learning through real, live, project-based experience.
'Graduates who join our consultancy graduate programme also become part of the Analyst Consulting Group (ACG) community,' explains Joan. 'The ACG brings together all analysts across our strategy, consulting and analytics entry-level schemes. The community offers support and social activities, access to training and development and provides advice, guidance and mentoring.'
Other benefits of joining the Accenture Consulting Graduate Programme include a competitive salary, generous holiday allowance, and three days paid charity leave, hotel and travel discounts, a personal laptop and private healthcare.
As a graduate consultant at IBM you'll join their CbD scheme - a two-year leadership and development programme designed to provide the training, development and practical experience needed to successfully launch your consulting career.
'Entrants are typically in the early stages of their career, and come either directly from university or after gaining a few years of work experience,' explains Mark.
As an IBM graduate business consultant you'll start on a salary of £30,000 and receive training in a range of consulting and technical skill areas, from communications skills and conducting client conversations, to mobile development and data analytics. Training can be in the form of classroom learning, via virtual methods or self tuition.
'After an initial four-week residential induction graduates are immediately trusted and expected to work with clients. You'll have the chance to get involved in varied and interesting projects and really make a difference to our client organisations,' says Mark.
'For example, CbD graduates have helped a major government department deliver transformation to citizen support services, refined and personalised sales and service channels for a well-known airline and helped a large bank define and implement its online banking strategy and applications.'
How do I apply?
The majority of consulting graduate schemes aim to attract high academic achievers. Typically you will need:
- A 2:1 undergraduate qualification - Some organisations may ask for a related degree but this is not always the case - Accenture and IBM welcome applications from graduates of any degree discipline.
- The right combination of soft skills - Accenture require candidates who possess good analytical skills and attention to detail, leadership qualities and a strong interest in technology and consulting.
- A strong and demonstrable interest in your chosen sector/organisation.
- Language skills - due to the international nature of many large companies, knowledge of a second language can be an advantage but this is by no means essential.
- A willingness to travel - consulting careers usually require a fair amount of travel and it's possible that you may need to relocate, nationally or internationally, and work from home for extended periods.
Application processes can vary but the majority of graduate scheme applications are made online.
The first step is to fill in an application form and attached your CV. Some companies, like Accenture, may then automatically direct you to a situational judgement test, to be completed as part of your initial application. If successful the next stage of the application process will likely include a telephone or video interview. If you pass the first interview you will then attend an assessment centre, before moving on to the final interview. Depending on your preferred area of consulting and your employer you may also need to pass numerical or psychometric tests.
With the rising popularity of consulting as a graduate career, competition for places on graduate schemes is fierce so to stand out to employers you'll need a high degree of commercial awareness and to have an understanding of the organisation that you've applied to. Avoid sending generic applications; they're unlikely to prove successful. Instead take the time to really demonstrate your suitability to the role by providing real-world examples of required competencies.
Remember to include any extracurricular activities and relevant work experience in your application. Think about the transferable skills you possess, e.g. are you part of a sports team showing long-term commitment and teamwork? Have you organised a charity event, showing creativity, leadership and responsibility? All of these skills are of interest to employers.
If you need more tips on how to beat the competition read about our 7 ways to make a job application stand out.
What career can I go into?
Gaining a place on a graduate scheme usually opens the door to permanent employment. You could work in business, management, strategy or technology consulting, depending on your training.
Completion of the IBM graduate scheme is just the start of your career in consulting. You'll aim for a promotion after your first year on the scheme and be ready for the next step up on completion of the CbD programme. 'Graduates and alumni of the programme are some of IBM's top performers, with the majority consistently achieving the highest performance ratings,' explains Mark.
'There are a huge range of career paths on offer with IBM and any who join us are expected and enabled to be masters of their own career direction.'
Find out more
- Discover what the business, consulting and management sector has to offer.
- Learn more about the role of a management consultant.
- Gain an insight into graduate jobs in business and management.