How to Break Into Consulting: Experiences of an Undergraduate Peer Coach

Why Consulting?

Do you enjoy working with ambiguity in a fast-paced environment and learning something new everyday? These are the three top reasons that I want to go into consulting. To become a consultant, your ability to manage ambiguity is the key, which means you should be comfortable working with clients and colleagues with different personalities, from different industries, and you love solving complex problems. These key attributes are what makes consulting challenging; at the same time, these are what makes me excited every day. My name is Bonnie Ting, currently a junior studying Information Systems and Finance with a minor in Informatics. For the upcoming summer, I will be interning at West Monroe Partners as a consulting intern in the Financial Services area. I want to share what I learned on my journey to pursue consulting. Hope this helps if you are interested in going into consulting!

3 Steps to Help You Enter Into the Consulting Industry:

  1. Utilize Foster Resources & Connections

There are plenty of resources available on campus, such as consulting courses, RSOs, and case competitions, to provide the experience you need to succeed. I was involved with Business Impact Group (BIG) in my freshmen year. By working with our client and the team, I realized I gained so much real-world experience from this client engagement and I started looking into consulting as a potential future career option. Similar to BIG, Montlake Consulting, UWCA are all great consulting RSOs to gain consulting experience. Other than consulting RSOs, I found joining case competitions are great ways to develop presentation, PowerPoint, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills, which are essential skills you need in any job you do in the future. Global Business Case Competition Club (GC3) and various case competition opportunities available in Foster are great ways to gain that experience. If you are a beginner and want to learn more about consulting, I took MKTG 445 Multicultural Marketing and Business Development course offered in the winter quarter, which is taught by the Consulting and Business Development Center at Foster. This course is another great resource for students interested in consulting, which provides you practical experience in consulting with the assistance from industry mentors and alumni. Lastly, UW students have access to a resource called Vault. I recommend checking out the vault consulting guides to gain additional insight into the consulting industry.

Whether you want to learn more about consulting or you are currently searching for a job or internship in the consulting industry, talking to alumni is one of the best ways to learn from them and gain insights into the consulting world. Through LinkedIn, I reached out to many alumni who work in the company I am interested in to learn from their experience, hear about the reasons they chose consulting, and gather tips for students who want to go into the consulting industry. It is exciting to hear about the day-to-day work they do and make meaningful connections with alumni.

Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with a career coach or a peer coach to learn more about resources available. Feel free to schedule a 15-minute express appointment, I have shifts every Thursday in Spring 2021 from 12:30-3:30pm and I would be happy to chat about anything questions you have about consulting and direct you to the resources you need. Foster Career Service is also open for appointments over summer if you need assistance anytime.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Consulting Recruiting Timeline

Because consulting recruiting starts early, it is important to plan ahead and start case prep early. Interviews and applications for some organizations are due around mid-summer and early Fall, but you can start attending networking events led by consulting firms, conduct informational interviews with current employees, and familiarize yourself with case interviews in Spring Quarter. Summer is the best time to focus on case prep by connecting with other peers to practice cases, updating your resume and cover letters, and applying to early applications. Staying organized and keeping track of deadlines are essential. You can use Excel to keep track of application deadlines, events, and companies you are targeting. In early Fall, you will continue to ramp up case interview preparation, network with professionals and apply to opportunities. By starting early in the Spring Quarter and planning ahead of schedule, you will stay ahead and make the most of your time. There is a consulting 101 handout for you to review that summarizes consulting recruiting timeline, case interview format, frameworks, and types of cases.

  1. Prepare for Case Interviews

Case interviews require in-depth qualitative and quantitative problem-solving skills in a tense interview setting. Being able to remain calm under pressure and communicate effectively is not an easy task. No matter where you are starting from, the only way to get better is practice. When practicing case interviews, there are three key points to pay attention to:

  • Practice with Your Peers: It would be ideal to practice with someone you have never worked with or peers who are experienced in case interviews so they can tell you what you need to improve and put you on the right track. Try to practice in a setting you are not familiar with to prepare you for the real interview. Have the person interviewing you really dig into your responses and force you to defend your thoughts. All Foster students have access to Case Coach, where you can schedule mock case interviews with others.
  • Focus on Skill Sets: It is important to focus on specific skill sets when you practice with others. First, do an assessment to determine which skill sets to focus on, whether it is flameworking, summarizing information, mental math, charts, or market sizing. After you identified the areas to improve, you should find cases that specifically test that skill set. For example, Rocket Blocks is a great online resource for case preparation that allows you to perfect a skill set. Some of my favorite case books are Case in Point, Interview Math, and Harvard 2011 case book. In the meantime, remember no matter how much you practice, being able to communicate your thought process effectively to the interviewer is the key.
  • Look into Consulting Company Content: Most consulting companies publish content to help applicants prepare for case interviews. You should always go onto the company’s website to get familiar with the company’s case interview format. By doing this, you will learn the case interview format if it is interviewer or interviewee led case, and whether the case format is Q&A, PowerPoint, or present in front of executives. In this way, it will reduce your stress when you know what to expect during the case interview and prevent unexpected surprises. Many firms also offer case interview workshops, some as early as Spring Quarter. You can also reach out to alums at a company you are interviewing with to help with mock case interviews to best prepare yourself for the case interview.

Practice makes perfect. All Foster students can login with UW Credentials to access practice cases, case interview training videos and more in Case Coach. To practice case interviews and get ready for consulting recruiting, you can attend the Management Consulted Training on 5/11 and Early Recruiting Prep summit on 5/28 to get a head start on your consulting recruiting preparation. Additionally, there is a consulting blog that Career & Internship posted recently featuring an alum to learn from his experience. Everything I mentioned above, from joining RSOs, taking a consulting course, to having coffee chats with alumni, are valuable experiences that provide you a sneak peek into the real consulting world. Going through the consulting recruiting is not an easy process, but you will learn so much about yourself, gain knowledge about different industries, and become a better communicator and problem-solver throughout the process! Hope this helps and best of luck in the recruiting process!

Post Written by: Bonnie Ting, Student Peer Coach