KM: One of the first things you learn in consulting is that there is no “typical” day. Each project and client can be different, so a large part of the challenge and excitement of this job is learning how to be adaptable to any situation.
On my current project, most days involve meeting with my client to discuss project status and activities for the week, preparing and distributing project communications to various stakeholders, meeting with those stakeholders to understand risks, issues and requirements, managing project schedules and tracking documents, and conducting data analysis to evaluate project success against defined milestones.
CES: What do you most enjoy about your work?
KM: The aspects of consulting that I most enjoy are working with intelligent colleagues who are constantly challenging me and helping me develop, as well as gaining exposure to businesses and industries in which I do not have prior experience. I have had the opportunity to lead projects and gain exposure to leadership in my clients’ organizations very early in my career, which are opportunities that I would not necessarily have access to outside of consulting.
CES: What is most challenging about your work?
KM: The most challenging parts of consulting also tend to be some of the most rewarding. Since the business is fully based on client service, client needs always come first. At times, this can require a high level of flexibility and significant time investments. Additionally, the ramp-up on new projects can be stressful when the subject matter is foreign, the timeline short and the situation urgent. The benefits of working through these challenges are countless, including developing an ability to learn quickly and understanding how to work with and manage various personality types.
KM: I was first introduced to consulting (and my specific firm) during a summer internship in Denver between my sophomore and junior year of college. I immediately enjoyed the fast pace, variety of clients and projects and high caliber of people with whom I was working. During my senior year, I focused my job search on Consulting and Investment Banking positions, determining by the end of the interview process that Consulting was a much better fit with my personality.
Although I accepted a position at my firm during my senior year, I deferred my start date for a year to teach English in France through the Fulbright teaching assistantship program.
CES: How did the time in that position help you develop/plan your current career pursuits?
KM: I approached my time in France as an opportunity to develop my French skills and learn about French culture since I knew that teaching was not a career path that I would be pursuing. With that perspective, my time in France did help me prepare for my Consulting career in certain ways. I developed in my ability to adapt to ambiguous situations and learn quickly in unfamiliar environments.
Most of all, I believe that my time in France expanded my perspective and understanding of the world, which is beneficial regardless of career.
CES: How did you make the decision to pursue your current path? Were there pivotal moments?
KM: The most pivotal moments in deciding to pursue a career in Consulting came during my senior year of college as I was interviewing for jobs. The connections that I made during the interview process ended up being the final drivers in my decision to pursue Consulting over Investment Banking, and to accept a position with one firm over others.
The decision was primarily based on a gut feeling about the people with whom I would be working and the overall culture of the company. As I completed interviews, I felt a very clear level of connection with the people at my firm and easily pictured them as people that I could work with and learn from on a daily basis.
CES: How did your experiences during college prepare you for your career?
KM: Every experience I had at the University of Puget Sound prepared me for my career in one way or another…
I had a number of on and off-campus jobs, which served as great introductions to the professional world and allowed me to build a base set of skills prior to graduation.
The clubs and activities in which I participated, including the Business Leadership Program, Peer Advising, working as a Resident Assistant and holding multiple positions in a sorority, contributed significantly to my ability to be prepared for a career in consulting.
These activities helped me develop my communication skills, team with others, and learn how to manage unexpected and ambiguous situations.
Similar to my post-graduation experience in France, my semester of study abroad in Paris taught me how to adapt to ambiguity and expand the perspective with which I approach situations.
KM: I wish I had known the value of approaching college as a time when you are “learning how to learn,” rather than a time when you need to gain specific skills or knowledge for work.
In most jobs, specific skills will develop naturally on-the-job or through training. Much of the value of college is to explore different activities and learn about a variety of topics, which teaches a person how to learn quickly and makes it easier to learn the skills for a specific career down the line.
CES: What advice do you have for students considering a career in the consulting field?
KM: I would advise students to gain as many experiences as possible during college, especially through internships with a variety of businesses. As networking is a significant skill in consulting, I strongly recommend utilizing the tools and opportunities that UPS provides as early as possible, especially the ASK network, career fairs and practice interviews. Most of all, the best thing that students can do if they are interested in consulting is to talk to consultants. Understanding what to expect in consulting will not only help during the interview process, but will also assist in the decision of whether or not consulting is something that they would like to pursue.
Specific to interviews, consulting interviews can be challenging, and CES has a number of books and references for consulting and investment banking interviews that are extremely helpful. I would highly recommend completing practice interviews and reviewing as many case studies and logic puzzles as possible prior to interviews. I used a number of these resources prior to interviews, and believe that they made a huge difference in my success.