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Insider’s tips: Starting off a career in management consulting

Interested in a career in management consulting? For Career Insider, Joblift asks professionals across markets and functions their best tips to help you land your dream job.

David Seewald is a management consultant in London.

David tells us all about his career in management consulting in London

Tell us more about you and your professional history and background:

I am Austrian and studied at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, majoring in Economics. In 2015, I moved to London where I started my career with the healthcare strategy consulting arm of The Economist Intelligence Unit in London. During my time here, I had the chance to work on various strategy and market entry projects for global MedTech and Pharma clients. I joined Efficio in July 2017, a boutique consulting firm specialising in strategic cost reduction programmes. I am now working on cost reduction and efficiency improvement projects for clients in various industries.

Travelling is very important to me. I worked in Jakarta for a few months and used the opportunity to travel around South-East Asia. I am also passionate about sports and, wherever possible, I try to combine the two hobbies. This results in exotic combinations such as teaching children to ski in Japan.

What is expected of a consultant in 2018?

This depends on a lot of factors such as firm, role, the client’s industry and the type of project you are working on. One thing you need to be aware of is that consulting is a people business before anything else and that clients pay you to solve their problems. Therefore, great professionalism and adaptability is expected of you. This helps you manage relationships with stakeholders and get on with your team, with whom you will be spending a lot of time.

What is most challenging about working in a consulting firm? What is the most rewarding?

It is an amazing opportunity to be close to your clients and see the inner-workings of a company. You can also gain valuable international work experience, The downside is typically being away from home from Monday to Thursday.

What I find most rewarding is helping my clients and creating value for them. When you see your plan being implemented and are able to measure your impact, all the hard work you put in is worth it. This depends on the type of project – working on a strategy piece you might only present your final recommendation to the client and leave them with the implementation. If you work on a more operationally focused project such as cost reduction, your fees might even be tied to the financial results you achieve. When you can measure your impact, work can become really rewarding.

What does your firm look for in junior hires? What skills can really differentiate someone looking to start a career in management consulting?

Efficio is looking for highly analytical people. Most days are spent analysing big data sets so an analytical mindset is essential. This is something all colleagues have in common. So what differentiates us is not so much our technical skillset, but the different experiences we bring to the firm. This might be previous work experience or extracurricular activities. I am fortunate to work alongside people with different educational specialisms such as cancer research, physics and linguistics.

What are some hard questions you had to answer during your interviews? How did you prepare?

Consulting interviews are fairly standardised across the industry. If you’re planning to interview with a consulting firm I would recommend doing your homework about the company’s culture and history. The rest of the interview is likely to consist of a combination of questions assessing if you’re a good fit with the firm and brainteasers/case studies. I interviewed with many companies and was asked a lot of unusual and tricky questions which test ‘out-of-the-box thinking’. Preparing for these types of interviews is key and there is plenty of material online. I found and to be very useful sources.

I heard network is key for a career in management consulting, but I have no contacts. How do I land an interview anyway?

I have never heard of someone landing a job just through having a strong network. Most companies have clear minimum requirements when it comes to the candidates they invite for interview and are very transparent about it. Contact the company’s recruiter through email or LinkedIn and they should be able to answer your questions.

I am not from a top school/didn’t get a top grade, do I stand a chance?

This can be more tricky because top firms only recruit from target schools and require you to have a high GPA. But there’s always a chance to land an interview: Have an interesting CV and give them a reason to invite you. Once at the interview it doesn’t matter if you went to Cambridge or if you graduated magna cum laude.

Am I really saying goodbye to my social life if I make this career choice?

Consulting isn’t a 9 to 5 job and being away during the week can be challenging. On the other hand the projects I’ve worked on so far have had a manageable workload and the project manager did a good job of creating an excellent team atmosphere by organising regular team events.

How close is House of Lies to the reality of working in management consulting?

No, not at all. In fact, the reality is quite different from that displayed in the show – in a positive way!

What books do you recommend to become a top consultant?

There are plenty of books about management consulting, but I would recommend reading books that are also focused on developing your personality. All-time classics “The McKinsey Way” and “Pyramid Principle” are must-reads for aspiring consultants.

What influencer or thought leader would you recommend to inspire any young graduate?

There are plenty of inspiring personalities in today’s business world. I personally feel inspired by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who are disrupting entrenched industries and changing aspects of our daily life, such as transportation or shopping.

One should avoid brown shoes if they work in investment banking. Any similar unspoken rules for consulting?

The client is never wrong; there are only alternative points of view.

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