Career Resources

Consulting

Access: 

What is consulting?

Consulting Fields

Job Search at Columbia

What do employers look for?

The Interview

Reflections of a CC Alumnus in Consulting 

Professional Associations

Further Reading

 

What is consulting?

Consultants work with clients to provide support around a range of strategic and/or operational issues. Corporations, governments, and nonprofit organizations all hire consultants. The tasks performed range from conducting detailed industry analyses, to benchmarking comparable organizations, to devising key strategic initiatives. Consulting firms can have a specific industry focus or serve a variety of industries.

Consulting Fields

  • Environmental - Ensures that the client maintains an appropriate measure of compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Healthcare - Works with medical providers (e.g., hospitals), payers (e.g., insurance firms), and medical equipment/pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  • Human Resources - Focuses on the management of people; can include everything from designing an employee evaluation and compensation system to conducting organizational effectiveness training to helping an organization through a merger
  • Management - Focuses primarily on strategy for organizations
  • Nonprofit - Deals with the unique challenges of nonprofit organizations.
  • Public Sector - Help government organizations build/operate lean yet responsive supply chains
  • Risk Management - Undertaking a risk management program audit covering exposures, insurance policies, and any non-insurance techniques, and where appropriate, recommending
  • Strategic Communications - Advise companies on how to make their communications plan consistent with their business strategy
  • Supply Chain/Operations - Focuses on evaluating and improving internal procedures and strategies, as well as the workflow structure and division of labor in a company

Job Search at Columbia

Consulting jobs are highly competitive and only a small percentage of candidates get hired. Companies usually recruit from campuses in September or October for positions starting in September of the following year. A high GPA and strong involvement in campus leadership are highly valued by recruiters. Because consulting positions are so competitive, it is crucial to devote part of your job search to connecting with the industry through employer information sessions, career fairs, networking nights and LinkedIn. CCE provides you with several resources to help with your job search:   

 Consulting 101 Workshops: an invaluable look into the consulting industry, including the best ways to find a job.

 LionSHARE: Set up a Job Search Agent to be notified of consulting internships and/or jobs. Also make sure you have access to on campus recruiting (OCR) as consulting positions usually involve on-campus interviews.

Crack the Case Workshops:  Whether you're interested in management, strategy, or industry specific consulting, case interviews will be used in the screening process to assess your thought processes and analytical skills. Learn from a consultant how to analyze cases and provide solutions based on the information given. 

Fall Career Fair:  Career fairs are an excellent opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with representatives of consulting firms. Take a look at the consulting firms who will participate in the 2011 Fall Career Fair.  

Employer Information Sessions: presentations by employers about their company and industry.

 Student clubs: Join student clubs that hold consulting events, such as the Econ Society, Columbia Women in Business, the  Multicultural Business Association, and the Women's International Business Council, Entrepreneurship, Leadership & Consulting Club, and Columbia Graduate Consulting Club.

In particular, we recommend that undergraduate students join the new Columbia Undergraduate Consulting Club, which seeks to educate students about the world of consulting while preparing them to enter the industry. Through informational events, case study workshops, and networking opportunities, CUCC will offer students unparallelled opportunities to learn and advance as problem solvers and team players. Case practice sessions will be held on Thursdays from 8-10pm.  Contact Nicole Bleuel at nkb2115@columbia.edu or columbiaconsultingclub@gmail.com for more information and complete the form to join the group's listserv. 

What do employers look for?

  1. Problem-solving Skills
    • Structured, logical thinking
    • Organization and detail orientation
    • Comfort with numbers (but a math major is not required)
  2. People Skills
    • Ease of communication
    • Confidence, poise, maturity (do you think before you speak)
    • Enthusiasm and fit for team (would they like to hang out with you for long hours)
  3. Business Knowledge
    • Business intuition
    • A few, fundamental business concepts and frameworks

The Interview

Part 1: The interviewer will ask questions to gauge people and communication skills and your interest in consulting

Part 2: The interviewer will present you with a case to test your problem-solving and analytical abilities.

Click here to PREPARE FOR THE CASE INTERVIEW

Reflections of a CC Alumnus in Consulting

John Gardner, CC '08, works for Monitor Group, a strategy consulting firm. Here is what he has to say about his career and his time at Columbia:

"Columbia prepared me for a career in consulting by helping me to think analytically in my economics and history coursework and by giving me leadership opportunities, especially as part of Community Impact's executive board.

I chose to be a consultant because I wanted a job that would give me a lot of responsibility right off the bat, forcing me to sharpen my communication and professional skills. At the same time, I was interested in a number of sectors - government, non-profits and private - and a large number of specific industries, and I wanted a job that would give me exposure to all of these areas and allow me to select the one that I would be most excited about in the long term.  

It has been a great experience on both of these fronts, as I now prepare to work more directly in the area I found most exciting in my consulting work (alternative energy).
 
My advice for students preparing to be consultants is to look out for opportunities to lead organizations as part of a team. That is some of the best preparation you can have for the actual job and will give you a sense for whether consulting is something you would really want to do.  It will also give you ammunition for the fit part of interviews. Knowing what I know now about my career path, I would have worried less about my GPA while I was at Columbia. I would not have worked any less on academics, but I would have stressed about the grades much less and focused more on what I was actually getting out of the class.  I also would have been more satisfied with the massive amount of time that I invested in Community Impact and other campus organizations (at the time, I worried that it detracted from my academic time).
 
Also, realize that consulting (at least at my firm, Monitor Group) is extremely demanding of your time.  When you factor in all of the travel, I think it is just as team-intensive as most financial jobs (though a lot more fun/ rewarding in my own humble opinion).  Most people burn out quickly, so think very hard about whether this is something you really want to do, especially since the pay is not particularly great (especially for those who want to live in New York).  The value comes in the experience and responsibility."

Professional Associations

Further Reading