The possibility of making a career transition to consulting from an unrelated discipline is the motivating factor for many a business school candidate, especially given the willingness of consulting firms to recruit MBAs from a broad spectrum of backgrounds.
The challenge, however, is that “consulting” has morphed into an overarching, reflexive professional aspiration for MBA applicants who aren’t quite certain of their plans after graduation.
Having been a gatekeeper on both sides – first as a corporate recruiter for Bain & Company and subsequently as Wharton’s associate director of MBA admissions – I can affirm that strategic positioning is imperative to distinguish yourself from the masses. So, what are the most effective methods of persuasively presenting your candidacy and post-MBA consulting goals to an admissions committee?
My Fortuna Admissions clients who have successfully positioned their post-MBA consulting goals have a few qualities in common. I’ve summarized them into five key tips for articulating a convincing case for your professional transition to consulting:
- Take time for introspection.
If you want to leverage the MBA to embark upon a new career path, pause to reflect upon the reasons why you want to work in consulting. What makes consulting compelling and interesting to you? What attributes have you cultivated that translate well to a consultant role, and what in your background makes this a sensible pivot? What will a consulting career offer to you, and what will you learn that will enhance your professional path? Asking questions like this can yield insights that will help clarify and sharpen the best ways to present your candidacy in applications.
- Do your due diligence.
It’s imperative to concretely identify in your own mind what that ultimate role in a consulting firm might look like. This means researching consulting companies and the specific opportunities available to MBAs after graduation. What do those positions entail and what skills are they looking for? Explore your ideal consulting company, whether it’s a large firm like BCG, McKinsey or Bain, or a more boutique organization. Given your talent, experience and passions, which area of the practice might you work in? Consider connecting with a school’s consulting club, which may enable you to reference conversations with current students that add heft to your application. Doing your homework is critical for making a case that’s earnest and convincing to an admissions committee.
- Understand specifically how you’d contribute to consulting.
Consider your transferable skills and why you’re unique. How do aspects of your current job translate into a future role? What are you poised to bring to the table that another candidate may not? For example, if you have a medical background, you likely thrive under pressure. If you hail from teaching, you’re likely adept at managing sizeable groups and liaising across various levels of an organization. If you come from a military background, you might possess a variety of leadership experiences that translate to a myriad of roles ahead. Leverage your experiences to tell an engaging story that shows the admissions committee exactly how you’d enrich your MBA class.
- Link your specific expertise to what recruiters are seeking.
Remember that business schools conscientiously consider your employability. Top-tier MBA programs care that you secure employment after graduating – after all, The Economist and Financial Times (FT) utilize career placement data to help deduce which program gets the coveted #1 spot annually. A 2017 FT survey disclosed that the top five skills employers sought in MBA graduates were: 1) Capability to collaborate with an array of people, 2) Time management and prioritization, 3) Comprehending digital impact on businesses, 4) Ability to build, nurture and grow a network, and 5) Aptitude to solve complex problems. What experiences can you showcase that present you as a strong candidate to your desired firms?
- Articulate a sensible career plan.
It is imperative to share logical reasons why consulting is the right next step for you. Develop a linear narrative linking your current role to your desired one, as well as what you intend to do with your consulting experience longer-term.