Best Ways for Non-MBAs to Prepare for a Career in ConsultingSamantha Palmer, PhD Candidate, Cornell University
Traditionally consulting firms have gone straight to the MBA programs for new hires and while these programs are still high on the list for firm recruiters, it's refreshing to know that the industry is starting to broaden their nets. There's been a real influx of non-MBA hires recently and I think part of that has to do with the fact that firm recruiters are starting to see the value of non-traditional business backgrounds. And if you think about it, it makes sense - successful consultants are thought of as being worldly and knowledgeable in a variety of areas.
As a non-MBA graduate student immersed in everything except business, I get excited at the thought of consulting for life science and healthcare companies but worry that I don't have the business lingo down or that some of the concepts might escape me at first because they didn't come up in my studies.
Despite this, I’ve found a few ways to overcome this knowledge deficit and thought I’d share them with you:
- Does the day-to-day work match up with what you thought you’d be doing? Even if you were stuck with some of the more menial tasks, were your full-time co-workers doing things that you find interesting?
- Reading the Wall Street Journal and The Economist not only provides familiarity with “business-speak” but obviously exposed me to current events in the business world as well as impacts on various industries. I tend to read mainly the pharma and bio-tech related articles due to my main interests, but sometimes venture into other realms to keep me generally informed. Download their respective smartphone apps for daily access. If you’re not able to pay for the subscriptions, get copies at your local or school library (which usually keeps a five day archive of newspapers).
For articles that are restricted, try searching for the news headline and access similar stories at other websites for free so that you at least get an idea of what the story was about. As you read the news pieces, identify the core problem and put yourself in the shoe of the CEO and figure out how you would have solved the problem.
- Browse the website of your favorite consulting firm(s) and read the case studies provided. Usually the challenge is already identified and described, but try to troubleshoot how you would have attacked the issue before reading how the company approached the problem.
- Get a copy of “Ten Day MBA” which gives a comprehensive summary of some of the core concepts that are taught in business school that you should be generally aware of.
- Find as many practice cases as possible preferably two months (or more) before the recruitment deadlines and practice as much as you can. Not only will you relieve yourself of last minute pressure by starting to prepare early, but you will also become familiar with the types of questions and challenges consultants face and the language used in these scenarios.
Have you found other ways to familiarize yourself with the world of business? Or are you an MBA student willing to share tips and tricks? Please share with us by commenting below.