“Consulting” is a very confusing term for a college student. Around the time junior year begins, peers begin throwing this word around as they consider internship and job opportunities. At the same time, nobody really understands what a consultant does on the job. More confusing still is the term “management consulting”, which is an infamously cryptic profession. Despite this lack of clarity, many young people apply for and accept positions in the management consulting industry every year.
This blind faith in a mysterious industry is truly a testament to the pull factor management consulting companies have with young talent. Firms like Bain and McKinsey successfully turn English majors into expert financial modelers, History majors into pricing professionals, and Politics majors into private equity analysts. The natural question then becomes, why do such talented young people continue to plunge themselves into a field so misaligned with their academic background? To understand this leap of faith, we must analyze this decision from the lens of an aspiring management consultant.
A young college grad is often looking for many non-financial perks from his/her first job. Among these are a network of inspiring people, a practical business education, a stimulating work environment, and strong exit opportunities. Management consulting is perhaps one of the only industries that affords all of these benefits to someone with zero professional experience. A young management consultant will be exposed to many different industries and build a variety of different skills, causing some to refer to this dynamic field as a form of “paid grad school”. The result of this exposure is a wide range of industry expertise that will open doors into many future jobs.
Another huge benefit of the managing consulting lifestyle for a young person is the exposure to high-performing peers and mentors. Management consulting firms tend to attract people who are highly accomplished and intellectually curious, making for an exciting work environment. This network of aspirational coworkers is a great launchpad for anyone working toward a future start-up venture, progression in the corporate world, or even acceptance to a top business school.
Consider Adam Braun, who left Bain & Company to use his newfound business skills to found Pencils of Promise and build hundreds of schools across the developing world. Or look at Jim Koch, who used his BCG training to found the Boston Beer Company and the beloved Sam Adams brews. Together with the above mentioned industry exposure, exposure to a personal network of this caliber will make even a short stint in management invaluable to anyone who wants to accelerate a nascent career.