Job Title: Consultant
Type of Company: My company gives marketing advice aimed at improving our clients' returns on investment (ROI). ROI is how much a company gets back for the money it puts in.
Education: BA, Management Science, MIT
Previous Experience: I was a summer intern in a business development firm. This is my first job out of college.
Job Tasks: The goal of any consulting firm is to provide advice to other companies on how to become more profitable. Some consulting firms focus on suggesting internal changes to make a company's workforce more efficient. Others tell their clients what to invest in. My company falls in the latter category: we tell our clients what kinds of marketing to invest in (think TV ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, billboards, viral blogging, those pop-ups on YouTube, etc). Of course, consulting firms need research and proof to back up what they tell their clients to do; otherwise, no one would listen to us. And that's my job: doing the detective work to a) figure out why their current investment is good (or bad), b) how to make it better and c) demonstrate the effectiveness of our recommendations.
How do I do accomplish this?
First, I need to find out as much as possible about the client I'm working on and their unique environment/situation. After all, while a small clothing store in Boston isn't likely to be affected if everyone decides clothes are out of style in Tampa Bay, Florida, an expensive restaurant might not be getting as much business if all their customers are worried about losing their jobs and not going out to eat as much. This means lots of research. Internet, phone calls, emails... Then, I need to understand what it all means. Imagine an Excel spreadsheet with 20 tabs, each tab with 1,000 columns and 50,000 rows of data detailing a client's sales over the last year. Why did the client suddenly make a lot more money in September than in August? Why did they make so much less in January than in December? Finally I need to take the evidence and use it prove my case. That means lots of reports and presentations. All in a day's (or, more likely, several weeks) work.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: My job is like a puzzle (except you have to figure out the problem, the solution AND how to get from the problem to the solution). Since I like solving puzzles, I enjoy the moment where I figure out why a company's sales tanked (or increased) the most. I really don't like making reports and presentations, though. The computer's crashed on me enough times for that.
1.) Since everyone in consulting will have to make a report or a presentation at one time or five thousand times...save, save, save. You will be glad when there's a blackout, computer crash and/or server failure, and you are the only person in the office who did not lose three hours of work.
2.) Excel is your friend. PowerPoint is your friend. Data managing software and programming languages are your friends. Learn to use them and all their shortcuts.
3.) Dress appropriately. No jeans. No flip-flops. No orange hair with blue highlights. If in doubt, ask your supervisor what's appropriate.
4.) Lists and bullet points are excellent in conveying information. You will not be graded on how well you can draft an essay. In fact, a class in business communication might be wise.
5.) When composing an email, proofread and check. If sending to a client (especially senior management), make drafts. And yes, you can accidentally reply to the wrong person...and you will feel foolish.
Additional Thoughts: This is a general suggestion, but...
Keep in mind that while consulting is competitive, never give up on a promising firm before you send out your resume and interview. You never know if you have a skill or quality that top firms would want.
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