Consulting industry overview

The generous salaries, exciting projects and enormous scope for advancement keeps graduates hopping on this fast-track to the executive floor.
Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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Consultants are problem-solvers for hire: businesses and government bring them on board when they have a problem that’s too complicated or the resources needed would be too great for internal staff to resolve.

The mysterious world of consulting eludes most people outside the industry, but those in the know understand the satisfaction of taking on complex issues that have real impact on businesses and people, and shining a guiding light over the way forward.

Business and enterprise, government and not-for-profits seek out advisory services from consulting firms on matters ranging from technology, policy, marketing and strategy, to people, pricing and products. Typically, a consultant or team will be called in to advise a senior decision-maker whose staff are too busy to consider long-term strategy, or the problem being faced is too complex and outside the skill sets of the people charged with resolving it.

The ‘big three’ are the most prestigious management consulting firms in the world. They’re also known by ‘MBB’, which is an acronym of all three - McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company.

Then there are sharp-focus, top-tier consulting firms, such as Accenture — with a focus on technology — and PwC’s Strategy& — focused on (you guessed it) strategy.

On the more specialised end, boutique firms such as Port Jackson Partners and Partners in Performance consult on high-level strategy and implementation, among other things.

The average package is $61,000 and the average hours worked per week is 47, making this one of the hardest-working professions for grads on a dollar-per-hour basis.

Consulting-overview GradAustralia

Job market outlook

Traditional consulting firms are recruiting consistently, with a consistent intake each year. Management consulting in general is expected to grow very strongly, with more businesses each year requiring assistance navigating ever-changing business models throughout the digital revolution.

On the other side of the coin, while the traditional consulting firms have dominated for over a hundred years in some instances, freelance and transactional-style consulting services are gaining traction in the marketplace. Wikistrat, Hourlynerd and Australian-based Expert360 are three such platforms, with Wikistrat claiming to be entirely crowdsourced.

The consulting business model is sometimes referred to as 'recession proof'. When the economy is strong, clients have more money to spend on consulting services. In a downturn, business challenges often become more pressing, and consulting services are in demand to help solve problems quickly!

How to get hired

Consulting is practically degree-agnostic — candidates from all kinds of backgrounds can find success, as long as they have the right aptitude. Consulting companies intentionally hire for a diverse range of skills and experience, drawing on the benefits that a tapestry of thinking styles provides.  

Extracurricular activities count enormously in this industry, with employers telling us they value these experiences equally or almost equally with academic achievements, so be sure to highlight yours — particularly any experiences that have required you to take initiative, show leadership or model the values of your desired organisation’s values.

Nearly all consultancies will require you to undergo psychometric testing, so find out what type of test the employer you’re applying to uses and find a practice test online to complete so you can brush up on any areas that give you pause.

Key skills you need

Problem solving

Consultants are hired primarily for their problem-solving abilities, and being able to help an employer by unpacking a problem and finding solutions through innate aptitude and techniques you learn on the job will complement a natural confidence and agility in your decision-making.

Creativity

While it’s important to have general knowledge and problem-solving skills, recruiters are always on the look-out for candidates that can tie those skills together with creativity. Being able to consider a problem with a unique perspective might trigger an idea that is practical, but provocative.

People skills

Collaboration is essential with both colleagues and clients, as you work in a team to solve a complex problem or work through changes in project scope. Knowing how to keep a sense of purpose, get things done and leave for the day with relationships in tact is vital.

Alternatives to consulting

If you’re considering consulting, you might also like to consider…