Working in Consultancy – hear from a recent graduate

How did you find your job? I didn’t know anything about consultancy until I went to a presentation by Qedis Consulting (now North Highland). It was very interactive – they ran a business game at the start so it didn’t just seem like another lecture. The other thing that impressed me was the fact that you couldn’t easily distinguish between their senior and less experienced people. It was just completely different to most presentations I had attended.

What were you looking for in an employer? I was looking for an organisation that would challenge me, but at the same time give me all the support I needed to develop. I didn’t feel as commercial-savvy as some of the other guys who attended the presentation and I’m pretty sure I had never read a Financial Times but Qedis made me feel that my enthusiasm and genuine interest in business were more important. I was also looking for a smaller to medium-sized company with prospects of growth.

What was the recruitment experience like for you? The first stage felt really personal and we mainly talked about me and my aspirations. I was also given the opportunity to ask questions about who and what Qedis were, which was really helpful. The second stage was more of an ‘assessment’ but not in the sense of lots of tests. It was more of them getting a sense my familiarity with some basic tools of business – a laptop and MS Office so they could assess my training needs.  This stage also included an exercise to gauge how you might deal with a real life business issue. I was given 30 minutes to read some material and I was then interviewed about the issues that cropped up.  This did include some number crunching but nothing too daunting.  The questions weren’t aggressive but they were searching and intelligent. I got the sense that they wanted you to be clear about your reasoning rather than having the right answer. The last part of the process was a final interview round that explored my long-term goals.

Were you anxious when you were about to start?  Terrified really. Normally though you would get an induction which includes a week on core consulting skills. There are also extra optional training courses on things like presentation skills, facilitating and a ‘tools of the trade’ session covering things like Excel and PowerPoint.  In the longer term you can pick and choose specialist areas such as business analysis courses or PRINCE2.  You are also assigned a counselling manager –  a senior person from the business that helps you shape your career.

How have you found the work?  I’ve really found it perfect for me.  Lots of variety – I’ve worked in travel, software, rail and retail.  Even with a single client you can be part of several different teams.  For example, right now, I’ve been working with a major supermarket.  I’m taking a lead role in growing their Loyalty Scheme but am also involved with other teams for the same client.  While much of our work does involve IT in one way or another, the main core of what I do right now is concerned with marketing and customer insights. For example there are so many different facets to a loyalty scheme and new initiatives can impact many different areas  of the client’s business – cross-departmental senior directors on the one hand and IT systems architects on the other, as well as the client’s marketing partners.

My role is to drive progress by facilitating strategic workshops in a way clients may not be able to. It’s my job to bring together all the differing and sometimes conflicting business perspectives to achieve the best solution to a loyalty initiative or problem. The Directors may have a long term view of the company, the marketers are usually very creative and the IT people may be cautious about over promising on the technology front. I’m there to synthesise the ideas and expertise from all these individuals to facilitate the development of a business strategy. This kind of project makes you realise how important communication is as a consultant.  For example you have to make pitches for work to clients. Even when you get a contract you are often interviewed by a client to see if they want to have you as a consultant on the team.

What tips would you have for current students?

  • Consider applying early. My friends were understandably focused on their finals but I wanted the piece of mind knowing that I had a job waiting for me once I graduated. Once Qedis confirmed my spot, I had a clear head for my exams and also relaxed in the thought that I didn’t have to move back in with my parents, which after 4 years of independence would have been a bit of an adjustment.
  • Get some interview practice. Not just with the Careers & Enterprise Centre, but with graduate recruiters as well. I went to about 3 interviews with other firms because I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable talking about myself and answering typical interview questions, which can be surprisingly hard to do if you’ve not done it much. And you never know, you may even like the companies you interview for.
  • Consulting is great if you don’t know what you want to do and get bored easily, because you get the chance to work with different companies in a range of industries.
  • Make sure you are signed up to all the right sites, emails and sources of jobs and information.
  • Use the Careers & Enterprise Centre. If I hadn’t read my email from them about Qedis, I wouldn’t be working here now.

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