Maximising my chances of success getting to top consulting company?
November 30, 2007 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I have a year before I am eligible to work for a big consulting company. What should I do during this year to maximise my chances of success, or bump up starting salary?

I have only one subject (capstone thesis, no classes) to do next year, however big companies don't accept applicants who have not graduated. And graduate positions start only at the beginning of each year. With only one subject to do in 2008, I have a lot time.

Over a year of object-oriented coding
Over a year of mobile phones sales
Degree: BE Software, BA Int'l Studies in Chinese (6yr course)
Avg grades: ~73/100
Activities: Some involvement with clubs and volunteer programs, nothing outstanding or demonstrating leadership, debating skills or care for the greater community
Country: Australia
Willing to relocate to: UK, US, NZ, Asia
Companies of interest:
Particularly Bain and BCG for their reputation in culture and work/life balance

I've considered getting a full-time job geared towards it, like IT sales or business analyst. Also maybe being more active with uni activities. Just not sure what directions would maximise return. Any advice in any area is welcome.
posted by gttommy to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The way to maximize your earning potential is to show that you offer great value to the company that is going to hire you. If they see how valuable you are, they will try to make you an offer you cannot refuse, that is how business works.

Often the way to do this is by having highly specialized and applicable experience, or having a record of one or more impressive successes.

I work in a completely and totally different field, so the practical advice I could give for you is nil.

However, if you're interested in working for BCG or Bain specifically, and have an idea the capacity you'd like to work in at those companies, I'd say that the best way to focus your energies is to think like the hiring manager who would be considering you for a position. What is their ideal candidate's experience and profile? If you don't have enough experience in the field in order to do that, I would set out to "interview" folks who do.

Then work to become that person, whatever that entails. It looks like that's exactly what you're trying to do by posting this question, and I wish I had meat & potatoes advice for you (like, "people at BCG who are responsible for hiring like people who wear blue blazers and sang in a choir") -- but I don't have that.

All that said, success snowballs. I have become successful in my career based off of one big major win I have on my resume. That big win? I got by following my heart. I did not set out to meet a goal in order to win in the working world. I set out to do something that I was passionate about, and it worked out incredibly well for me. I think the reason that it did was because my passion was genuine, and it resonated with the folks I interviewed with when it came time for me to find different work.

There's nothing more powerful than hiring someone who is capable and truly passionate. When I'm hiring and I can't find that person, I go with the ambitious person, because the results are often the same, but given the choice, I'll go with the person who seems passionate about what they do over the person who seems passionate about succeeding, every time.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2007

Get to know someone in the companies you'd like to work for. Maybe they're alumni from your university, maybe through some industry networking event, perhaps a job shadow or something else. But knowing someone on the inside is going to go much further than just about anything else.
posted by Nelsormensch at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2007

You have identified recruiters at Bain and BCG, right? And you've asked for informational interviews?
posted by Kwantsar at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2007

When you do talk to someone at those companies, solicit advice about what to write your thesis on. They may know that they will be needing to hire someone in the middle of '08 with a great deal of specialized knowledge in (topic X). Well, you just wrote a big thesis on it so you could bring that to the table.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:10 PM on November 30, 2007

Best answer: The advice about informational interviews is very good advice. Not only will the professionals you meet with be able to answer your questions, but they will also recognize your name in the pile of resumes they receive a year from now. That'll be a clear benefit when you apply.

Get involved in student government - it shows the kind of intellectual involvement that's appealing to potential employers.

Get a part-time job or internship (or even volunteer) at a consulting company, and don't worry about it being a 'big company' - when you're a fresh graduate, any directly applicable experience is great experience.

Participate in business case competitions.

Join your local chamber of commerce association, they often have youth/young adult wings.

Start a small business and be able to demonstrate the business planning and acumen that went into it. A business as unrelated to consulting as 'tutoring french' can show your skills in business and market planning, or accounting, or client management. (etc).
posted by Kololo at 2:37 PM on November 30, 2007

Do any of the big companies in which you are interested offer student internships? It might give you an "in" if you do good work; you'd at least make some industry contacts. I don't know about overseas internships; it wouldn't exactly be like an exchange program.
posted by Cricket at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2007

I have 2 friends who work for McKinsey (one turned down BCG) and I did quite a bit of looking into the big consulting firms myself. My sense is that you won't even get an interview with your grades; that might be mitigated somewhat if you had significant extracurricular leadership involvement. Sorry to be harsh, but based on what you've said and what I know about consulting firms, I would give you low odds of getting what you're looking for. If it's any consolation my friends aren't really loving the 80 hour workweeks.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:17 PM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: All very helpful answers, thank you all!
posted by gttommy at 11:24 PM on November 30, 2007

Particularly Bain and BCG for their reputation in culture and work/life balance


There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to work for a Bain or BCG, but "work/life balance" is not one of them. If you want to do software development in a consulting environment that's got a more "traditional" corporate approach (as opposed to an interactive agency), you're far better off looking at one of what used to be "the big five"--IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, E&Y, etc. You'll still work hard, but as part of a much larger team, and you're more likely to squeeze in a real life around the edges of your work.
posted by LairBob at 7:08 AM on December 1, 2007

Response by poster: "Bain or BCG... "work/life balance" is not one of them"

My sources are from but if you, an experienced professional, say so I will keep that in mind.
posted by gttommy at 9:46 PM on December 1, 2007

« Older Who was that mean monster?   |   How should I track freelance graphic design jobs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.