Ten Top Tips from the Spotlight on Management Consultancy
Read on if you weren’t able to come to the very successful event recently around Management Consultancy careers for PhDs and research staff!
Consultant at Capco
Grant completed a PhD in English Literature at Exeter University, having formerly completed an MA in History at Exeter, and a Bachelors in History at the University of Kansas. His research focused on the rediscovered papers of the First World War soldier-poet F.W. Harvey, resulting in the first academic biographical study of Harvey’s life and work. He is currently a Consultant at Capco, joining through their Armed Forces to Capco programme, having been a military officer prior to my MA/PhD.
Manager, KPMG Management Consulting Healthcare Team
Philip’s PhD at Bath Spa focused on the interactions between reward pathways and attention pathways in the brain and how they are affected by nicotine in order to find new therapeutic targets for disorders such as schizophrenia. He took a particular interest in how dopamine levels in the brain would change in this pathways as a result of increasing the effects of nicotinic signalling.
He is now a Manager in the KPMG Management Consulting Healthcare Team. He specialises in redesigning healthcare services across whole care systems, involving the NHS, local government and not-for-profit sectors.
Nick Faull is a Principal in Oliver Wyman’s London Office within the Financial Services practice. He has nine years of experience in consulting to Financial Services institutions across Europe with a focus on strategic IT and operations topics. He joined the firm after completing an atmospheric physics DPhil and a 2-year postdoc at the University of Oxford, working on the largest climate modelling experiment in the world.
- Talk to your careers service! Both Grant and Phil used the careers events at their university to help with career inspiration and choice, as well as application feedback.
- Choose a consultancy based either on your interest area (eg finance, life science) or because it has a very broad base and will expose you to multiple sector areas
- Consulting is a good profession for allowing you to find out more about what other roles are possible in the world; consultants often move into the industries they have been supporting through their consultancy work, or become more senior and specialist in their particular consultancy practice.
- There are many transferable skills from PhD or other research work; researching data or interviewing client employees is similar to many people’s research methodology; drawing conclusions from your own data; report writing; tender writing is very similar to applying for grants; and making presentations. Consulting is about understanding a problem and solving it, much like writing a PhD.
- The main differences are the fast pace – clients will often want work produced at very short notice – and the number of projects on the go at one time. The stress is often higher and there is less time to sit and reflect. You rarely use the academic knowledge that you have in a particular research field, though Phil did get to work on data for the ABPI.
- Travel is a given, unless you choose a consultancy (such as CapCo, for example) that focuses on a particular geographical area (financial services technology). As you become more senior, you would be better able to choose the kind of clients you work with and therefore the travel you have to undertake. Consultants can usually choose to be available for emails etc during their leave and many firms actively discourage this practice.
- PhDs and other researchers are usually very positively viewed by consultancy firms. Be clear about what the reason is you are being pulled towards consultancy as they are likely to ask you at interview why you don’t want to continue in academia. Reasons given by the panel include the opportunity to work on a variety of projects at once, and seeing a more immediate impact.
- The kind of work varies enormously. Phil was a tutor on some NHS management training recently; Grant got to advise a charity during his induction period; Nick works within financial services advising regulators.
- Different companies will have different ways of managing recruitment and subsequent progression within a company. All three entered via a graduate training scheme, though Grant came from a specific Armed Forces scheme and hence started perhaps slightly higher grade than a standard graduate. Oliver Wyman has no timeline for promotion and works with individuals to help them develop; CapCo you are finding your own project and almost applying for each new piece of work; KPMG you may well find yourself studying for an accountancy qualification.
- Areas likely to remain buoyant within consulting include IT, data, technology; leadership development and organisational conduct and culture. And strategy will never go away!