After working as an admissions director here at American University’s Kogod School of Business for just over a year, I enrolled as a student in our MBA program in the Fall of 2019.
Pursuing a graduate business degree felt like a clear and natural fit, given my goal of starting my own business down the road.
Prior to joining American University, I worked in the media industry as a corporate recruiter. My former manager challenged my team to work with a “consultative mindset”. She encouraged us to use data and best practices to advise both our candidates and internal clients through the hiring process. Little did I know this initial training would prove incredibly valuable as both an admissions counselor and MBA student.
Given that I wear these two “hats” here at Kogod, I have had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of consulting jobs and building such a skillset in business school.
What skills do you need to be a consultant?
In essence, consulting is advising organizations on the best course of action to achieve their goal(s).
Consultants use many tools at their disposal in order to craft these recommendations, such as databases, interviews, and expert networks. They can work across a wide variety of sectors, such as strategy, operations, human capital, technology––the list goes on!
The goal of pursuing eventual careers in the consulting industry is a common motivator for many prospective students applying to business school––and for good reason. Depending on the graduate business degree you ultimately choose to pursue, you can gain the training you need to succeed as a consultant in the industry you choose.
Your options: Is the MBA your best option for a career in consulting?
Many business schools––including Kogod––offer master’s degrees, in addition to the MBA at the graduate level.
While MSc degrees are more concentrated on one area of business, with the goal of students becoming subject matter experts, I oftentimes describe an MBA as a “business buffet”. Pursuing an MBA provides students with the opportunity to try many different areas of business, with a strong emphasis in developing strategy and leadership skills. Regardless of which degree is ultimately right for you, there can be a home for you within the consulting industry.
Consultants can either work within a consultant firm––juggling multiple projects and multiple clients at once––or they choose to work in-house within a broader organization. It’s a diverse field and an incredible way to utilize the hard and soft skill toolkit you’ll develop in your graduate business program, as well as complementing your previous academic and professional experiences. It’s a profession that lends itself well to people who may identify as a “career pivoter”.
How do I position my MBA application for a consulting pivot?
As an admissions director, I’m consistently asked what my one piece of advice is for applicants who are in the process of applying, or are even considering applying to a graduate business program.
Without question, that advice is to think backwards: reverse engineer your career and envision the end goal. In fact, Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.”
This is especially applicable if you’re looking to pursue careers in consulting. You’ll be thankful that you chose a degree and pursued opportunities that ultimately honed your skillset in preparation for your desired next steps.
You just need to make sure you do your research first, and figure out your specific areas of interest within consulting so they program you choose best fits your career goals.
Personally, I chose to pursue an MBA because I felt that my own skillset could use additional development. Given the emphasis on education both in and outside of the classroom as a graduate business student, I consistently advise applicants and my fellow classmates to pursue real-life projects that complement their studies.
Would Kogod help me pivot?
Here at the Kogod, experiential education is a key component of the graduate experience. Nearly every one of our graduate programs provides an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-life business scenario.
I strongly recommend those students looking to pivot into a consulting role keep a close eye out for programs that emphasize experiential education.
As a current student myself, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable my MBA from Kogod has been in my own development.
The experience of working to develop your skillset at business school––even when your prior work experience in this field––is a cornerstone of any successful career in consulting.