Over a third of prospective MBAs enter business school knowing they want to go into consulting after it. Even more end up there, with 69% of alumni surveyed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in 2018 working in consulting roles.
The benefits are clear. Business school alumni working in consulting boast an average salary of $115,000, according to GMAC.
The UK is the birthplace of big-name consulting firms like Deloitte and PwC and is one of the most popular study destinations for international MBA students.
At Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS), 55-60% of MBA students typically stay in the UK and EU after graduation. Last year, 22% of the MBA class went into consulting.
We spoke to two international MBA alumni from AMBS and came up with four tips for picking the right business school if you want to pursue a career in consulting:
1. Pick a proactive careers service
“The whole reason you go to business school is to get a job afterwards and the post-grad careers service at Manchester is great at helping you achieve that,” says Zonna Norman, originally from Florida, who graduated from the MBA at Alliance MBS in 2018.
Zonna now works on international assignments as a senior consultant at a UK-based firm, something she puts down to the Postgraduate Careers Service’s on-campus recruitment activities held throughout the year.
These efforts are consolidated in the annual week-long ‘Careers Expo’, as well as regular webinars and visits to companies such as Google and Amazon.
When choosing a business school, it makes sense to look at its careers offering and its strength in putting students into jobs in consulting first.
2. Consider your network
It’s common knowledge that MBAs are as much about the network as they are about the knowledge you gain.
Zonna is used to having a diverse set of connections. She’s worked in a varied array of roles including as an IT operations lead for a big Fortune 500 conglomerate while even being a cheerleader for NBA basketball team Milwaukee Bucks at the same time.
She explains that the UK job market can be hard to infiltrate as an international student so the support on offer from the MBA alumni network at Manchester—many of them consultants themselves—made it much easier.
“Alumni frequently reach out through the school and LinkedIn about opportunities available at their companies,” she says.
3. Look for real-life consulting experience
The best way to learn is by doing. MBA candidates interested in consulting should look for programs where they get the chance to try out what consulting is like—through project work or internships—before they take the career leap.
MBA students at Alliance Manchester Business School take part in three consulting projects: Not-for-profit, Commercial, and International. Students have worked with big-name firms like Audi and Tesco.
For her international consulting project, Zonna travelled to Australia, spending 20 days in Sydney and Melbourne conducting surveys, liaising with marketing agencies and discussing with operations professionals on how her project company could best expand into new markets.
Lissette Tucto Mechan (pictured), originally from Peru, also graduated as part of last year’s MBA class and is now an assistant manager at KPMG. She credits her MBA consulting experiences in helping her to think more holistically, and improving her ability to identify and understand client needs.
“Thanks to my MBA, I now look beyond individual client projects to see the big picture and anticipate future challenges,” she says.
4. Do your homework on a business school
Do all the above. And then dig even deeper. Being clued up on what a school is known for and how they help students pursue a path into certain careers is crucial.
Some MBA programs will be better suited for people wanting to work in finance; some are best for marketing professionals. Looking at employment reports and talking to alumni can give you a good indication of whether a certain MBA will be the tool you need to propel your consultancy career.
Lissette emphasizes the importance of taking the time to reflect on your ambitions. “I had a tech consulting background but my Manchester MBA gave rise to an internship in banking and now I’m working in financial management consulting,” Lissette attests.
“You need to build your career story and an MBA is the perfect tool to do this. Drawing on these experiences makes you attractive for future jobs.”