Consulting: Myths vs. Facts

Updated: Nov 25

Choosing a career can be a daunting task. With the variety of information available online, it is easy to be misled by myths which can deter students from many potential opportunities. Industry facts can highlight the lucrative and rewarding nature of a career in consulting, but with the many benefits consulting holds, stereotypes and misconceptions still exist. In this blogpost, the Schulich Consulting Club has chosen to address a few of the most popular inaccuracies, so that the members and students interested in this industry have a more accurate idea regarding the reality of consulting.


Myth #1: GPA is the only thing that matters when recruiting

Fact: Consultants are versatile, knowledgeable, and personable individuals who tackle the most complex and challenging business problems. With this comes the assumption that to be an excellent consultant, one can only land in the industry by obtaining the highest GPA possible. Although consultants are talented business professionals, GPA is not the only factor being considered when it comes to success in consulting. While it does carry significance, SCC refers to the ‘consulting trifecta’, a valuable set of 3 pillars that industry prospects should follow in order to be successful within consulting.


It is important that candidates understand the value of the trifecta, as consulting firms look at candidates holistically through evaluating GPA along with one’s networking efforts and previous leadership experience.


  • GPA → Highlighting academic success

GPA can reflect a candidate’s work ethic and determination in an academic setting. Though it is important to maintain a good academic standing, the following two components of the “Consulting Trifecta” are equally important when recruiting for consulting.


  • Networking → Making authentic connections and leaving a lasting impression

When entering a client facing role, soft-skills are mandatory for the success of any business be it large or small. Understanding how to communicate with clients as well as collaborate effectively with team members are absolutely essential to the work of consultants. Consulting firms are cognizant of this and like other firms, will seek to hire individuals who leave strong, positive impressions amongst those they have interacted with. Successfully networking with consultants and other professionals at firms you would like to work with can significantly increase your chances of landing an internship or full-time position in consulting.


  • Leadership & Work Experience → Finding opportunities to craft your story


Previous experiences play a crucial role in demonstrating one’s ability to excel as a consultant. Previous experiences can range from volunteering to extracurriculars to working in different roles at other firms. Experiences exhibit the type of person a candidate is and the potential strengths they can bring to the firm. For example, if there is a candidate who has interned in a finance-oriented role and has displayed skills utilizing budgeting and financial modeling, they now have demonstrated that they possess transferable skills for a financial consulting role.



For these reasons, learning how to network effectively and having meaningful leadership or work experience are equally as important as your GPA. They give a much larger picture of who you are as a person and how you will operate as a consultant. Remember to leverage your experiences and to network! An excellent guide for this is SCC’s Networking Etiquette Guide available on the SCC website under “Resources”.


Myth #2: All consultants do is make slide decks

Fact: The most simple and effective method of communicating ideas is through the creation of a slide deck. While slide decks are imperative at selling a vision and answering client questions, a consultant does much more than just create ‘slide decks’. Consulting requires creating innovative solutions, utilizing problem-solving, and collaborating with various teams in order to achieve clients’ goals and bring value to their firms. The day-to-day life of a consultant is dynamic and can consist of (but not limited to) the following activities:

  • Client interviews and industry research

  • Analyzing data and extracting insights

  • Presenting findings and recommendations

Dedicating time to understanding various problems, studying industry trends, and providing engaging presentations are all large parts within the job of a consultant. As the industry continues to evolve and move forward, firms have begun to help implement the solutions they have proposed. This is a clear display of consulting work not just being limited to slide decks, but also involving creative problem solving, client-facing soft skills, and movement towards project management & project implementation.


Myth #3: MBB are the only consulting firms

Fact: The term MBB stands for, McKinsey, BCG, and Bain which are known as the “Big 3” consulting firms. While these firms maintain massive global presences, there are many other types of firms that provide opportunities for an impactful consulting career. This can be seen within boutique consulting firms, which are more specialized in terms of projects, as well as the “Big Four” (EY, PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG) which have a variety of work within both strategy and implementation. These specializations can range from but are not limited to:

  • Human capital

  • Technology

  • Finance

  • Healthcare

  • Risk management

  • Customer & marketing


An example of a firm which specializes in a unique stream of work, is the boutique consulting firm Avascent. Avascent focuses on defense, aerospace, and technology projects using their talent’s expertise to help solve client’s problems. A great opportunity to learn more about the specialized work of boutique consulting firms would be at the Schulich Consulting Club’s Boutique Firms Panel, which takes place during January!


Conclusion

After reading this blog post, SCC hopes you were able to gain new insights and clear some misconceptions regarding the consulting industry. To break into the field, the focus of students should be not only to have a good GPA, but to also build a large and well-founded set of experiences while leaving a positive impression of those who work at the firm. It is also important to recognize that the work of consultants itself changes from project to project, utilizing creativity, personability, and problem-solving! There are also a variety of different firms to choose from, bolstering work from a number of different industries that you may find yourself enjoying.