As you drop your signed offer letter into the mail box (or, more likely, click “Submit” on the digital form), it occurs to you that it’s finally official: you’re going to be a consultant! Now what?
Up until this point, you’ve had structured guidance leading you along the path to secure an offer. From company research to networking, case interview prep to sell weekends, there was always a clear next step. But the offer is only the beginning. Now that you have a position secured, how do you make sure you arrive prepared on day one of your consulting career?
Since you have just signed an offer letter, chances are you’re in school, either undergrad or business school. One of the best ways to prepare for a consulting role is to continue taking courses that are applicable to consulting. This certainly includes finance, strategy and leadership courses, but the truth is nearly any course can help you become a better consultant. An astronomy course will build analytical thinking within complex topics. A creative writing course will improve your ability to clearly write concise slides. Even a music theory course will foster the ability to think in a structured manner, as is required on any case. The point is, nearly any learning is valuable for a consultant, so while it’s important to take business-oriented courses, be sure to take courses you enjoy.
In addition to class work, one of the best ways to improve business knowledge is for you to follow business news. Consultants work with clients across a number of different industries, and it’s important to be in touch with what is going in whichever industry (or industries) is of interest to your client. Feel free to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal if you’d like, but there are more than enough free news sources online to provide you with the basics.
Beyond developing general skills, learning specifics about your new firm will make sure you know exactly what to expect. Much of this information can be found online (company websites, consulting news sources, etc.), but don’t be afraid to ask questions of people at your firm. By this point, you’ve met dozens of people via networking events, alumni phone calls, interviews, and sell weekends. Each of these people know exactly what information is necessary to succeed at your new firm (chances are, if they didn’t know, they wouldn’t still be there). In many cases, someone will be assigned to reach out to you before you start, but if not, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask the questions only an insider can answer.
However, given the rigorous nature of a consulting career, perhaps the most valuable use of the time between receiving an offer and starting work is to invest time in your personal life. Certainly, consulting firms like L.E.K. place great emphasis on work/life balance, and work hard to enable your ability to maintain a satisfying life outside of the office. That said, you are unlikely to encounter the calendar of breaks found in college and business school in any professional environment. Use the time you have available to you now to accomplish time intensive activities you won’t be able to in the future. Travel to interesting places. Learn a new hobby. Get involved in a charity. If you’re an undergrad, prepare for and take the GMATs. Just relax with your friends. Once you start working, you will quickly understand just how precious of a resource time can be. Use your current available time to the fullest.
Simply put, the best way to prepare for your career in consulting is to dedicate the next year pursuing the interests and activities that you enjoy. Taking courses you are excited about will prepare a variety of skills applicable to consulting. Reading news about companies that interest you will help you learn industry details. Keeping in touch with friendly people from your firm will provide details about your new company. And committing yourself to activities you enjoy will ensure you’re where you want to be personally when you begin your career. In other words, relax. Enjoy the time you have ahead of you, and the preparation will inherently follow.