The 7 Steps to Becoming a Management Consultant
STep 2: Craft a compelling "elevator pitch"
Describe Who You Are, Your Experience and Why You Want to Be a Consultant
So you’ve done your research, decided that management consulting is the career for you, and maybe even started to hone in on the type of consulting you think you’re interested in. The next step is to get out there are start talking to other consultants. This is critical for several reasons:
- To understand the industry and a particular firm, you have to get out and talk to people that work in that industry and for that firm. Books and articles are no substitute for the real thing.
- You need to understand what differentiates one firm from another. It is not until you start to meet consultants from a particular firm that you begin to get a sense for its culture, its energy, its attitude...things that can’t be described on a corporate website.
- Most importantly, if you ever plan to get a job at any of these firms, you’re going to need to know at least a few people that work there. Management consulting is highly competitive and a blind resume drop likely will not result in an interview. You simply must have some contact with the firm if you expect to get a job offer.
What is an Elevator Pitch and Why Do You Need One?
We’ll talk about how you go about networking with consultants in Step 3, but first, before you ever talk to anyone, you have to give them a reason to want to talk to you. Consultants work long hours, travel and are constantly bombarded with requests from eager young graduates hoping to make a connection at the firm. In order to be noticed, you have to concisely articulate to them who you are, why you want to talk with them, and why they should take 15 minutes out of their busy day to talk to you, a complete stranger. Ideally, you should be able to do this in 30 seconds or less, and do so in a way that makes them want to talk to you.
People call it an ‘elevator pitch’. Imagine you’re in an elevator with the CEO of your dream company. You have until the elevator reaches the lobby to tell them who you are and why they should take note of you. This is your only chance so you better make it count. There is no time for fumbling or stories that go off on a tangent. You need a prepackaged elevator pitch. You should write it out, practice it and refine it before you reach out to anyone.
How to Develop Your Elevator Pitch
A good elevator pitch immediately introduces who you are and what you’re looking for. It summarizes your experience in a way that is relevant and shows both why you’re interested in consulting and why you're qualified for the job. It should have a hook - something memorable that makes you stand out. Did you start a business when you were 16 that fueled a passion for enterprise and innovation? Did you discover your love of problem solving while circumnavigating the globe? You can assume that everyone applying to a top tier consulting firm is smart, went to a decent school and has good experience, so what makes you special?
Most importantly, your elevator pitch should be flexible and tailored to the individual you are speaking to. Start with a basic foundation - the same story you will tell every person you speak to - but leave pockets open to adjust the pitch based on the situation. Is the person you're speaking with an expert in the Healthcare Industry? Then figure out a way to adjust your story to mention a research paper you wrote on Healthcare Regulation. Do they specialize in marketing? Figure out a way to talk about how your Marketing professor was the one who suggested you pursue a career in consulting. Obviously, all these things need to be true (don’t make anything up), but it is absolutely critical that you give the person a reason to want to talk to you. If you can share a fresh perspective, have a unique point of view, or just tell a really good story, consultants will be happy to take 10 minutes to chat with you. Remember, you are asking them for something valuable - their time (and maybe a recommendation), so you have to show value in return.
Practicing Your Pitch
Write your elevator pitch down on paper. Edit it, then edit it again. Cut out anything that is not essential. Then rehearse it again and again until it rolls off your tongue naturally and fluidly. Finally, practice it in front of people. Tell it to your parents, your friends, your professors, and ask for honest feedback. This is hard. Really hard. It’s embarrassing to talk about yourself, but it is the only way to get better. Ask them what resonated and where you lost them. Ask for suggestions on how to simplify things, how to make it clearer, how to make it more engaging.
You’ll be amazed how valuable the feedback will be. Once you’ve perfected your elevator pitch, you’re ready to get out there and start networking.
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