7 Tips to Become a Great Consulting Analyst

Lessons from a second year veteran Analyst at a large Consulting Firm

Photo: Jerry Zhang/Unsplash

The start of autumn signals the much-awaited holiday season, pumpkin-spiced everything, and hopefully, a slightly more nippy weather. Along with the traditional warm and fuzzies, autumn also brings about exciting changes in various mega-firms as they kickstart campus recruiting.

Having been a previous intern and a direct campus hire into a large Consulting firm, I’m passionate about bringing top talent into the firm that has given so much for me. I’m fortunate to be a part of the recruiting efforts at my company, and this year, the most frequently asked question was: “how do you become a good Consulting analyst?”

This question was prompted by someone asking me about my changed title on LinkedIn (way to go on your due diligence), and how I was able to set myself up for success to ensure a promotion.

It’s not always easy, and being a consultant often involves long working hours and unpredictable day-to-day schedule, but I wouldn’t trade my experience in this industry for anything else. I’ve been fortunate to sit beside three high-tech clients in their offices, and experience their corporate culture in the most holistic and intimate way; it almost feels like I had worked for three different companies instead of just one — the best kind of “rotational” experience for those of us who are just starting out in our careers.

For those of you who are interested in Consulting as a career, or for those who are just starting out as an analyst, here are some tips from a veteran analyst to make sure you stand out, especially at a big firm like mine:

1. Take business personality tests seriously

In Consulting, you’ll constantly be interacting with people, which is why it’s important to understand how teams work together and how you can contribute to the teams most effectively.

When you first start at a company, you’ll likely take a business personality test to help facilitate this exploration. I made the mistake of taking this task lightly when I first started, and it took me a few months to truly understand and analyze how different business personalities worked together. It was only after working with various teams with great synergies, and also with those that were on the verge of falling apart, that I reviewed the different types of business personalities to identify why some teams were successful and why some were not. I was able to re-evaluate my business personality and contribute to each team in a way that would play to each team members’ motivations and strengths. This helped good teams work better, and bad teams more tolerable.

If I hadn’t taken the time to observe different team members’ business personalities and identified the actions that would play to their personalities, I would not have been a successful analyst.

2. Understand your personal values and build your brand

This point ties closely in with the benefits of business personality tests. Understanding teams well is important, but the true value lies in knowing what you can bring to the table amidst those teams.

When I first joined the firm from college, I was still in the process of solidifying my values and identifying my strengths. With the help my firm in allowing me to experience different clients, roles, and tasks, I was able to build my brand within my network. I pushed my strengths in all endeavors that I undertook, and made sure that people would associate me with my positive brand to set myself up for success in future opportunities. I was able to establish myself as a strong communicator, diligent worker, and a passionate advocate for junior talent experience during my first two years at the firm.

Being able to recognize and speak up for your personal brand is an invaluable advantage in career advancement — your brand will align with your values, and speak to who you are as a person at the core.

3. Understand how the organization is structured, and the people in leadership positions

Advancing in your career is difficult if you don’t know the clear path to grow. It’s essential to understand the different promotion levels, average time it takes to jump from level to level, and the people in leadership who can advocate for you during your promotion years. Recognizing how the current leadership got to their levels is powerful as well, because those who have already achieved what you wish can help guide you through the process.

Although self-advocacy and vying for sponsorship is important, it’s always a good idea to stay humble and show integrity when communicating with leaders.

4. Find and maintain a great mentorship relationship

I met a great peer mentor when I first started at the firm. We still have a great relationship, and I’m indebted for him for a lot of my successes at the firm. I recognize that it’s not always easy to find someone as selfless as him, so I’m forever grateful for him. Since he is only 2 years ahead of me at the firm and have served on the same clients, it almost seems like I’m stepping in his footprints, but with tips and tricks to learn from his mistakes and set myself up for greater success. I also have a mentor who is a leader at the firm, who guide me on my career management from a broader picture.

I encourage a similar set-up, where you can explore diverse mentorship perspectives: one from a peer level, and one from a leadership level.

I want to emphasize that mentorship is not a one-way relationship. I had to put in effort to make sure the mentorship was sustained over the course of two years (and hopefully, many more). I learned that no one at the firm will spoon feed you mentorship, but if you seek out the help, there will always be helpful guiding hands. Finding a balance of being persistent in mentorship without being annoying has been crucial; additionally, if there is anything you can help your mentor with something that you can uniquely provide, don’t hesitate to provide that support.

5. Take initiative by understanding leadership styles and pre-thinking expectations

After a few months at the firm, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to work with some of the same managers, even if we were on different clients or roles. This is sometimes a plus, because I’m familiar with their leadership style and know the quality of work they expect, allowing me to tailor my work to reflect their expectations and wishes.

The biggest hurdle analysts face as they work with different teams is getting used to different leadership styles. However, after a couple of team changes, it gets easier to adapt to this change, and quickly figure out what will make certain leaders happy. In order to stand out, observe new leaders’/managers’ responses to previous deliverables, and understand what type of work they enjoy receiving. This can be something as simple as a font preference.

If you’re able to pre-think their expectations before sending in your first deliverable, you’ll be sure to “wow” your leader/manager.

6. Never start anything from scratch

Consulting is an industry with multiple years of history. There have been decades of successful consultants in the past, who will inevitably have created whatever document you’ve been asked to create. Look through your company resources page, or ask a peer who are one or two years ahead of you for an example of the document, and in 95% of cases, you’ll be able to leverage what you find to save at least 50% of the effort. Never, ever, start anything from scratch.

As a special note, I want to mention that deck skills are king in the world of consulting. You’ll get a decent exposure to a variety of Microsoft Suite products, but I’d say PowerPoint presentations are the most ubiquitous of them all; presentation decks gives us a powerful platform to communicate our value propositions and recommendations with our clients. As a cherry on top, this skillset is immensely valuable and marketable in industries beyond consulting.

Knowing how to present information in a concise, understandable, and engaging way takes a lot of trial and error and experience, but your first year as an analyst will give you plenty of exposure in this skillset. When someone asks for help on a deck, don’t take it lightly — take it as a chance to improve this important skillset, so that you can “wow” any type of audience. Save all decks that you particularly enjoy, and use them as a template when you’re working on future slides.

There is always a way to mold the required information to fit a template, and having a depository of preferred templates will not only help you in finding your own “deck style,” but also save you valuable time for time-sensitive requests.

7. Understand the path to career advancement and get involved strategically

Finally, the biggest tip I can give to new/ prospective Consulting analysts is to choose tasks wisely. There is always an abundance of work to be done, and never enough people. After a few months of trying different tasks/ roles out, understand what tasks will help you advance in your career, and help you develop as an employee.

Some of these tasks may be more challenging than others, but if they can help you grow professionally, take the challenge, and figure it out.

I’ve had to Google/YouTube/ Udemy multiple skillsets required to complete a task, but I always thought of these experiences as ways to invest in myself.

Taking on challenging tasks that will add to my personal brand (Note: point #2) helped me stand out as an analyst because others were able to recognize my willingness to learn and grow despite the heavier time commitment.

I hope you enjoyed the tips from my short two years at the firm. As someone who is a big proponent of peer mentorship, I want to share these with new/prospective Consulting analysts who may the experience to be daunting.

It’ll be challenging at times, but know that there are thousands of successful veteran analysts who have gone through these same experiences…which just made us stronger.

Go own your career, and kick some butt.

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Jackie Kim

Jackie Kim

Life philosophies: ambition, diligence, and selflessness. Daughter, immigrant, and consultant dedicated to becoming her personal best, while elevating others.

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