I joined L.E.K. in 2011 after graduating from Imperial College, where I studied Biochemistry. During my time at L.E.K. I’ve worked on projects across a wide range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, oil & gas, and insurance. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a pro bono project for one of the UK’s largest charity organisations.
Having had little experience in a corporate setting prior to joining L.E.K., I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Looking back, I think one of the biggest surprises was how friendly the people were when I arrived and how many have come to be good friends.
Why did you choose a job in consultancy?
It was late into my second year of university that I made the decision not to further pursue academia. I knew that I wanted to do something in business, but at the time I wasn’t sure of the industry or profession I wanted to focus on. The most important factors for me were that I worked in a job which allowed me to develop a wide set of skills, gain exposure to a range of industries and have a varied day to day schedule.
I looked into a number of career paths, but strategy consulting stood out because it involved short projects dealing with high level issues across a wide range of industries. Short project lengths mean that you get to work in lots of industries and you get experience of working with a completely different team every couple of months. Working on high level strategic problems means that you need to be able to think holistically about the business and so allows you to develop a wide range of skills.
What skills are useful in the profession?
I think that the two most important skills in consulting are the ability to structure a broad and often vague question, and the ability to communicate this structure concisely in both written and verbal form. However, these are skills which you will continue to develop throughout your career.
As a new joiner, skills that you would be expected to have already developed to some extent are the ability to prioritise tasks, conduct basic quantitative analysis, and summarise the key findings of information gathered from desktop research.
What are your main duties/roles?
At L.E.K. you’ll find that your role and people’s expectations of you changes quite significantly over a short period of time. For example, in the first six months you’ll inevitably be ‘learning the ropes’ and get substantial experience in workplace best practices (e.g. creating slides and spreadsheets to specific standards), and both primary and secondary research.
Most new joiners will have developed secondary research skills to a certain extent, but mainly in a narrow subject area. In strategy consulting you will be working in completely different industries every few months, and so you will need to be able to quickly identify reliable sources of information in a subject area which is new to you.
After a year and half at L.E.K., I find that whilst I still do research to some extent, the majority of my time is focused on managing a small group of associates to complete a work module on time, analysing information to draw out the key commercial implications, and thinking of ways to best communicate the team’s findings.
Is it a 9-5 job?
In short, consulting is not a 9-5 job and it’s no secret that consulting often requires hard work, which can lead to late nights at certain deadlines. Consulting requires you to tackle difficult questions which are often quite ambiguous at the start and, especially when working to a limited timeframe, you can find yourself working quite hard.
It’s a fairly intense job and it keeps you busy and engaged throughout the day – and this is what makes it so rewarding. My colleagues are also a constant source of banter and we share a real sense of teamwork, which makes a big difference to the working environment.
Late working isn’t always necessary, however, and I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you’re clear on what you need to do and stay focused and efficient during the day, there is seldom the need to work late.
Working in consulting still gives you time to pursue hobbies and dreams. For example, in December 2012 I took five weeks off work to travel to Argentina and climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia. In the months running up to the trip, I was able to navigate my way around work hours to train five times every week.
Any advice for the application process?
The application process is a busy and pressured time for everyone. The most important thing to remember is it’s worth investing a fair bit of time into your applications. What I found to be helpful was to block out a full weekend to do my company and industry research, another weekend to write up all the paperwork for my applications, and then a final weekend to review and edit.
This meant that during the week I could focus on my other commitments without having applications in the back of my mind, and have all my applications finished in just over two weeks’ time.
If you have access to university careers fairs, you should attend them. I advise that you attend with these questions in mind:
- What is actually involved in consulting, and does this fit into my mid-to long-term career goals?
- What makes this company different from other consulting companies?
- Can I see myself working with the people I meet?
The answers to these questions should be reflected in your cover letter.
I would also advise getting feedback on your CV and cover letter. Get feedback from your university’s careers service, and if you have any family or friends working in consulting, ask them to look over your application. Even help from someone in a similar industry can be very useful.