man studying

I created a course to teach people the skills you learn while working at a top consulting firm. Few people actually want this.

What people want instead, is access to a job. They want to learn how to land a job at a top firm like McKinsey, Bain or BCG. What they really want is the perceived credibility they believe they need in today’s working world.

While this does still matter, it is increasingly less important.

A couple weeks after I published my course, a driven Malaysian young professional e-mailed me, He wanted to see if he could offer a smaller gift in proportion to his monthly salary (I offer my course as a gift to anyone without the means of payment).

He wrote out a long e-mail detailing why he wanted the course, what he was going to do with it, his intended contributions to his community and what he wanted to do to hopefully offer me a gift in the future.

This blew me away. I’ve had several instances like this over the past few years and all of them have come from non-Americans who are defaulting to the best university in the world as a way to learn – the internet.

I ended up gifting him the course for free and am excited to see what he is able to learn from it. I get so motivated when people take learning into their own lands

Last year, someone on Quora asked what they should do if they wanted to transform themselves into a strategy consultant in five months.

Here is my response that I’ve updated with additional details. This advice is for someone that wants to try to attempt to land a job at a top consulting firm by actually building the skills before landing the job.

Month 1: Dive in and learn the basics

Learn can be painful. This is why most people avoid it. Yet if you truly throw yourself into something, it is not that hard to reach a level of competence that will enable you to find opportunities that put you in a position to keep learning.

These resources are essential for the first month but learning should be continuous and always be looking for new models, new ideas and new concepts worth integrating into your journey.

Month 2-3: Consult.

The internet has changed everything, yet we have not changed our behavior. You used to have to work at a consulting firm like McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group to “consult.” Now all you need is knowledge, an opportunity and a client willing to learn from you.

There are a couple options you can take to start consulting:

  • Put your skills to the test – sign up for projects via Cataland, UpWork or other online platforms. Don’t be afraid to be transparent and bid low, saying “I’d be willing to work on this task for below market rate if you give me feedback”
  • Alternatively, go to local businesses or groups on campus and propose a project to them – everyone has problems to solve. Offer to do it for free or even for a small fee. My experience advising an undergraduate consulting group is that problems are not scarce – but people willing to try to solve them as a learning experiment are..
  • Start practicing some of the lessons from the Think Like A Strategy Consulting course and writing or creating presentations using the principles you learned. Try to pick one business issue you are interested in exploring and write a LinkedIn or Medium post about the topic. (If you e-mail it to me, I’ll give you feedback)

Months 3-5: Keep learning, being curious and prepare for interviews

  • Assuming you are looking to land a consulting gig, craft your story – tailor it around the fact that you already are a consultant and have experience with 1-2 projects at this point (maybe more, who knows).
  • Gain a deeper understanding of your unique strengths and what you are bringing to the table for a consulting firm. Craft a clear and simple story around “Why Consulting?” that shows this off. You can use the strengths exercise in my career transition playbook to do this.
  • Network with people in the industry that share your interests – there are people across most industries and functions in consulting firms.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Practice interviewing with people you trust to give you real, honest feedback. Keep doing it. Use online interviewing skills.
  • Obsess over your resume and cover letter – keep fine-tuning and improving it. Get others’ perspectives and take their feedback (though always with a grain of salt) to keep improving your story. You can take my resume & story course here.

Months 5+: If you fail, keep trying or consider freelancing

I was rejected from McKinsey and BCG (twice) both before I worked at both places. I ended up landing jobs at both firms because my skills matched what they were looking for at the time and I didn’t take my rejections as an indication of my self-worth or abilities. It motivated me to keep trying.

A question I will ask people who want to work in consulting is “do you really want to become a consultant or do you just want the perceived credibility and status from working at these firms“?

As someone who has worked at these firms, it would be hypocritical to say that the benefits of working at these firms are enormous.

However, as I have become a freelance consultant, I have found that the 10 years of consulting experience in a full-time job were not as valuable as I expected.

When I landed my first clients as a freelance, I was faced with the new reality of having to level up my game and own the entire process with my clients. I quickly realized how much I had been supported by an enormous firm and resources in the past.

Many of the things I could rely on for others: document editing, feedback, formatting, tools, teamwork, Partners selling projects etc… I now had to do myself. While the experience in these firms helped me build my confidence, I was quickly humbled by how much I did not know yet when I took the leap.

If you really want to consult, there is no better time than now to become a freelance consultant. You are one LinkedIn message or e-mail to a family friend away from becoming a consultant. The real question is do you still need access to a firm or are you ready to learn on your own?