15 Key Skills for Management Consulting & How to Get The

Skills for management consulting


Having the right skills for management consulting is critical to successfully helping companies solve their toughest challenges and reach their goals.

 

Management consulting is a challenging and fast-paced profession. There are a variety of different soft skills and hard skillsevery successful consultant needs. These skills include: problem solving, strategic thinking, collaboration, analytical thinking, adaptability, and project management to name a few.

 

In this article, we’ll cover the top 15 skills that management consultants need and exactly how to get these skills. This article will be helpful for those looking to break into consulting as well as junior level consultants trying to make their way up to partner.


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What is Management Consulting?

 

Management consulting is the profession of helping companies solve business problems and improve their overall performance. Management consultants look at how a business works and find ways to make it more efficient and profitable.

 

Business problems that management consultants solve include: finding ways to improve revenue, finding ways to increase profits, deciding whether to enter a new market, and deciding whether to acquire another company.

 

Consultants don’t just give advice, but they also often help implement their ideas. They will often work closely with the company to ensure that they successful implement their recommendations and fix any problems that arise.

 

Management consultants are critical to the success of many businesses. They use their skills to understand the market, company, and competitors to develop tailored, actionable strategies to help companies continue to grow and improve.

 

What do Management Consultants do?

 

Management consultants can be thought of as doctors for businesses. They come into a company, examine its operations and health, collect data and information to get the full picture, and then provide advice to the business.

 

So, what do consultants do?

 

There are a variety of different tasks that a management consultant does:

 

  • Analyze a business’s data to uncover key insights and findings

 

  • Research competitors to perform competitor benchmarking

 

  • Conduct market research to better understand market and competitor trends

 

  • Interview industry experts, customers, and employees to collect valuable information

 

  • Collaborate with clients to provide updates and collect feedback

 

  • Creating presentation slides to articulate findings and ideas clearly

 

  • Communicate major findings to the executive leadership team

 

  • Create project plans to ensure recommendations are implemented successfully and on-time

 

  • Manage direct reports, providing mentorship and coaching

 

  • Manage the entire consulting team, providing directions and guidance

 

  • Work on proposals to sell more consulting work

 

It is important to note that the exact tasks and responsibilities that management consultants have varies depending on tenure.

 

Junior level consultants are more focused on doing research, analysis, and making presentation slides. Mid-level consultants are more focused on managing direct reports and collaborating with clients. Senior-level consultants are more focused on managing the entire consulting team and selling more consulting work.

 

What Skills do Management Consultants Need?

 

Management consulting requires many different hard skills and soft skills in order to successfully help companies improve and succeed.


Consulting soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work, communicate, and interact with others. Consulting hard skills are specific, teachable abilities or knowledge that can be quantified and measured.

 

Problem Solving

 

Problem solving is at the core of management consulting. Consultants face complex business challenges every day. Therefore, they need strong problem solving skills to be able to quickly develop effective solutions. 

 

Problem solving enables consultants to quickly identify key issues, analyze root causes, and propose practical solutions.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Participate in case study competitions to practice tackling real world business problems

 

  • Pursue academic courses in business, statistics, or operations research that focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical methods

 

  • Pursue academic courses that involve a business simulation component, where you can make business decisions and see the effect of your decisions

 

  • Play puzzle games that require strategic planning and logical reasoning

 

  • Participate in design thinking or problem solving workshops

 

  • Think about how you would go about solving real world business problems that you hear about in the news

 

Strategic Thinking

 

Strategic thinking is another fundamental soft skill for management consulting. It involves understanding a company's long-term goals and ensuring that the decisions they make and the actions they take align with them.

 

Strategy can be summarized as two questions: where should the company play and how can the company win?


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Stay up to date with business news to see what problems companies are facing and what they are doing

 

  • Read case studies on successful and failed company strategies

 

  • Take relevant courses related to business strategy

 

Collaboration

 

Strong collaboration skills is essential in management consulting. Consulting requires working closely with client teams and colleagues to reach shared goals

 

Having collaboration skills helps you not only work efficiently and effectively with others, but also helps you navigate disagreements and conflicts that may arise.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Get involved in team projects in your academic and professional life

 

  • Join workshops or seminars focused on teamwork and leadership

 

  • Practice active listening to ensure that you fully understand and can integrate other people’s views into your work

 

  • Encourage open communication to prevent misunderstandings and build trust with teammates

 

Project Management

 

Good project management is key in consulting. Project management includes planning, executing, and completing projects successfully and on-time. Strong project management skills ensure that goals are met on time and within budget.

 

Without strong project management, strategic recommendations are not implemented properly or on-time.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take advantage of opportunities to manage small projects

 

  • Volunteer at an organization as a manager or leader

 

  • Pursue certifications such as PMP or CAPM to formally acquire project management skills

 

Research

 

Researching is a critical hard skill for consulting. The recommendations that are formed in consulting are made based on data-driven insights. To uncover these insights, consultants must be able to gather relevant data. This forms the basis of informed decision-making.

 

Therefore, consultants need to be good at finding, analyzing, and using information.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take on research projects during your academic studies

 

  • Take courses relevant to learning the scientific method and other research methods

 

  • Practice looking for specific pieces of information online

 

  • Learn how to interview other people

 

Analytical Thinking

 

Analytical thinking enables consultants to break down complex data and extract valuable insights. Analytical thinking is often used to evaluate business processes, financial reports, and market data.

 

Without analytical thinking, consultants cannot make sense of large amounts of data and information. Consultants would also not be able to solve problems that come up during the job without analytical thinking.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take math, economics, or science courses to help you think more critically about data and get quantitative practice

 

  • Practice breaking down large, complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts

 

  • Develop a habit of questioning and seeking deeper understanding of why things are the way that they are

 

 

Communication

 

Clear communication is key in management consulting. It helps consultants articulate ideas and persuade clients to adopt recommendations. Consultants must excel in both written and verbal communication.

 

Communication facilitates how effectively consultants work with team members and clients. It is also critical for convincing clients to accept the proposed recommendations and also buy additional consulting work.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Join public speaking clubs

 

  • Take communication courses

 

  • Practice writing and presenting

 

  • Manage a regular blog or podcast

 

Client Relationship Management

 

Building and maintaining strong client relationships is essential in management consulting. This is the key to ongoing business success for consulting firms. 

 

Strong client relationship management skills helps consultants gain client trust, increases the likelihood that recommendations will be implemented, and fosters long-term client partnerships.

 

Clients are at the core of every consulting firm. Without them, the firm would make no money and would not be able to exist.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Work in customer service or a client-facing role

 

  • Learn relationship management and customer satisfaction techniques

 

  • Practice making people happy in your academic or professional life

 

Executive Presence

 

Executive presence is the combination of qualities, traits, and behaviors that convey confidence, authority, and leadership capability. It is the ability to project a commanding presence and inspire confidence in others.

 

Executive presence includes various elements, such as confidence, composure, communication skills, charisma, authenticity, and professionalism.

 

This soft skill is critical for influencing decision-makers and persuading them to take the action that you recommend.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Watch leaders that you admire to see how they communicate and interact with others

 

  • Read about different leadership strategies

 

  • Practice public speaking and presentation skills in front of an audience

 

Conflict Management

 

Differing opinions and interests can lead to conflicts during consulting work. Effective conflict management involves understanding the other party, resolving tensions, and agreeing on an acceptable solution for both parties.

 

The goal of conflict management in management consulting is to maintain team harmony and keep the project progressing along. It also helps keep positive, enduring relationships with team members, clients, and other stakeholders.
 
How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take negotiation courses

 

  • Learn different conflict resolution techniques

 

  • Attend mediation or conflict resolution workshops

 

Leadership

 

Leadership in management consulting involves guiding teams to ensure that everyone is working efficiently and effectively with one another. It also involves inspiring clients to follow through on plans. 

 

Strong leadership ensures that projects are driven with vision and purpose. It also ensures that people are inspired to work with you.

 

There is no one single best leadership style. Instead, many consultants are encouraged to have a variety of different leadership styles. They will choose the leadership style that works best based on the type of people they are working with.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take on leadership roles in community or professional organizations

 

  • Attend leadership training programs 

 

  • Read about leadership theories and practices

 

Adaptability

 

Management consulting is fast-paced and priorities and deadlines can change quickly. Deadlines that are weeks away can be moved up to being just a few days away. The piece of work that a consultant is working on can be deemed low priority and immediately stopped.

 

Adaptability allows consultants to adjust strategies and pivot quickly while working effectively despite new challenges or disruptions.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Work in new, tough environments

 

  • Learn from diverse life experiences 

 

  • Be open to change in your personal and professional life

 

Sales

 

In management consulting, the ability to sell work to clients is just as important as delivering work. Strong sales skills helps consultants get new clients and projects. This hard skill for consulting is critical for the growth and survival of the consulting firm.

 

Not only do consultants need to sell clients on new projects, they also need to sell clients on their recommendations. For any meaningful change to happen after a consulting project ends, the client needs to be sold that the proposed recommendation is the best course of action.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Take sales courses

 

  • Practice sales roleplaying

 

  • Work in sales to learn how to meet customer needs

 

Fast Learning

 

Consultants often work on projects in many different industries and functions. This requires them to be able to learn and pick up things quickly. The faster you can ramp up, the sooner you can be valuable and helpful to your team.

 

Many consulting projects last just a few months. If it takes you one month to ramp up on the client and industry, you likely won’t have enough time to complete the project objectives and deliverables.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Challenge yourself with new and diverse subjects at school

 

  • Practice using methods such as speed reading and mnemonic devices to ramp up on a topic quickly

 

  • Consider changing jobs or roles to gain new work experiences and skills

 

Resilience

 

Management consulting is a high-pressure profession with tight deadlines and high expectations. Resilience helps management consultants handle stress. It helps them overcome obstacles while delivering high-quality work under tough conditions.

 

The average management consultant stays in their role for about two or three years. It takes resilience to be able to stay in consulting for a long period of time. Many consultants leave consulting because of the long hours, intensity, and pressure.


How to improve your skills:

 

  • Practice facing stress in safe settings such as in sports 

 

  • Take on tough assignments at work

 

  • Learn stress management techniques such as mindfulness, exercise, or therapy

 

What Education do Management Consultants Need?

 

While there is no official degree or major that is required for management consulting, candidates will find it helpful to obtain a bachelor’s degree or MBA from a top-tier institution. Specifically, a degree in business, economics, or engineering helps develop strong quantitative hard skills that are necessary for consulting.

 

Consulting firms recruit the majority of their consultants out of top-tier undergraduate and MBA schools. These top-tier schools are often called “target schools” for consulting firms because consulting firms will specifically come to these schools to host information sessions, meet students, and interview them on-campus.

 

Attending a target undergraduate or MBA school significantly increases your chances of breaking into consulting.

 

Candidates can break into consulting if they attend a non-target school, but this requires heavy networking and some luck in the recruiting process.

 

Attending a target undergraduate or MBA school is especially critical to getting a consulting offer at top-tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, or Bain.

 

These top-tier firms are almost guaranteed to hire at least a few students from each target school. There is no guarantee for students at non-target schools.

 

Consulting firms will hire candidates across nearly every major, whether that is math, business, economics, engineering, computer science, political science, public policy, or the sciences. Therefore, you do not need to pick a specific major if you want to break into consulting.

 

However, many consulting firms value quantitative majors a bit more than qualitative majors. These quantitative majors include: economics, finance, business, engineering, physics, math, and computer science. These are some of the best majors for consulting.

 

These degrees give analytical and problem solving skills. These soft skills are relied on heavily in management consulting.

 

What Work Experiences do Management Consultants Need?

 

While management consulting does not require any specific work experiences to break in, candidates will benefit from having a diverse range of work experiences that helps them develop the soft skills, hard skills, and expertise necessary to excel in consulting.

 

For example, prior experience working in business provides consultants with valuable insights into how organizations operate. This could include roles in finance, marketing, operations, human resources, or other functional areas.

 

Consulting internships during undergraduate or graduate studies offer direct experience and exposure to the consulting industry. Interns work on projects alongside experienced consultants, gaining insight into consulting methodologies, client interactions, and problem solving approaches.

 

Consultants may also end up specializing in specific industries such as healthcare, technology, finance, or energy. Prior experience working in a particular industry can provide consultants with deep domain knowledge and credibility when serving clients in that sector.

 

Experience leading projects, coordinating team efforts, managing timelines and budgets, and ensuring deliverables meet expectations are valuable for management consultants to develop their project management experience.

 

Experience working in cross-functional teams or collaborating with colleagues from diverse backgrounds helps consultants develop strong interpersonal and communication skills. 

 

Regardless of what specific work experience you have, it will most likely benefit you as a management consultant.

 

An important factor to consider when deciding on what work experience to pursue is the brand name of the company.

 

Management consulting firms love to see large, recognizable brand name companies on your consulting resume. This greatly helps add credibility to you. It also makes you more marketable to clients because they can cite your experience working at these large, well-known companies.

 

Working at a brand name company suggests a certain level of performance and competence recognized industry-wide.


Recommended Resources to Break into Consulting


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