So you got through the resume screening, aced the case and behavioral interviews, and received an offer at a consulting firm—congrats! Once your offer letter is finally singed, sealed, and delivered, it can be tempting to just kick back and relax until your first day. After all, applying for a consulting job is hard work.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you still have a little work to do. Since consulting is such a broad field, it can be difficult to get a handle on what you will be doing once you start your job, but there are still things you can do to give yourself a leg up at your new gig. Read on for five things I suggest for any consultant-to-be after signing that offer letter.
1. Network, Network, Network
Consulting is a people business, so your network is everything. Specifically, a good network will help you find the right projects and opportunities once you start work. So, if you get started on building these important relationships before you actually set foot in the office, you’ll have a head start on your co-workers.
If your firm has a formal buddy program that pairs you with an existing employee, take advantage of it and meet with your colleague early. If not, reach out to somebody in the firm who you know, like the person who interviewed you or someone you met at an info session. Explain your interest areas and ask if there is anyone else they can connect you with prior to starting. You can also talk about office events you might be able to attend, specific skills you should be learning, and what projects are coming up.
2. Get Intimate With Microsoft Office Suite
A consultant’s best friend is Microsoft Office. And even if you think you are familiar with these programs, you almost certainly have more to learn. Trust me, simply being able to create a decent looking PowerPoint and use basic Excel formulas is not enough!
So, spend some time before you start work learning about everything you can do in PowerPoint to design clean, professional slides, taking some advanced classes in Excel around financial modeling or VBA, and familiarizing yourself with OneNote, an underutilized tool that is fantastic for note taking. If you want to get really crazy, start learning about how to create documents in Project and Visio. Aren’t sure where to start (or what I just said)? Look for classes at a local university or technical college, or try online options from Chandoo, Udemy, or Wall Street Prep.
While this is probably the last thing you want to do before you start working, it will help you manage the learning curve and make you a valued resource on your team from the start.
3. Get Some Reading Out of the Way
If you have the time, start reading and getting familiar about current topics in the business world. Pick a mix of classic business books and new releases so you’ll have perspectives into your work as well as some interesting conversation starters. To get you started, some of my favorites are Good to Great by Jim Collins, The McKinsey Way by Ethan Rasiel, The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and anything by Malcolm Gladwell.
Also, begin following key industry news more diligently. Start by setting up a Google alert for your firm and following the company blog closely—that way you’re in the know about recent client wins, acquisitions, or updates on financial performance. Then, set up ways to stay updated with your firm’s clients, other leaders in the field, and general industry news, either by following them on Twitter or by adding their feeds to your RSS reader.
4. Get the Goods
It’s quite possible that as soon as you start you'll be immediately whisked off on a project, leaving little time for you to stock up on the consulting necessities. So, better to do a little shopping now while you have some free time on your hands.
Most importantly, make sure you have a solid work wardrobe for any occasion (e.g., if your manager only wants you to wear grey suits—it happens), a carry-on suitcase, and a good notebook or other note-taking system. Ask your HR representative or a friend at the firm what else you might need and if your firm provides little necessities such as privacy screens, wireless travel mice, and laptop bags. If not, these are all smart things to get beforehand so you can start off strong.
Now that all the work is out of the way, you can—and should—kick back a little. Consulting can be an intense career path with long nights and frequent traveling, so take the time before you start to relax and prepare yourself for the months ahead. Travel to somewhere on your bucket list, take a class in a fun new hobby you’ve been meaning to try, or just be a couch potato for a few weeks. Try anything that will ensure you start your new job rested and full of energy. This can be hard to hear (all consultants are overachievers!) but trust me, you’ll be thankful for it later.
Photo of man reading courtesy of Shutterstock.
TopicsNew Jobs , Syndication , Consulting , Career Advice , Getting Started , Consultant Speak by Alex Nuth
Alex Nuth is a Management Consultant at Accenture and has worked across a number of industries and functional areas helping clients solve some of their largest and most important challenges. She graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2011 where her courses focused on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She enjoys travelling and has worked in both China and Colombia.More from this Author