Consulting firms provide Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellows with a wonderful opportunity to apply their scientific, analytical, and problem solving skills to solve real world problems. Individuals hired as consultants obtain exposure to many different aspects of business which can greatly accelerate one’s career growth. Jobs in consulting are highly sought after and fiercely competitive. I decided to write this blog to provide insight into what these firms look for since Propel works with a number of boutique consulting firms to source and identify Ph.D. and post-doctoral talent.
Consulting firms look for people who have a passion for developing technologies and a genuine interest in the business side of science. They look for excellent communication, presentation and writing skills, and a strong network. They want someone driven who has demonstrated a career progression towards consulting.
Other qualities that are extremely important include being able to: wear many hats, synthesize data, learn new things quickly, work successfully in a team setting, prioritize tasks, utilize strong time management skills, demonstrate an interest in learning new areas especially ones outside of your comfort zone, and see both the big picture as well as in-depth details.
Most important, these firms want someone who has given thought to this career path. They do not want someone who is pursuing consulting just because they could not get a postdoc or any other job for that matter. Consulting is not a fall back plan. It is a chosen career path.
When consulting firms review resumes and interview people, they prefer to see the following activities/qualities. These generally show that a candidate is truly interested in pursuing this career in consulting.
Involvement in a consulting club at your school:
Consulting firms like to see involvement in activities that build a working understanding of consulting, and experience with the types of projects that a typical firm might handle. If your school does not have a formal consulting club, then create an informal club or identify other sources of clubs such as the consulting club at the MBA School associated with your institution.
Networking and leadership qualities:
Being president of the postdoctoral association, an officer in the entrepreneurship club, or membership director for the local chapter of a national organization such as AACR, demonstrate that you can lead, and be actively involved in an organization (as compared to sitting on the sidelines). This also shows that you have a network (which is very important to consulting firms), and that you, generally speaking, are more than just your research.
Internships or short term projects:
Taking the opportunity to do business focused short term projects or internships during your Ph.D. and post doc, are incredibly helpful, especially if these are done at consulting firms, investment banks, entrepreneurial life sciences companies, or venture capital firms. Even if these internships are done for 15 hours a week for a few months, they help one gain business experience, industry knowledge, and an invaluable network. Equally important, this experience may help you decide that a certain career path is not a good fit. If such experiences help to confirm your interest in consulting, you know have your answer when an interviewing firm asks “why are you interested in consulting?”
Take business courses:
Many academic research institutions have MBA or MPH programs. Taking a course such as commercializing science, finance, or entrepreneurship, will show that you are not just interested in science; it will demonstrate your business interest. This will also enable you to build a network of “business types” which will be helpful as you grow in your career.
Network. Network. Network:
Attend networking events at your institution and externally, and become involved with a chapter of a national or local group of interest to your research (i.e. AACR, AAPS, ACS, etc). In Boston, where Propel is located, there are countless events every month for Ph.D. students and post docs to attend to network and also learn about commercial applications of science. We have created a link on our website to highlight a few of these:
Organizations like to hire people who give back and care about bigger causes than just themselves. Many firms do community service for team bonding and to give back to the community.
There are many different ways to gain experience and shape your career path. Be proactive and build your skill set. Find ways to get involved and give back. These activities will go a long way. Remember, consulting firms want to see that you are more than just a scientist interested in only scientific things. They want to hire someone who is well rounded, active in their career development, and who will make the company stronger.