The recruiting process for consulting jobs takes so much effort that receiving an offer feels like a finish line. You no longer need to practice cases. You can slow down on the networking. Heck, you can even cancel your other interviews.
However, after a few weeks of relaxing bliss, you might start to wonder what comes next. After all, you want to hit the ground running when you start your new job, right?
So what should you do in between the time when you have an offer and you start the job? Between my own thoughts and a few of my consulting friends, we came up with 5 tips on how to prepare.
Learn Excel (and some PowerPoint)
If you start a consulting job straight out of undergrad or Business School, you will certainly use some Excel. Although I do know people who have a successful consulting career who never opened Excel before starting the job, you will have a much easier time if you do.
Focus on learning shortcut keys, and expanding your understanding of available formulas. Also learn how to use pivot tables and conditional formatting. If you really have time, or you have already mastered those basics, start learning how to build highly dynamic workbooks, or learn Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
The point here is not to become an Excel master so that you can use it more extensively on the job. Knowing how to use Excel means that you can perform Excel-related tasks quickly, and spend more time on other, more difficult things. No matter your background, you will have a ton to learn on the job. The less time you need to spend in Excel, the more time you have to learn all of those other things.
The same applies to PowerPoint, but less so. Your company will likely have custom macros and add-ins that make PowerPoint easier to use than what you will have at home. Nonetheless, you should become familiar with what PowerPoint can do and how it works so you know what sorts of functionality to look for on the job. Don’t worry about transitions or animation – you won’t use those.
Stay Up-To-Date on the Business World
Even though you don’t need to practice cases, spend some time keeping up-to-date with the latest business news. Read the business articles in the Wall Street Journal if you have a subscription, or try the Economist, Bloomberg, Motley Fool, or others (the Motley Fool has a suite of great podcasts to help keep you up-to-date as well).
As you read, pay attention to how business leaders solve problems. For all you know, you may land on a case that faces similar (or the same) problems that you hear about in the news. The better you understand how real leaders think about their problems, the better you will be at building on or moving away from their approaches.
Most of you have received a ton of help to get your offer. Give back! Provide people with practice cases, give fit interviews, connect good candidates with people you know, review resumes, or do whatever you think will help.
I don’t just say this out of any sort of moral duty. As you give back, you’ll stay sharp on your skills. The skills required to get the job largely reflect the skills you will need to perform on the job. Giving cases can help keep you sharp on how to solve cases. Providing interviews can help you refine your own communication skills.
I had a 15 month gap between my interview and my first day on the job. If I hadn’t spent so much of that time giving back, I would have walked into the Boston Office for my first day of training with nothing but a faded memory of case practices and some decent Excel skills. Instead, I walked in only equally overwhelmed as my peers.
Travel & Do Interesting Things
Consulting requires constant contact with people. This means that the more interesting you are to talk to, the better your experience is likely to be.
With that in mind, go do things that make you more interesting as a person. Travel. Engage deeply in some hobbies. Learn new things. Find new people to talk to.
Make yourself as full of a person as you can so that your coworkers will enjoy spending long hours with you, and your clients will respect and like you.
Of all the pieces of advice I got, this one came up the most. You hopefully know that this job requires more than 8 hours a day. Although I have found it quite sustainable, the sentiment stays true – make sure you take advantage of your time to relax. Especially the week before you start – take it easy if you can.
I don’t think that anything here looks very intense, and rightfully so. You did the work to get the offer, and you should enjoy some breathing room before your career kicks off.
Keep seeking truth.
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