Spinning Your Story: How To Break Into Consulting With A Non-Consulting Internship

You’re already over halfway through college and just found out management consulting is your dream career. You think of all the people you know who have been planning their path for breaking into consulting since they were 12 years old, and wonder if your resume will stand a chance in the interview pile.

You are not alone! We get this inquiry a lot. Recently, a reader wrote us and asked:

“I have two internships under my belt, although not necessarily consulting related. I have been taking some classes this summer that have given me additional skills. How do I spin this to consulting firms when I am networking/interviewing?”

Take heart! We wouldn’t be writing this article if it wasn’t possible, if we couldn’t help you, and if we didn’t have success stories to back it. Before we talk about how to spin your story, let’s take a look at the story of Jenny Rae Le Roux, our Managing Director and a former Bain consultant.

Before Jenny Rae’s senior year, she did a research grant in West Africa and served as a wrangler for a ranch in Wyoming. Not Goldman, but she did get major cool points. While working in South Africa after college, she connected with a friend who sparked her interest in management consulting. With a pretty cool and very non-traditional story, she found herself in interviews with Bain and McKinsey and had her pick of job at either, and was even Bain’s top East Coast recruit in her cohort.

Now Let’s Spin That Story.

Whether you spent your summer as a wrangler in Wyoming or a top intern at Deloitte, there are transferable qualities that every candidate must ensure their resume reflects.

Showcase Your Experience at Excelling In Work

Simply put, your resume needs to highlight that you have excelled everywhere you’ve been, you’re a top performer, and you can show a history of that in any field. If you were in clubs and leadership roles in college while maintaining your 3.76 GPA, be sure that’s front and center. If you received a promotion within a year of work, make sure your resume layout shows that ladder. “Offered a position” or “Invited to return” is the last bullet point you want on any intern experiences. Lastly, excelling in work can be reflected concretely by increases in responsibility, so be sure to mention when you were given leadership over a particular project or group of people working on a team towards bringing about specific results.

Feature Your Quantitative Skills

You’ve got to show quantitative skills, and these are well highlighted by mentioning budgets or projects you’ve managed. While considering how you will tell your story, find the work that you did that shows your ability to handle data. You may have done this when you designed the company culture survey and presented outcomes and observations to the CEO. You may have had to think critically about a new method of sales that your team tried, and analyze if it was the choice method to use going forward. Comb through your experiences and find the times you had to deal with numerical evidence in a systematic way and focus on talking about your quantitative work and talking about work you did using quantitative terms.

Show Brand Names

It will be more impactful if you answered a phone at Morgan Stanley for a summer than if you were the senior operations manager of the “Little Twist Fro-yo Mountain” in a small town in Nebraska. It’s a far stretch, but do you feel the difference? Brand name experience is everything. Therefore, always be sure your resume is structured to show an institution or company name before your position title. In a quick scan, that may be all they see, and it is what reviewers care about most. Make it easy for them to see what they need to know first, and if you don’t feel you have the names you want on your resume, you now know exactly what you need to do to get your resume to the next level. Break in, anywhere, with a brand name company your future employer will recognize. At the undergrad level, brand matters more than function.

Results-Focused

As we recently advised tech consultants switching to strategy consulting, one way to begin shaping your narrative is to talk less about what you’ve done and more about impact you’ve had. Strategy consultants think with the end result in mind. Find a project-based experience where you drove a quantitative result and add the details, scope, and most importantly, the result (using numbers, of course!). Even if it was a one-time endeavor amidst a sea of ongoing tasks, you’ll be speaking the consulting language when you show that you’re prone to think in terms of results. While your leadership and teamwork is excellent to include, don’t let it end there. Always review your resume and be sure you answered the question, “what was the outcome of my work?”

Conclusion

Once you’ve reflected on these transferable traits, ensure you have no gaps in your timeline. What you have done in the summer should be added as work experience. It doesn’t matter if it was paid or unpaid experience.

Now that you’ve spun your story, own it, network like crazy and get ready to rock your interviews!