Consulting summer internship: 7 must-dos before starting work

Last week, we thoroughly discussed consulting interviews. This week, the focus will be on the consulting summer internship – best practices before, during, and after your 3 months as a newbie consultant.

The ultimate goal of any summer intern is two-fold: one, to secure a full-time offer, and two, to learn more about the job, the industry, and the skills required for success.

That said, here are 7 must-do’s for people preparing to enter a consulting summer internship. 95% of the advice is applicable for full-time consultants as well.

1. Read the Economist and WSJ regularly

I discussed the reasons for doing so in the post on consulting books and periodicals. By reading these periodicals, you’ll have a better feel for business problems and solutions, and be up-to-date on current events once you start the job. The WSJ even offers a student rate.

Also, start reading consulting blogs – these will give you a sense for a consultant’s daily life. See the Management Consulted blogroll as a starting point. If you’re feeling ambitious, go through our Industry Primer Pack – it’s a quick breakdown of 11 global industries, including each one’s revenue/cost drivers, trends, and more.

2. Contact the consultants from your firm that you met during recruiting

This can be through company presentations, interviews, meet-and-greets. Anything. If you haven’t been in touch, update them on your consulting summer internship offer and ask for advice. They’re usually very happy to give you some pointers. Be specific in your questions:

Specific question: I’ll be working in the Dallas office. Do you have any advice on the right people to meet there, and any particularly good managers that I should try to work with?

Broad question: How can I make sure I do well in the internship?

Further reading: How to network with consultants 101

3. Initiate contact with recruiters and consultants at other firms

This is only if you’re interested in transferring firms after your consulting summer internship is complete. Say you’re summer-ing at Altman Solon but would prefer to work at a bigger firm like BCG full-time. By keeping in touch with BCG recruiters and consultants, you strengthen your chances for full-time recruiting. Often, some of these firms will have summer networking events in preparation for full-time recruiting

The key here is to be upbeat about your internship, but be direct in expressing your interest. Here’s a sample email:

Hi Sarah, I’m following up on our recruiting conversations from last month.

First, I wanted to thank you for the interview opportunity. While I was ultimately unsuccessful in final rounds, it merely whetted my appetite for full-time recruiting.

With regards to this summer, I accepted an offer to work for BearingPoint in their Atlanta office. I’m looking forward to deeply engaging in the industry and getting a great experience.

I’d like to stay in-touch with you over the summer months. I’m still interested in building a career at Bain, and could use your advice as full-time recruiting approaches.

Are you free for coffee or a phone conversation on [day/time]? I look forward to our chat.


4. Get all the business attire that you need

Don’t buy a suitcase until you’re confirmed on a travel case – you shouldn’t buy one up front.

We haveĀ a great post on consulting dress code. My only advice is that it’s more important to dress neat than to dress fancy. From your interviews and office visits, you should have an idea of company dress code. Don’t stray too far from it, and have sufficient backups (for men, at least 2 work suits) so you’re not panicking at 11pm when you spill sushi and soy sauce over your only suit and there’s a big client meeting the next day.

5. Familiarize yourself with PowerPoint and Excel

This is only if you’re a complete novice!

It’s not useful to become an Excel expert now, unless that’s already a long-term goal. But if you don’t know what conditional formatting is, you should find out.

Use our PowerPoint and Excel for Consulting courses to prepare for life on the job.

The whole point is that once the job starts, you’re going to be overwhelmed with material to learn, meetings to attend, people to meet, and so forth – you don’t want to be learning about VLOOKUPs at the same time. To do well in consulting, you’ll need to be “Excel proficient” if not “Excel expert”. Think difference between “conversational Spanish” and “native Spanish”

6. Start speaking the language

Like the step above, the goal is to minimize the number of times you look like a neophyte. It will inevitably happen, but keeping those situations to a minimum will bode well with clients and partners.

7. Set a list of reasonable, specific goals

Goals should include meeting specific partners who work in areas that you’re passionate about (eg, retail marketing, Southeast Asian expansion) and specific company practices that you’d like to explore (this is more applicable to global consulting firms than boutiques). Having these goals will help you be more targeted and focused when deciding how to best spend your non-project time (which is limited already).

Filed Under: consulting internship