Consulting summer internship: 6 secrets to guaranteeing a return offer


Today we continue our discussion on consulting summer internships. Part one on preparing for the internship here.

As a summer intern, you’re the baseball equivalent of a utility player. What’s a utility player, you ask?

A utility player is one who can play several positions competently, a sort of jack of all trades (Wikipedia)

Get comfortable doing whatever needs to be done. In all honesty, your value is limited – you’re just getting started in the professional world! Contribute in any way that you can – from little things like planning team events to big things like pointing out a key insight in a client meeting.

Here are 6 key principles that will go a long way towards a return offer and a consulting career.

1. Build a good relationship with your engagement manager/team leader

Several important to-dos:

  • Develop a detailed workplan. Most interns will have a discrete chunk of work (whether that’s building competitor profiles or conducting primary market research). You should proactively build a workplan complete with deadlines, examples of deliverables, and precise steps for how you’re going to accomplish things. It will build your manager’s confidence in your abilities, and provide you a roadmap for your summer
  • Schedule weekly time with your manager for checkup and feedback. Given consultants’ chaotic daily schedules, it’s good to have a set weekly time to catch up. Take this opportunity to discuss your accomplishments over the past week, your plan for the upcoming week, and ask for input frequently. This allows you to get buy-in, and surface problem areas that need to be addressed (eg, your manager thinks you’re too quiet in the customer interviews)
  • Send daily email updates. Every manager has a different style so tailor accordingly, but most appreciate frequent updates. At the end of each day (particularly if you’re working alone), send your manager an update with 3 accomplishments, 3 tasks for the upcoming day, and highlight areas where you need their feedback
  • Seek approval for end-products. Have a clear idea of what your end-product will look like (if it’s a set of slides, draw up ghost charts and templates; if it’s a model, build a mock-up with filler numbers). These end-products will ultimately change, but it’s important to have a vision for them and to run through that vision with your manager. After all, your end-product will define your work – it helps to be on the same page

2. Leverage associates and senior consultants on your team

Most teams include at least 1-2 senior consultants. They’ve been there, done that, and are back for more. And unlike banking, they’re typically happy to help.

  • When you don’t know how to do something, ask them. Chances are, they’ve done it many times before. It doesn’t matter how small the issue – fix your mistakes early or they’ll snowball into something much worse
  • Take them to lunch. They all went through the consulting recruiting process, and they all have more experience than you. It’s a great way to better understand the job/industry and decide if it’s the right fit. In addition, many will have contacts in other offices and departments and can help you network (for example, if you’re interested in an overseas project or a particular function)
  • You may be managed directly by an associate (this is a common practice in investment banking). It helps to build a good relationship ASAP!

3. Own your piece of work but be knowledgeable about other workstreams

This advice applies to every job, but there are some pecularities to consulting:

Number one, managers will always appreciate if you have a point of view. Don’t be stubborn, but always have an opinion on WHAT needs to be done and HOW to do it

Number two, propose new ideas and new tactics. Just because your task is clearly defined does not mean you can’t go beyond. Your initiative will be appreciated

Number three, take an active interest in your teammates’ work. You’re expected to contribute in team discussions. Your own responsibilities don’t excuse you from understanding what’s going on around you. Do this by tactfully inquiring about other workstreams, asking insightful questions, and offering help whenever needed

4. Speak out in team meetings

Touched upon in a previous post on job mistakes. It’s particularly important as an intern to speak up during meetings and conference calls.

Expectations are low. You have a huge margin for error.

Ask smart questions. Contribute insights from your own workstream.

One helpful trick is to stay current on news about your client. Subscribe to Google News company alerts. Frequently this knowledge will come in handy during team discussions, and usually other team members are too overwhelmed to be as familiar as you

5. Get face time with partners

To guarantee a return offer, you’ll need at least 2 partners who are solidly in your corner.

While most projects will provide a few opportunities for you to present work in front of partners, you should go beyond that and schedule your own face time.

Have an agenda for these meetings – do not “shoot the shit” unless you know them well. Example topics include: questions about a particular industry practice that you’re interested in (eg, automotive); additional insight on the firm’s work with your client.

6. Look for opportunities to get involved outside of the client project

This is the least important responsibility, but strongly recommended if you have the time. There are plenty of ways for interns to be involved. Examples include:

-Interns-only social events (eg, happy hours) -Events where interns can meet consultants, managers, partners (eg, speaker panels) –Summer internship recruiting (eg, school-specific outreach)

Through these events, you’ll meet people throughout the firm, reinforce the hard work you’ve put in, and gain a new perspective on consulting life beyond decks and models.