How My Liberal Arts Degree Paved the Way for a Consulting Career

by Vault Careers | November 05, 2012

As recruiting season kicks off, I remember back to two years ago when I was just beginning the interview process as a Dartmouth senior. Studying for a degree in History and Geography, I had enjoyed my liberal arts coursework, but was interested in pursuing a consulting career post-graduation. I wanted to quickly gain a variety of business skills and get broad exposure to several different industries rather than committing to one before knowing what I was actually passionate about. While I had the interest, I still questioned if I had the appropriate background and wasn’t sure how I’d stack up against other candidates who may have had more fitting finance and economics majors.

Now, a year after joining L.E.K. Consulting, I realize that many of my colleagues come from “non-traditional” backgrounds like my own and that L.E.K. actively tries to bring a variety of experiences to the table. When I was a student, I worried about being behind on accounting and finance. However, L.E.K. training assuaged those fears and adequately prepared me for my consulting responsibilities. And the allocations department that assigns you to new cases is well aware of your background, strengths and development needs – and considers all of those factors when staffing you.

Here are a few suggestions about what to expect and how to best navigate through the process. These items are fairly straightforward and common-sense, yet good to keep in mind.

Making Your Liberal Arts Skills Stand Out

One key during the recruiting process is to use your liberal arts background to differentiate yourself, and also to illustrate how your diverse skills would add value in the Associate role.

First, it’s simple. Read the job description thoroughly. What combination of qualities is the company looking for? What are they emphasizing? Take time to see where your experiences and activities fit with those skills. If it’s writing a thesis or completing a senior seminar, explain how your research, synthesis and analysis, and eventual delivery of your results via presentation or report would translate well to a L.E.K. case.

An interviewer often gives you the chance to “walk them through your resume.” Use the time talking about your background to explain how your coursework and experience have prepared you for the Associate job. They probably have already skimmed your resume, so there’s really no need to repeat it verbatim. In my interviews, I stressed how my experience with research papers and group projects equipped me well for the role. Searching extensively for the best sources, subsequently analyzing large amounts of information, and iterating applied well to the job’s responsibilities. Additionally, I had honed strong communications and presentation skills through the same activities and classes, learning how to effectively deliver my findings and opinions. Finally, I described how my discussion-based senior seminars gave me experience interacting in small group environments and creatively attacking issues from many different viewpoints and disciplines.

Finally, be prepared for the “why consulting?” or “why business?” question. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your relative lack of business training, but be able to articulate why you are interested in business and why you might not have yet pursued such a track. For instance, on my resume, I highlighted how I had taken advantage of the opportunities to take business courses as electives outside of my degree requirements. I also spoke about how my extracurriculars such as Women in Business and prior internships prepared me for such a role and demonstrated my interest in the business world.

So, don’t hesitate to apply because of your liberal arts background, and send any additional questions to the L.E.K. Advisor. We look forward to hearing from you this fall!

--Emily R., L.E.K. Consulting

This post was adapted from L.E.K. Consulting’s L.E.K. Advisor blog, which is an interactive resource for undergraduate, MBA and PhD candidates interested in pursuing a career in management consulting. The L.E.K. Advisor acts as a voice for the L.E.K. brand and also features contributions from L.E.K. employees who share their “real-world” perspectives about the management consulting industry and life inside L.E.K. Check it out at http://ask.lek.com/.

To learn more about the firm, also check out Vault's L.E.K. Consulting profile.

Filed Under: Consulting | Interviewing | Job Search | Resumes & Cover Letters


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