In the traditional perspective of postdoctoral training, fellows are expected to apply for faculty positions after several successful postdocs in institutes or universities. However, this classic career pathway meets a lot of challenges today in terms of the limited position openings and tight economic conditions. At the same time, non-traditional career paths for PhDs have opened a door for those who want to pursue a career in non-academic areas. Consulting companies hire PhDs to help clients solve all kinds of problems in business. However, as a PhD, how can you demonstrate that you should be considered a good candidate for consulting companies?
Recently, I went to several seminars targeting postdoctoral fellows to prepare for jobs for consulting companies. In summary, consulting companies are looking for PhDs who have skills in leadership, communication and problem solving.
Leadership: As a postdoctoral fellow, the relatively easy way to get leadership experience is to volunteer in a committee to help on event planning, organizing and evaluating. Or, you can start a club or group to gather people who have a common interest to share opinions or create some activities.
Communication: Communication skills are very important in a consulting firm. You have to communicate with clients to figure out the problem and communicate with the team to resolve the problem. Finally, you need to communicate with the client on the solution of the problem. Actually, in the fit interview and case interview for consulting, your skills in communication will be tested. To me, I think communication can be classified into two parts: Writing and Speaking. For the writing part, you can learn how to write concisely and clearly through writing classes, contributing to newsletters, and editing articles.
Problem Solving: Usually, this part requires you show the ability to solve problems in your life or in the case interview. Try to think about some stories about how you solve problems. For the case interview, you are usually required to work on some cases and get the solutions. “Case in point” is a book recommended by most people who have landed a job in consulting. This book describes more than 10 important models to solve problems in consulting. To begin with, this book will be a good start for us.
You will also want to get more information through networking. There is one useful group in LinkedIn you could join and share opinions with people who have similar interest: “PhD to Consulting Group”.