So you’re already a top candidate in the fact that you’ve attended all of BBM’s info sessions, spoken with scores of consultants, gotten a few business cards, and maybe have had a phone call or two. While this is a great step in the networking process, there is still something missing. Think about it from the consultant’s perspective — while they certainly will be able to judge if you pass the airport test, it is impossible to assess your analytic and consulting skill through a few brief conversations. To take the next step in getting your personality and ability across to the top firms, enter what I call Client-Side Networking.
So, what if there’s a way to leverage this relationship by networking from the other side — to establish a connection with the client and through them, closely interact with the consulting firm you’re later applying to.
As you already know, consultants develop close relationships with the clients they serve. After working 60-80 hrs a week together, really it’s impossible not to. So, what if there’s a way to leverage this relationship by networking from the other side — to establish a connection with the client and through them, closely interact with the consulting firm you’re later applying to. Well, there certainly is, and you even do most of the necessary steps already.
By this point in your professional life, you should be reading the WSJ almost every day, and even better—following the weekly news surrounding BBM. A convenient tool to follow BBM is to use an RSS Reader (I have a BlackBerry and use XPRSS; for a simple summary of RSS Readers and where to download them, visit http://www.whatisrss.com/) and create RSS feeds for “McKinsey”, “Bain”, and “Boston Consulting Group”. That way, whenever a news story concerning one of the firms is published around the globe, you can read about it in one consolidated source. Even without the goal of Client-Side Networking, this is a great tool to stay informed on BBM’s (public) work. Now that you have an RSS Reader formatted, you have all the preliminary steps in place.
After reading an article on BCG’s engagement with the Boys and Girls Club of Boston (all hypothetical), you remember that you’ve been interested in youth mentorship since high school. So, you contact someone from Boys and Girls Club of Boston either through email or LinkedIn (read Max’s post on LinkedIn networking). You describe your back-story and genuine interest in youth mentorship, and ask to learn more about the organization and the strategic direction it is heading. (If the engagement is in the news, there won’t be heavy confidentiality and they should talk to you about it.) If you’re super lucky, maybe there will be some way in which you can support the project. Then, you have direct contact with the client, BCG, and meaningful experience to add to your résumé. Really, what could be better than combining a subject you’re passionate about with the industry you hope to enter?
If you are only normally lucky, Boys and Girls Club of Boston will talk to you about the initiative, you ask if you can get the consultant’s perspective on the project—they give you a BCG analyst’s email address, and you get to have an in-depth, legitimate conversation with a BCG employee.
If you are unlucky through Client-Side Networking, you get no response from the client. But—when that BCG interview comes and they ask “Why BCG?” you can cite a precise example of their work and how you aspire to do that one day.
(Remember the situation with Boys and Girls Club of Boston is completely hypothetical, but the steps are easily transferable to any client, and most effective with smaller companies.)
Networking is a way to differentiate yourself from your peers beyond the résumé. Once everyone has the same networking tricks and tips, they are no longer effective. Just like in consulting, you need to stay a step ahead of the competition. Client-Side Networking is just that—a unique way to differentiate yourself and develop a distinct relationship with consultants from your target firms.