When you look at everything with a consulting project lens, then you can easily build your resume with this sharpened focus. Using the three steps that we shared in the previous section, you can use understanding, transferrable skills, and analogies to show that you are doing “consulting,” just in a different role. Reframe your current experiences. Are you involved or leading an extracurricular club? Are you taking a course that requires analysis, critical thinking and problem-solving? Are you volunteering for an organization? If none of these fit right now, you can start finding ways to build that resume.
We volunteer to give back to our communities, help others, be grateful for what we have, and to feel good. One often overlooked opportunity is to volunteer in order to develop skills and build your resume. Countless nonprofits are looking for regular volunteers who are able to share their time and talents with their organization. Many may even offer training to volunteers who make a long-term commitment. Moreover, organizations like DoSomething, VolunteerMatch, BoardNet.USA, Idealist, and the Taproot Foundation (to name a few) offer databases of skills-based volunteer opportunities and structured consulting projects.
What does volunteering signal? It shows that you are managing your time to be an active an engaged member of your community (and will be an active and engaged member of your company). It demonstrates a willingness to use your time and talents for others (and this translates well into being a great teammate). Volunteering also shows a desire to better yourself and those around you (continuous improvement).
As you become more embedded, and a more regular volunteer for the organization, you may even be able to identify business challenges that you could help the organization solve and have this become a “consulting project.”
When I was a first year teacher as part of Teach For America (TFA), there was a stretch during the first few months when morale was low for myself and many of my closest corps member friends. We were working long hours, struggling to meet our goals, and had lost that personal connection and sense of camaraderie that we had experienced during our Institute Training. A group of us self-organized and began to assess why we were facing these challenges and the impact morale had on student achievement and teacher retention, two strategic metrics important to TFA. While a lot of our observations were anecdotal, we were able to capture testimonials, instituted our own survey to capture quantitative data, and develop a plan. We connected with TFA leaders, and, to their credit, they were very receptive to our findings and collaborated with us on an effort to boost morale and reinvigorate our corps. When I ultimately applied to business school, this example of volunteering became a prime component of my application and provided me with a “consulting project” to showcase on my resume.
- Relevant Coursework
In the previous section we highlighted some core consulting skills. Do any of these skills resonate with you? Would you consider any of these strengths? Are some gaps where you have limited or no proficiency? Consultants are lifelong learners who continuously seek to build their knowledge and skills. Signal this on your resume with relevant coursework that highlights these core consulting skills. Target courses that will build skills relevant to consulting and address skills gaps in your resume. With the bevy of online options for ongoing learning (LinkedIn Learning, General Assembly), identify core skills that you want to develop or strengthen, map these courses in various platforms, and invest time in taking these courses to support your career growth. Create a relevant coursework or ongoing learning section on your resume and highlight these courses.
- Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are not only a great way to pursue your passions, grow your network, and develop skills, but also are an opportunity to make a connection with the interviewer or tell a story. Like volunteering, extracurriculars signal a desire to connect with your community (company), ability to prioritize and manage time, and may be a way that you continue to build or demonstrate skills. Even something as seemingly trivial as joining an intramural basketball league can signal teamwork and leadership skills.
One extracurricular that I always recommend is Toastmasters International – https://www.toastmasters.org/. This organization is a phenomenal way to build leadership skills, hone your public speaking and presentation skills, and get out of your comfort zone (all things consultants should demonstrate). It is also a great way to learn, build your network, and develop your feedback muscles (both giving and receiving feedback). Toastmasters is relatively inexpensive, full of valuable resources, and they literally have easily accessible groups all over the world. If there is not a group in your locality, you can easily create one (what a great way to show initiative, leadership skills, and project management)!
For those unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it is a group that meets regularly (typically twice a month for an hour and a half) to develop their leadership and public speaking skills. Attendees perform roles such as moderating and leading the meeting, giving a 5-7 minute speech or presentation to the group, and being an evaluator who provides feedback to the speaker(s). There is even a section of the meeting designated for someone to speak extemporaneously on a topic for 1-2 minutes (you definitely need to be quick on your feet as a consultant)! These skills and experiences translate extremely well into consulting and enable you to make a very direct case for how you are developing your communication and leadership skills, managing your time and meetings, and taking initiative. These meetings also double as valuable networking opportunities – I’ve made some good friends and met very interesting people through Toastmasters.
Don’t take all of these tips at once. Quality over quantity. Prioritize your time and what skills you build and show on your resume. Being a committed volunteer or Toastmaster will go much further than only attending a few volunteer sessions or meetings. Make sure you are being intentional with your time, skills that you are building, and story that you want to tell.
About the Author
With over twelve years of experience consulting and working in the government and nonprofit sectors. Evan started his nonprofit career as a member of Teach For America (TFA), where he served as a teacher, volunteer, and in operational support and training roles for the organization. He has supported BDO Public Sector in the launch of their management consulting practice and has provided strategy and operations, human capital, and information technology support to government and nonprofit clients. At BDO Public Sector, Evan led efforts building internal practice recruiting processes including interview questions, cases, and candidate evaluation criteria and developed their Graduate Advisor internship program.