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02 March 2021 6 min read

Careers, confusion, consulting? My internship explained

James Jeffries-Hook

James Jeffries-Hook
Analyst | Energy, utilities and resources | London

Deciding what career path to take after university can be hard. After much deliberation, I settled on management consulting. If you’re considering a similar route here’s my experience of working as an intern at a top firm.

I always found it frustrating that my friends and peers appeared to have this innate, preordained passion to pursue a particular career. By contrast, I would frantically explore every career in my sights, and each was always struck from my list faster than new possibilities could appear. Wrestling with the vague descriptions in the articles, videos and talks, left me resenting the whole process. All the cryptic jargon meant I could never really understand what a career actually entailed; for all the glass walls in the City, I could never quite see in.

It took me a while to realise that my career-selection struggle stemmed from a fixation on the activities undertaken in each job, rather than identifying what really mattered to me: the differing core qualities that each career requires and promotes. I knew I wanted a career where problem-solving took centre stage – a career that’s fast-paced, intellectually stimulating, has long- and short-term variation, and above all else, provides the opportunity to make a tangible impact. This led me rather quickly towards consulting.

I recently completed an internship here at Baringa, having graduated with a Masters in mechanical engineering from the University of Nottingham last summer. I was fortunate enough to join one of Baringa’s largest projects in the retail-energy sector, where I was assigned to the project’s commercial team. The project exposed me to a whole host of Baringa employees, which I particularly valued given the virtual nature of work during lockdown. There are two things in particular I must note here: firstly, Baringa’s internal structure is more of a “diamond” than a “pyramid”, meaning I worked with and learnt from colleagues of a much higher grade than my own on a daily basis. Secondly, I regularly had exposure to the client’s team with my role requiring interaction with people from all over their business – something I was not expecting given the internship was only for two months.

To my surprise, I was given responsibility – under guidance, of course – for one of the seven work packages that made up the deliverable my team had to produce for the client. This deliverable was released fortnightly, meaning that I could see the impact and urgency of the work from the offset.

I was also given substantial freedom in how I dealt with the work: the handover consisted of advice and best practice, instead of a strict plan or template. As you prove yourself over the weeks, there is significant responsibility to bear, should you want to take it. This specific work-element consumed maybe 40-70% of my time, depending on how far through each fortnight we were. Other than this, I spent the majority of my time supporting my manager in her tasks, and any free time beyond that offering my spare capacity to other members of the team.

I found learning about the roles of my fellow interns particularly interesting. Whilst I certainly had more than enough day-to-day variation during my own internship, seeing each individual intern doing completely different work – be it compiling slides for a client, analysing data, or research – was very encouraging. The opportunity to jump between these tasks and dozens of others, all for different clients with their own successes, challenges and limitations, was, I realised, exactly why the articles I had read did such a poor job of explaining what it is a consultant actually does.

I thoroughly enjoyed my internship, which consolidated my decision to choose consulting as a career path.

What particularly attracts me to consulting is the variety. The rotation through roles, clients, and sectors at all levels in your career leads you to develop new skills whilst building upon existing ones. Amongst many things, the opportunity for, and attitude towards, career-long learning at Baringa makes me excited to continue my career here.

Consulting within, say a boutique three-person firm is going to undoubtedly differ from working for a global goliath; each has its pros and cons.

When I started at Baringa, I was aware of the impact company culture can have on job satisfaction. It is safe to say this was my understatement of the year. The people at Baringa are what made my internship so special: there is such a strong feeling of equality that allows everyone, no matter their seniority, to feel comfortable voicing opinions regarding client work or internal decisions. There was not a single person I felt awkward approaching (virtually of course) to talk to and try and glean wisdom from. From the very first interaction with my team, I was made to feel more than just temporary. Everyone showed a genuine interest in who I was and made sure I was given the time to get up to speed. It’s hard to overstate how attentive and receptive everyone was. The number of people who offered to review my end-of-placement presentation – even when I had only met them for five minutes – was astounding.

At the time of writing, I have completed my first week back in the firm full-time and am looking forward to many more. To those already set on consulting – I thoroughly recommend Baringa; to those still at the beginning of your journey – maybe consulting will be the one for you as well, who knows.