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Inspiring a generation... and answering the question "What is management consultancy anyway?"

On 6th February 2018, we attended our first Livery Schools Link Education Showcase at the Guildhall. A team comprising the Master, Clerk and members of the Education Committee, ably supported by apprentices from IBM, were charged with explaining management consultancy and inspiring young people.

So how do you engage a 13 year old in the wonders of our profession, especially so against the competition of racing games et al from other Livery Companies?

“Do you like telling other people what to do? Do you want to earn lots of money?” seemed a very practical starting point (At least one that attracted some engaged responses.)

Most of the students there, and they numbered 1000 from 45 schools, were Year 9 (approx. 13 years old and third year secondary in old money). They were just about to pick options for their GCSEs (or for the handful of six formers, thinking about degree subjects post A level), and this generated some interesting discussion about what subjects were necessary to train for management consultancy. We talked through the various routes into the profession including apprenticeships straight from school or sixth form as well as post degree entry. Whilst bright, it was important to recognise that university was not the most important option for all the students attending and also to explain that a few years on the job (with degree level study whilst in work) can give you advantages over the more traditional university route.

But how you advertise and make management consultancy attractive to adolescents? Well, with engaging and charming management consultants as a starting point and the young apprentices were a definite hit in the morning, being fairly close to the students’ age and being in the midst of the learning process. The more grey haired amongst us offered more wisdom and experience but kept it lively.

The mace (and its stand) was an attractive element, including an impromptu problem solving exercise of how to pick up something very heavy and put it back in the correct place without damaging it. Live stories (client names redacted of course) helped make the experience of management consultancy real and a couple of students visited the stand on three separate occasions, each time following up on previous questions and more reflective thinking. Some of the students felt we had an important counselling role for leaders in organisations.

We were able to provide a number of resources, including Geoff Llewellyn’s “The Ten Best Things About Being a Management Consultant”. Paraphrasing Geoff, these included ‘never be bored – there’s always a problem to stretch you’, ‘make things better’ and ‘you learn from everything you do so you can share that learning on your next project’.  And there was no doubt that the opportunity to ‘advise’ others what to do whilst being paid for the privilege was an attractive concept. Always assuming you had developed the experience, expertise and people skills to be able to do that well along the journey.

So what did we take from this experience? Firstly, it was a joy to meet the young people and engage with their hopes, ideas and aspirations – conversations were fun and rewarding. Secondly, hardly anyone of that age has the faintest idea what management consultancy is let alone was considering it as a career – there is work to be done to demystify the profession, particularly outside the elite student groups. Thirdly, big brand recognition is, unsurprisingly, poor – whilst students know their Apple from their Microsoft, awareness of IBM or PWC is almost non-existent. Fourthly, there is a need to create a career path which might inspire young people into management consultancy rather than taking the same old suspects from the same old schools and missing the diversity boat. And finally, as a Company, perhaps we could recognise more of the multiplicity of routes into the profession at different stages of life. Two girls were determined to be lawyers after university but could see the attraction of a management consultancy later in life (dear Reader, they meant after 30).

All in all, a productive day, inspiring young people from all backgrounds to consider the value and reward to be had from a career in management consultancy and to challenge some of our own preconceptions about our work and how it might develop.

Let’s hope we’re back again next year, even bigger and better. The world needs more management consultants and I think we’ve started to make a dent in that process.

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