Business management covers a wide range of graduate careers. It can be anything from management schemes in a bank, where you may be training to become a commercial, operations or retail manager; managing a large department in a retail outlet, such as in M&S or achieving management status in any of the business disciplines such as sales, marketing, HR or finance.
With management, it comes as no surprise that you need to be good at multi-tasking, have strong interpersonal skills, have the ability to inspire and motivate others, be analytical and be able to see the big picture.
You also need to demonstrate competencies such as influencing and achieving. With The Co-operative, for example, graduates must “demonstrate these behaviours in a way that matches with the culture of our organisation. For example, graduates need to be able to demonstrate that they can work with others in team and are able to share resources and information with others in their group,” says Shona Mckenzie, a graduate recruitment officer for The Co-operative, which offers a business management graduate programme.
So what will you be managing? With The Co-operative graduates on the general management programme manage a range of projects. Shona explains: “Our programme offers graduates an opportunity to choose three four month projects across a whole range of our businesses and functions.
“A graduate could choose to manage a project in HR in Funeralcare, then marketing in our food business, and then procurement in our corporate function. Graduates will develop experience of managing different stakeholders and managing different types of resources and processes.
“We look for graduates who are ambitious and who have the desire to become future leaders of our business. We also want graduates to have a firm understanding of the nature of our business and the differences between a co-operative structure of business and a PLC. It is important to us that graduates are passionate about our way of doing business and our unique business model.”
Graduates must be interested in business and management, and “demonstrate commercial awareness and an understanding of different business terms as well as an awareness of customers, competitors, and the different industries we operate in,” adds Shona.
Although some graduate may have business management-type degrees, there is not set degree that you need to achieve management status. Many of the skills are developed and refined once you enter the work force. Graduates need to have a passion for business and the company they hope to work for.
A career in consultancy means working with businesses on a range of issues to help improve efficiency. This can involve IT systems, finance, transactions, mergers and acquisitions – basically any core area of the business that keeps it running!
According to the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, consultancy jobs are becoming an increasingly popular choice as an alternative to entering the banking and finance sector, offering an equivalent intellectual challenge – and with starting salaries reaching from £20k to upwards of £30k, similar financial rewards. Some companies even offer a golden hello – for example, graduates starting at Accenture receive a joining bonus of £10k.
This involves assessing and improving the performance of existing IT and business practices; testing IT security and recommending improvements; and advising organisations about how to keep their IT systems up to date in the future. IT consultants may be involved at any stage of a project, from pitching for a contract to project management to after sales support. And under that catchall title there are a spectrum of different roles requiring different levels of IT competency, from the basic level of a project manager to the technical expertise of a developer.
Graduates will be expected to work as part of a large team – long term, if they achieve project manager status they will be directing, co-ordinating and pitching the projects to the clients.
Consulting at an accountancy firm
Management consultants in the big accountancy firms help businesses to “grow faster and work smarter,” according to PwC. At PwC graduates can join management consulting, strategy consulting or economic consulting and each of these disciplines have different requirements:
Management consulting helps organisations improve the way they operate; accelerate their growth; reduce their costs; manage their risks; develop their talent; and change the way they do business.
In your team you’re likely to be supporting the project manager, carrying out detailed analytical research and presenting this back during team meetings. You’ll also spend a lot of time with clients dealing with issues as they crop up and getting valuable exposure to different types of project and diverse industries.
To thrive in this practice, you'll need to welcome change. And you’ll not only be analytical and numerate, you’ll also be articulate and confident when it comes to saying what you think. Flexibility, an open mind and a strong team ethic are vital too.
This tackles the key, ‘high-level’ strategic issues faced by CEOs. You’ll work with major global corporate clients and financial investors, helping them decide whether buying or selling makes good business sense.
A consultant a PwC would evaluate business plans and strategies against market performance and competitor strength so clients understand which companies are attractive acquisitions.
For each particular project we bring together a specific team and after carrying out research, strategic analysis, modelling, interviews and practical field research, you’ll develop strategic insights for the project, discuss them with your team and present recommendations to clients.
You’ll be exposed to a wide range of clients, issues and industry sectors, including: government & public sector, consumer goods, financial services, media & entertainment, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, retail, technology & communications, travel & leisure.
A role in this team requires a combination of razor-sharp commercial awareness, superb time-management and analytical skills plus the confidence and credibility to present your opinions to senior colleagues and clients.
Economics consulting specialises in making recommendations, validating strategy and coming up with expert economic advice for commercial and public sector clients.
You’ll deliver practical advice that makes a real impact on business's bottom lines. Your clients will be in the boardroom, in front of a regulator or within Government in the UK and across the globe. You will be providing help in the form of advice, reports, studies and policy recommendations.
As a graduate economist, you’ll have the opportunity to work across all areas, such as assessing the impact of macroeconomic changes on markets, organisations and consumers, through forecasting and scenario planning; public policy, project and investment appraisals, as well as sustainability and environmental economics. Before long you’ll be meeting clients face to face, tackling their issues first-hand and helping the firm to win business.
You’ll also have a programme of training and on-the-job coaching plus support for professional qualifications like the Chartered Financial Analyst. You’ll develop know-how in technical areas such as econometrics, mathematical modelling, cost of capital and sustainable economics.
This practice calls for an agile, creative, enquiring mind that can spot those vital, telling connections between economic data. You’ll also be writing reports and giving presentations, outstanding communication skills are also essential.
For all types of consulting, recruiters look for bright graduates who have at least a 2:1 degree and in some cases, 340 UCAS points. Graduates must be articulate, analytical, problem solving, convincing, confident and have excellent interpersonal skills. Most degree disciplines are accepted, with the exception of economic consulting whereby firms like PwC ask for a degree with a strong economic element.
Life as a consultant can involve long hours and time spent away from family. Lisa Chakraborty, a graduate at Capgemini, says: “Though I love the travelling, sometimes it gets to you because when you come back at the weekend you don’t have long to catch up with your family and friends.”
However, for the right graduate career progression can be fast and the benefits and earning potential is large.
Key articles for business management graduates