Consultant is a job title most people have heard before, but many don’t have a good understanding of what being a consultant entails. The Tennessee Undergraduate Consulting Club (TUCC), a new student-led organization at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is on a mission to introduce students to the consulting field.
Launched in fall 2022 by a small group of students from UT’s Haslam College of Business, TUCC works to educate members about consulting careers, help them build the skills necessary for success in those roles and provide networking opportunities that can lead to consulting jobs. The growing organization currently has around 40 active members.
Understanding Consulting and How to Enter the Field
“Consulting is professional problem solving,” says senior accounting major Joe Kato, one of TUCC’s co-founders. “You help clients become more efficient in their operations and help them achieve their vision and goals to drive toward their mission.”
Sophomore supply chain management major Rachel Csoka, another co-founder of the club, describes the consultant role as “the doctor of business.” She grew up around the profession — she says her dad “fell into” it after majoring in music at Northwestern and later starting a tech company. “That’s what’s so interesting about consulting,” she says. “No matter what your background is, there’s somewhere you can fit in.”
Kato agrees, adding that students from majors as diverse as engineering and English can find opportunities in the consulting field. “It doesn’t matter what your major is because consulting is about transferable skills — communicating, looking at data and being able to tell a story about it. You can be a generalist who works on different types of projects, or you can be a specialist. You get to choose your own path.”
Assisting Members with Networking and Recruiting
When the club launched, the founders began by emailing their own contacts and inviting them to speak to members. As TUCC’s reputation has grown and the group has had success in placing students at firms, recruiters have begun reaching out to the club for referrals. Kato, who has a post-graduation job lined up at Alvarez and Marsal in New York City, says firms are eager to connect with students.
“One misconception about consulting is that it’s for subject matter experts with years and years of experience,” he says. “However, a lot of firms like recruiting people straight out of college because they can train you in the problem-solving skills they like to use.”
TUCC strives to provide a supportive environment where members can hone those problem-solving skills. Members help each other with everything from resume feedback to interview preparation to case book review. Their meetings, which happen every other Thursday, vary in format. One might feature someone from a Big Four firm speaking about day-to-day life as a consultant, while the next might offer a bowling outing or a mini case competition with another campus organization such as the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. “We try to make it interactive and fun while also giving members an understanding of what consulting is,” Csoka says.
Growing TUCC and Expanding Club Horizons
Csoka has focused on recruiting members and growing TUCC. She created a club Instagram account, sent newsletters and submitted notices for Haslam Headlines to spread the word about TUCC and invite prospective members to learn about it.
When she begins serving as TUCC’s vice president in fall 2023, Csoka plans to continue growing the club and will focus on women in consulting. “A lot of the big firms focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and ensuring women have equal opportunities,” she says, “so I hope we can plan some meetings around that.” Women make up the majority of the group’s incoming executive team, she notes.
Learning From Faculty and Other Schools
Kelly McNamara, professor of practice in Haslam’s Department of Accounting and Information Management, serves as TUCC’s faculty advisor. The group values McNamara’s consulting experience and relies on her perspective to help them understand what companies are looking for, and she sometimes reaches out to firms on members’ behalf.
“The TUCC students are exceptional, goal-oriented go-getters — perfect for careers in consulting,” McNamara says. “They have a passion for consulting and the desire to share their knowledge and skills. Many on their executive team have already had consulting internships and have successfully competed in case competitions, so they have great experience to pass along to the other members.”
The case competitions have given TUCC members the opportunity to talk to students from other schools, taking inspiration from those whose consulting clubs have been established for several years.
“It’s been interesting to find out that other SEC schools have been doing this, and they’ve had a lot of success,” Kato says. “That’s who we’ve been measuring ourselves against, and I’d say we’re doing a great job.”
Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org