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New Study Finds 40% of College Students Don’t Know What Consulting Companies Do


While disruption in every sector, from manufacturing to financial services, healthcare and retail, is driving the rapid expansion of the consulting industry, concerns about whether there is enough talent to support this explosive growth continues to mount.

In a new study called Where They’re Going, They Don’t Want Roadmaps: Gauging College Students’ Perceptions of Consulting Careers, Walker Sands Communications, one of the nation’s fastest growing B2B PR and digital marketing firms with offices in Chicago and San Francisco, surveyed 500 college students across the United States to assess their perceptions of careers and employers in the consulting industry.

According to the research, 40 percent of college students don’t know what consulting firms do. Of those who are familiar with the industry, 35 percent attribute that knowledge to television shows and other media. This lack of awareness and misinformation about the consulting world has had a pronounced impact on recruiting. The study shows only nine percent of students have applied to intern or work at a consulting firm.

“Left unaddressed, what is an image issue today could become a talent shortage tomorrow,” said Will Kruisbrink, vice president of professional services and partner at Walker Sands Communications. “Our research shows college students’ perceptions of what it means to be in the consulting industry are limited, if not completely inaccurate. In order to appeal to future job-seekers, the consulting industry needs to invest in better reputation management. Companies need to fix the image problem that is keeping them from attracting top talent.”

One of the perceptions keeping consulting companies from hiring the best and brightest is the belief that the industry is exclusionary, with women, racial minorities and non-business majors largely underrepresented at most firms. With 14 percent of male students applying to consulting positions compared to seven percent of female students, these perceptions might not be that far off from the truth.

Walker Sand’s study identifies three key areas where consulting firms should focus their attention to begin addressing college student’s misconceptions about the industry:

  • Educate Students About Available Job Opportunities: To ensure television programs are not shaping students’ perceptions of the consulting industry, firms need to do a better job of educating students about available consulting career options.
  • Diversify Recruitment Tactics: To achieve a more diverse applicant pool, consulting firms need to diversify the tactics they are using to reach students.
  • Introduce a Better Value Proposition: When marketing opportunities to the latest generation of job-seekers, firms need to promote the initiatives that matter to them most, such as salary and health/retirement benefits.

To view the full results of the Walker Sands’ study, visit: /Student-Perceptions-of-Consulting

The Walker Sands Where They’re Going, They Don’t Want Roadmaps: Gauging College Students’ Perceptions of Consulting Careers, surveyed 500 college students across the United States to measure their perceptions of consulting careers and employers. The survey was conducted online in April 2016, and respondents were limited to students who currently attend a four-year, accredited, not-for-profit college or university. The survey has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

About Walker Sands:
Walker Sands is a public relations and digital marketing agency for business-to-business technology companies. With an integrated approach known as the Digital Ecosystem, Walker Sands helps clients build brand awareness, enhance credibility and drive new business. Walker Sands is a four-time Inc. 5000 honoree and regular recipient of some of the industry’s most prestigious awards from organizations including PRSA, Holmes Report and PR News. Walker Sands was founded in 2001 and has offices in Chicago and San Francisco. To learn more, visit