You probably already know that being well-read is a must in the consulting world. Consultants are expected to have a broad knowledge of management, as well as good understanding of finance, strategy, and communications—among other things.
But if you’re looking to up your consulting game, it’s hard to know where to start among the wealth of resources out there. So this week, I rounded up the eight books that have helped me along my consultant journey and career. Whether you’re applying for a job, trying to develop new skills, or just trying to kill some time, these books will help you learn tons more about the field.
1. The McKinsey Way
While this book is focused on a specific firm, the insights and recommendations from it are applicable across the entire industry. The book doesn’t go very deep into specific frameworks or methods and instead focuses on how to survive at “The Firm” and some of the cultural considerations of working and succeeding in consulting. It’s a good read for those just getting into the industry who want to understand more about the mindset and day-to-day work of consultants.
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2. HBR’S 10 Must Reads: The Essentials
It’s important to have at least a basic understanding of major theories and academic thought within the business field, and for this, HBR’s 10 Must Reads is a great place to start. This book compiles the top 10 articles on management and covers topics such as innovation, strategy, analytics, and managing change. Once you finish the essentials, HBR also offers Top 10 reads on specific topics, like strategy or change management, to deepen your knowledge.
3. Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies
This tome is an essential read from a technical standpoint and also aids in understanding the underlying drivers of major corporations. If you are new to how organizations are valued, it will walk you through tactics on how to approach it. If you just want an overview on how financial statements tie to the share price and the decision making process of organizations, you’ll get a great overview. And if you’ve been asked to value a company or to gain a deeper financial understanding of organizations, this book is the ultimate reference.
4. Key Management Models: The 60+ Models Every Manager Needs to Know
Because consulting is all about structured problem-solving, it’s important to become familiar with tools that you can use to help solve your clients’ problems. The book covers a range of models, from strategic to operational, and provides information on how and when to use each of them. I use it as a quick reference guide when faced with a new client problem or question.
5. Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking
I’ve talked about the Pyramid Principle before, as it is one of the most quoted and widely used frameworks for structuring communications in consulting. It essentially explains that, in any communication, you should start with your recommendation, arrange supporting ideas into groups, and then provide detailed evidence in order to effectively support your story. If you have read the Cole’s notes on the framework and want to go deeper into how to apply it, then I would recommend diving into the full book.
6. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
In the day-to-day work of a consultant, you will participate in a number of meetings, planning sessions, and workshops that require you to explain complex ideas or processes simply. This book gives you tools to do that with the help of of graphics and pictures. I love it as a reference guide when planning a meeting or presentation.
7. Case Interview Secrets: A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting
If you haven’t heard of Victor Chang yet, he’s a case interview guru who has helped many people secure prime consulting offers. In his book, he outlines how to approach case interviews and provides tips and tricks on what interviewers look for—as well as common mistakes that candidates make. It’s a must-read for anyone going through the interview process.
8. The Consultant With Pink Hair
This story about the management of a struggling consulting practice provides an entertaining look at the lives of consultants—working late nights, struggling with client management, and managing competition. While it’s technically fictional, it’s very based in truth, and there is a lot of real learning you can get out of it.