Consulting Exit Opportunities
Have you ever wondered what can come after a consulting career, and whether it is easy to get out?
In his article, Udayan explains the various exit options and what the differences are. He also names possible advantages that can result from this and points out what you should watch out for. Practical examples complete the article.
What to Expect in This Article
When it comes to exiting MBB, there are some roles that are more common than others. I refer to these as traditional exit options as this is the path many choose to follow.
Corporate Strategy teams in house
The most popular exit option at MBB is to exit to an in-house consulting role. These are popular as they allow consultants to do similar type of work but with much better hours and eventual options to move into a more traditional business management role.
PE/VC (especially more junior exits)
While the most popular entry point into PE and VC remains Investment Banking, many firms will hire from MBB as well. The most popular roles that they hire are BAs/Analysts or people from the PE practices at MBB firms across role seniority. Some PE firms such as Advent and Bain Capital are well known to even prefer Consultants to Bankers for roles.
Biz Ops at a startup
Many consultants want to exit into smaller startups. Startups tend to be smaller, nimbler and with many opportunities to make a high impact at an early stage. A natural exit into a startup is in the biz ops team, given the relative similarity of the work that they do. As with all change, it helps to minimize the number of changes you are undergoing all at once (e.g., switching industry vs switching industry and type of role).
While it is not as common as one would imagine, it does happen reasonably often. Especially at EM level or higher, moving from a project to the client happens more frequently. A common way this happens is an EM for example moving into the client to ensure connectivity for the project that the firm was working on, so moving the project from strategy to execution stage and ensuring some sort of connectivity.
In return, there are also some lesser-known options, which are compared below.
Product at a tech firm (large or small)
A popular exit option for a while, this is less common, largely because many PM roles require a tech background or experience at a startup. However, there are numerous instances of consultants breaking into this role, especially if they worked in the sector.
Starting your own venture
For those that have a great idea and like taking risks, starting your venture immediately following a stint at MBB can be a great option. The timing works really well, as the MBB brand brings credibility with investors and gives you sufficient options to fall back on should things not work out in the long run.
While not very common, this is an excellent option for those looking to make an impact in a social space. Whether large or small, all nonprofits value your experience as a consultant. Some of the most popular exits here tend to be organizations such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as they usually pay a very high salary when compared to others. However, any nonprofit is a great exit opportunity if it matches your core values and the work you want to do. Almost all have a shortage of talent and are very welcoming too.
Administrative roles in educational institutions
Many ex-consultants work in senior administrative positions in the academic world. These include roles such as chief of strategy or CFO at top independent schools and colleges/universities.
Forget your path
This is an endless list that includes politicians, comedians, musicians, and athletes!
There are also various other opportunities that arise after a period of at least 2 years in a company. Five of them are listed below.
BA/Analyst - Most diverse set of exit options
Exiting as a 2nd or 3rd year BA is when you will have the most opportunities open to you. Companies value the MBB brand & training tremendously and the fact that you are young, energetic and eager makes you an ideal hire.
All options are open to you at this stage. It is also the ideal time to explore options that are ‘more risky’ than the traditional PE/VC type exit opportunities. For example, starting a new company or working for a politician or nonprofit. Take your time to network and learn about all the roles that interest you.
While most people can take advantage of any option, if you are in a country such as the US and on a visa, many options may not be open to you at this time. I would encourage you to explore other countries or your home country with the knowledge that you can always come back to the US to do an MBA, which will be easy to get into given the MBB stamp on your resume.
Associate - Can be a red flag*
While people do exit as an Associate, unless you joined the firm as a BA and are leaving after being promoted to an Associate (after 2+ years of experience), this is not a good career move.
If you joined as an Associate and are to leave prior to making EM, especially if you are leaving before 2 years, it will be seen as a red flag. It indicates either that the career is not the right fit for you or that you were a poor performer and were let go for performance related reasons. So be very careful about a move as an Associate prior to making EM if you did not join as a BA.
EM - Most optimal in terms of experience and pay
The EM role is the level where most consultants choose to exit MBB. This role hits the sweet spot of potential opportunities and the ideal seniority for exit. This is because, many companies value the unique skill sets of the Manager from MBB, given that they have delivered on intense and high impact projects while managing multiple stakeholder interests.This is a skill that is not easy to acquire in a traditional job, and it sets MBB consultants apart. From a comp perspective also, EM is the optimal exit point where companies will come closest to matching MBB compensation as they see clear value in you. At higher levels, matching pay becomes a significant challenge for non client facing roles. This is a big reason why many people choose to leave at this level.
Additionally, post the EM role, while there is still a lot of growth and learning to be had, it typically focuses on a different skill set - namely sales. As you move closer to becoming a partner, you shift focus from project delivery to selling the firm’s consulting and related services. While this is a great skill to have, not many people want to stay in consulting beyond this point, especially given the high personal cost involved of doing so.
AP - More focused exits, options limited by pay
Exiting as an Associate Partner is becoming more common as the number of promotions to this role increases, but partner growth is slower. This creates a bottleneck scenario for APs who must find a way to move up to partner quicker or work to find different roles internally to stay at MBB.
The AP skill set is very highly valued, however at this level the challenge becomes finding a suitable opening. Opportunities that match your experience, pay expectations and seniority are a difficult combination to find, however not impossible. Typically, at this level a lot more networking is required, however you also have a huge network to rely on, and a great skill set to leverage.
Partner+ - Huge network to leverage, fewer options partner skill set overall
Exits at partner levels are usually to senior roles at the executive level of larger companies. This is largely a function of their expertise. The opportunities available and the network they can leverage. Many partners also exit to start their own practice or their own startups. At this level the main limiting factor is pay and risk appetite, but there is a huge demand for the across roles and industries.
MBB, unlike other companies, highly encourages employees to pursue external opportunities when they are ready. They know that for many employees, consulting is a temporary part of their overall career, given how demanding it is and the number of opportunities available to consultants after a few years at the firm. Instead of being dismayed by it, they do a good job of helping their employees land great jobs and eventually turning them into clients of the firm or at least strong proponents of the firm.
Here are some of the options available to consultants at the time of leaving the firm:
This is paid time that consultants get, primarily based on their tenure with the firm. The longer your tenure, the longer the search time. During this time, consultants can continue to avail themselves of their work email and their benefits and get a full salary while deciding on the best step for their career. There is usually no work during search time, and people can spend their time searching for the right opportunity
MBB networks are some of the most robust alumni networks in the world. Even people that have gone to the top business schools often state that their MBB network ends up being more helpful in landing a job than their B-School network. People that have worked at MBB have gone through a grueling time and have a work ethic and approach to problem-solving that is hard to find elsewhere. This is why they are usually pleased to recommend other alumni for roles at their current places of work.
MBB enables alumni and those in the process of leaving the firm to get a job offer through a recruitment platform. These tend to be similar to any other job website, such as LinkedIn, but are only open to the firm's alumni. One reason the website is an extremely helpful tool is that it usually allows you to directly reach out to the hiring manager, by passing the traditional HR screening process and thereby significantly increasing the likelihood of landing an offer.
5. About the Author
Top-rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach / Multiple real offers / McKinsey EM in New York / 6 years McKinsey recruiting experience
- Professional Experience: eBay, McKinsey & Company
- Languages: English
- Location: United States
Udayan is a 5-star rated coach at PrepLounge with several years of experience at eBay and McKinsey. He worked at McKinsey for over 6 years and was primarily based out of NYC, which is the most competitive office to get into. In the last 10 years he helped over 200 students and professionals in the United States, China, Europe, India and the UK navigate the interview process and get offers at their desired firms. Through his years of experience at McKinsey in New York, London, and India, he focuses on management consulting and specifically on the McKinsey interview-led recruitment process. Moreover, he provides networking help and resume and cover letter reviews.
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