What would you say are the main differences between working for an inhouse consulting firm and a strategy consulting firm assuming they are of similar size and reputation?
Difference between working at inhouse and strategy consultancy
personnally I am not a fan of in-house strategy consulting opportunities, and am a bit sceptical about the rational of choosing this type of opportuntities as it seems to share the downs of each job without capturing the benefits :
1. If you are really interested in consulting, then go for a proper consulting firm
You're learning curve will be much steeper, salary growth higher, and exit opportunities better
2. If you are really interested by a specific industry, then go for either a consulting firm with strong presence in that industry or an attractive player of the industry
Both will give you more exposure and concrete experience in the industry. Being a third party consultant is sometimes an enabler for achiving a job vs. being challenges from inhouse consulting
3. If you are really interested by a specific company, then identify what are the core jobs of the company (every company has on or sevral key jobs / function) and apply directly to it
I realize this is a very personal thought and not every one can be aligned with this, but at least you will consider this to make your own opinion
In house strategy shops are typically lead and heavily staffed by former MBB consultants. The type of work will be fairly similar but specific to your own company obviously, and assignments may last a little longer (that's debatable, there are probably exceptions). On the positive side, less travel usually. On the negative side, less training and not quite as prestigious. Both offer very good career perspectives.
There are obviously exceptions, but the below is the framework I would use:
- If you get MBB, join MBB
- If you only get a boutique or 2nd tier... I'd suggest you join consulting anyway, but not a slam dunk - especially if that internal strat shop is in the industry you want anyway
- If your choice is between internal consulting and "regulat" work, take the internal consulting.
Hope this helps
There is a number of differences:
- The first and the main one is a slower career track with in-house consulting. The pyramid is almost flat and there is no place to grow. In consulting, you the career growth is 2-3 times faster
- Exposure to senior management (and career opportunities) - as a member of the strategy department you have a huge visibility in front of the Top Management. You can work with different teams and get access to the roles which you can't get the other way. For example, I know the people who switched to product managers in the tech companies - a transition you cannot make directly from MBB.
- The salary in the industry is lower compared to MBB companies. It may be comparable for the post-MBA roles, however, due to the slow career growth you will always have lower salaries compared to your friends working at MBBs
- Work-life balance - depending on your boss you may / may not have a good work-life balance. You will not have a work-life balance in consulting
- Skills are a trade-off. On the one hand, you get the valuable industry experience and become an industry expert. However, MBB experience usually covers more than one industry and gives you more exit opportunities.
- Other benefits - you will have better hotels, better dinners, better airline tickets, etc. This is important if you spend 90% of your life out of home. However with the in-house consulting most probably you will not travel.
I agree with Guennael. A couple of more elements of distinction in the comparison between in-house and strategy consultancy at same level of reputation/size are the following:
- Industry/Projects/Client Focus - In in-house consulting you will likely focus on a specific sector and practice – the one of your mother company. In strategy consulting you will normally see different industries, projects and clients. If you are already sure about you ideal industry, the first option may be the best alternative. If you are not sure yet about your favourite sector, the second may be better.
- Internal career progression – In strategy consulting partners may actually own part of the company; in in-house consulting the senior team may still be represented by employees without the benefit of a partnership.
- Exit opportunities – Given the same reputation and size, strategy consulting firms normally offer broader opportunities, as you would see more industries and, in particular, more clients. On the other hand, in-house consultancies may allow a smoother move to other areas inside the company.
both in terms of career path and exit opportunities in-house consulting scores lower than traditional strategy consulting such as MBB or second tiers. On the other hand, with in-house consulting you could get an earlier specialization in a field interesting for you.
- Industry/Projects/Client Focus - In in-house consulting you will likely focus on a specific sector and practice – the one of your mother company. In strategy consulting you will normally see different industries, projects and clients. If you are not sure yet about your favourite sector and want to keep doors open, the second is always better.
- Internal career progression – In strategy consulting partners may actually own part of the company; in in-house consulting the senior team may still be represented by employees without the benefit of a partnership. This means that the final outcome between the two internal career paths is very different from a financial point of view.
- Exit opportunities – Given the same reputation and size, strategy consulting firms normally offer broader opportunities, as you would see more industries, more clients and benefit from a stronger brand. On the other hand, in-house consultancies may allow a smoother move to other areas inside the company.