Experienced hire to MBB, worth it?

Experienced Hire
New answer on May 31, 2021
3 Answers
Anonymous A asked on May 23, 2021

Hello community,

I am going through MBB application as an experienced hire with a decade of work experience in a tradition (by traditional I mean as opposed to hip, nouveau, innovative, 'Silicon Valley’ culture) corporate. As I am learning more about consultant role, I still can't answer the following two questions that will help me decide whether the transition is worth doing and I would really appreciate your thoughts, whether you are an expert, or an applicant like me.

1. In what capacity can I work as a consultant?

2. What kind of impact can I make?

I am afraid that my biases from work and actual experiences of having worked with a consulting firm at work is making me feel skeptical about seeking a career in consulting as an experienced hire, so I will share a bit of my background.

* By the way, I think consulting is an EXCELLENT entry to workforce, and if someone has the stamina to make a lasting career as a consultant, I have immense respect for that individual.

** I did not dare ask the above two questions during recruiting events for the fear of coming across as skeptical and I do not think I can ask former consultants either for the same reason. Only in anonymity am I comfortable asking.

I am an older Millennial who have conceded that there is no such thing as work-life balance but do not buy into hustle culture either. I don't think being busy at work is a status symbol, but an unfortunate lifestyle of someone who has not found fulfillment in other areas. It's just that I don't think being a high performer professionally and being an engaged and available partner/parent/child/neighbor/citizen, etc. is feasible for many people. My dream job when I was a student was a (magically) tenured professor with zero pressure to publish (as if there is such a thing), as an ambitious corporate worker a few years ago I was aiming to be the CEO (it was a joke and not a joke at the same time), and I have vague wishes to take up drawing after retirement. Currently I am beaten down, disillusioned and extremely bored.

As you may expect in a traditional corporate, tenure and rank matters a lot which determines the level of info you have access to, what you can say in meetings (or whether you can speak out at all), and what responsibilities you have. I got the much-wanted promotion to a manger rank a few years ago, and thanks to being a workaholic (and single) I burned through the past few years after the promotion and reached a state of been-there done-that. I have a general understanding of my department’s inventory for the next few years, and I can exactly see what I will be doing for the next five years and I am stuck at my current rank for another decade.

Switching to a different business division is extremely difficult in my rigid workplace and I have no desire to because I know that the grass is not greener on the other side. I am not suffering from burn-out, never have, and in fact quite comfortable in my position because working for the same business division the past ten years has provided me with not only job skills, but also networks and implicit knowledge to get things done here. So I am getting things done at an okay pace out of habit, but extremely bored and mad that my unexciting job by nature demands long and erratic working hours.

Now to actual subject of consulting, I have worked on two different implementation projects with one of the Big 4 and frankly I was not impressed. Yes, it was not strategy consulting but implementation so maybe they were not the best and the brightest of the firm. Or maybe because implementation requires a lot of menial grunt work, the consultants I worked with did not have the chance to show their best side. As a matter of fact, I felt sorry, especially for younger BAs and Associates whose youth I felt were exploited for boring tasks like taking hundreds of screenshots and slicing up by the pixel and were thrown to serve as call centers and routers to deal with frustrated clients. I am not exactly excited about joining that rank should I transition to consulting, but I know perfectly well that it needs to be done.

While I felt sorry for the younger consultants, the more experienced consultants, some of whom were CPAs and PhDs failed to impress me with their keen insight or deep understanding of the processes we were trying to implement. In fact, my team developed a habit of not trusting the consultants because their change recommendation often failed to account for a glaringly important case, or even multiple cases (i.e. failed to be watertight, MECE) and had to clarify whether they understood implications of the recommendation back and forth multiple times. After the consultants had withdrawn from the project, the running joke among the operation team was, “This process was defined and designed by Mr. Consultant so-and-so.” “Well, I see his trademark of failing to account for such and such.” I was mostly grateful for producing numerous documents for audit, which I consider to be a very boring and dull job, but the consultants seemed to have a knack for it, but I also know from experience that those audit documents become irrelevant as soon as implementation transitions to operation.

Would MBB with different price tags be different, I wonder. I do not have a shot at breaking into strategy consulting, so it is the sour grape, but judging from my experiences working at an industry, I don’t think there is as much demand for strategy consulting. Much like how MBA degrees has become more prevalent, my understanding is that larger corporates have successfully built high caliber internal strategy consulting organizations because the practice has become common place. I think that is why MBBs are branching out to implementation and operation (which I have a shot at) but especially in those areas I cannot see how an external consulting firm will be more successful than in-house organization.

Regarding implementation and operation, from my work experience I am dispositioned to think that the canvas an external consulting firm has to draw on is cluttered with existing and oftentimes incongruent practices that stuck due to various circumstances and history of the business, and it involves multiple parties in an organization with their share of incongruencies. I think it takes a year or two to learn and navigate a business function/system/unit/practice comfortably. On top of that in this age of information global best practices are quickly shared so corporates are under pressure to change more rapidly, and I can attest to such evolution and devolution in my workplace as well.

I think you need a decade of experience under your belt to claim a shadow of mastery in most fields. I have seen multiple variations of things going south in my field for the past decade to finally be relatively comfortable. I think that is essentially what experience is – having seen many, many deviant and abnormal cases and having fixed it (actual skill) or having it patched up and making it somebody else’s problem (social skill). If things always worked out as they are supposed to, someone fresh out of school would be the wisest one. Here is what I really don’t understand. Does learning curving in consulting flatten out after two years to warrant a promotion from BA to Associate and from Associate to EM?

I realize that the question has become ridiculously long so I will wrap it up by tying back to the initial questions.

1. In what capacity can I work as a consultant?

- I am afraid not much? I will be a hired help, without claim to superior insight on how things are done at client’s businesses.

2. What kind of impact can I make?

- Again, ironically not much, because I will be gone after having produced beautiful reports?

Am I not understanding something about career in consulting? Have I been jaded prematurely by not-so-great experience with working with consultants? What can I look forward to as an experienced hire, who’s options have been narrowed?

Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
updated an answer on May 24, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

There's a LOT to unpack here and I really don't think a Q&A can really do it justice! I genuinely think you should consider any of the following to help you sort this out: 1) Networking calls (you can be more honest here if you find them on LinkedIn for example), 2) A career coach

There's really a lot to both of your questions AND you've made a lot of points in your writing that I think need to be discussed!

That said, here is the long and short of it:

1. In what capacity can I work as a consultant?

In a large capacity. Ultimately in any desire you really choose. At BCG worked with an ex-flautist, an English major, a Dentist, and a professional violinist for goodness sake! Moreover, they were all better consultants than I ever was!

2. What kind of impact can I make?

Similar answer. If you have a dream and work hard/set your mind to it, you can do it at MBB.

3. The questions/answers you didn't ask

The day-to-day of consulting is extremely tough and often tedious. There is a lot of work spent on powerpoint, client management, oftentimes b.s. etc. That said, the big picture of it all is massive, and there is often huge impact.

You won't come in as an analyst but rather as a Consultant, or, possible, a Project Lead/Engagement Manager.

The higher your level the most impact you have, the more control you have over your direction, but also the more stress you have as well.

This is a lot to talk through...feel free to reach out if you'd like to talk through this in a career coaching session.


Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 24, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Thanks for the detailed post.

Precisely the key questions you are underlining are the ones that I would make someone with your profile, and for which you need a very good and convincing answer.

If you want to deep dive on the topic, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB" has been recently published in PrepLounge´s shop (https://www.preplounge.com/en/shop/tests-2/integrated-fit-guide-for-mbb-34)

It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Furthermore, you can find 5 free cases in the PrepL case regarding FIT preparation:

Feel free to PM me for disccount codes for the Integrated FIT Guide, since we still have some left from the launch!

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 31, 2021
Former BCG | Case author for efellows book | Experience in 6 consultancies (Stern Stewart, Capgemini, KPMG, VW Con., Hor

Feel free to contact me, then we can have a call on this topic :)

Was this answer helpful?
Ian gave the best answer


Content Creator
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep
Q&A Upvotes
99 Reviews