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How are United Nations employees seen when transitioning into Strategy Consulting?

career move non-profit world strategy united nations
Recent activity on Oct 31, 2017
2 Answers
4.7 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Oct 28, 2017

Hi all,

Here is the situation: I had been preparing to get a job in MBB, but bombed my final round interviews and didn't get an offer. However, I got two very different offers at other places and need help deciding what move makes the most sense to position myself to re-apply to MBB in 1-2 years.

One is with the UN in a technology advisory role --high staff category, good pay and benefits, but attaching the "nonprofit" label to my CV and skills used/improved are different from classic consulting. The position is interesting but can often be overshadowed by perceptions of inefficiency, bureaucracy and lack of innovation or results-driven culture. Any MBB consultants who can confirm this?

The other is with a boutique strategy consulting firm -- half the pay and not-well-known brand on CV, but learning opportunities are much more aligned to the skills a MBB would be looking for.

What should I do: a) good pay, "UN brand" and unrelated skills gained; or b) bad pay, not recognizable brand but appropriate skills gained.

Again, the end goal would be to reapply to MBB in 1-2 years. Is the UN brand perceived as worse than a not-well-known consulting firm?

Many thanks for your insights

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Anonymous B replied on Oct 28, 2017


I would choose the UN option, for three key reasons:

1. CV screening: most recruiters will only screen your CV and will not read it thoroughly. The "UN brand" seems more valuable.

2. skills gained: you have to demonstrate the necessary skills during the interviews either way. Since you made it to the final round before, I assume you have what it takes, you just need polishing. I think you can get that polishing without 1-2 years at a boutique firm.

3. Non-profit perception: I would emphasize the positive aspects instead of the negative ones (mission and values of the UN, how you care about international peace and security, etc.).

It would be an interesting question to ask which one would be the more interesting and enjoyable for you?

Hope it helps!

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Miguel on Nov 01, 2017

Thank you for your insights, I hadn't thought of the CV screening!

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replied on Oct 31, 2017
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Hi Anonymous A,

I personally know consultants who joined MBB after UN and NGO experiences, so I don’t think there is a stigma on the UN (although it is not the traditional recruiting path). The answer would depend a lot on what you will actually do in the UN, and what is the actual boutique firm you could join. If the latter doesn’t have a strong brand name and you believe you could develop at least some good skills with the UN (a minimum of consulting/research activities, develop communication skills, etc.), I would agree with Anonymous B, as the brand name together with some research/consulting would provide a stronger image for recruiters.



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Miguel on Nov 01, 2017

Francesco, thank you for providing the insider look. The boutique firm is BTS ( -- I think they do very interesting work in strategy implementation; but you are probably right in the importance of the UN brand as well. Thanks!

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