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Adi

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4

How to deal with pooling system in consulting firms

I am currently working at a big four's "deal strategy team" (i.e. a blend between finance and M&A strategy). Same as many other consulting firms, my firm adopts a pooling system, and engagement managers pick whoever they like to be staffed in the project.

The problem is, there are more finance focused projects in my firm, an area which is not my specialization (I am more of a "strategy guy"). I feel that sometimes I am doing meaningless supporting tasks, as many of the "finance projects" are already been taken by more experienced colleauges. At the same time, there aren't enough strategy projects to keep the strategy people busy.

I have a few questions:

(1) How to get involved in the finance projects which I am not familiar with? I have tried to proactively reach out to seniors to express my willingness to try out the finance projects, but it didn't help much.

(2) Would the situation at MBB be similar? (i.e. engagement manager or senior people have the power to decide which junior to be staffed?)

(3) How to break the "stereotype" if your position is fixed? I guess many people in consulting firms would have the same concern. Once you are labeled as a expert in XYZ, these kind of projects will come to you, while other kinds of projects will be out of your reach.

Thanks in advance!

I am currently working at a big four's "deal strategy team" (i.e. a blend between finance and M&A strategy). Same as many other consulting firms, my firm adopts a pooling system, and engagement managers pick whoever they like to be staffed in the project.

The problem is, there are more finance focused projects in my firm, an area which is not my specialization (I am more of a "strategy guy"). I feel that sometimes I am doing meaningless supporting tasks, as many of the "finance projects" are already been taken by more experienced colleauges. At the same time, there aren't enough strategy projects to keep the strategy people busy.

I have a few questions:

(1) How to get involved in the finance projects which I am not familiar with? I have tried to proactively reach out to seniors to express my willingness to try out the finance projects, but it didn't help much.

(2) Would the situation at MBB be similar? (i.e. engagement manager or senior people have the power to decide which junior to be staffed?)

(3) How to break the "stereotype" if your position is fixed? I guess many people in consulting firms would have the same concern. Once you are labeled as a expert in XYZ, these kind of projects will come to you, while other kinds of projects will be out of your reach.

Thanks in advance!

(edited)

4 answers

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Best Answer
Book a coaching with Adi

100% Recommendation Rate

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5,743 Q&A Upvotes

USD 159 / Coaching

Hey there,

Sorry to hear about your frustration. This does happen sometimes when:

  • The firm is not getting the right volume and size of work
  • Demand-Supply matching is not good and this is often the problem as client needs changes, budgets change etc
  • One's own branding and visibility are not that great; best roles typically get staffed via networking to sought after people- this is very common in almost all big consulting firms

Here are some suggestions to help you break the rut:

  • Is your current role really the right one for you? Does this field of work inspire you, make you joyful? If not, you have to do some digging within yourself to understand where you want to steer your career. I moved out of Strategy to Operations Consulting for example..
  • Refresh your own pitch, make your functional & industry skills crystal clear when you talk to people. What are you good at now and what do you want to be known for in future?
  • Clearly indentify the gaps in your skills- consulting skills & functional/industry knowledge
  • If Finance is where you want to go, be specific e.g. corporate finance; start getting involved in side of desk projects/activities which will make you known to that team, be ready to do the trivial work while you are building your reputation & visibility
  • Talk to as many senior people as you can with your new revised pitch & understand the pipeline. Be ready to offer something to them in return of their backing to get you a role
  • If all above fails, consider going to another firm and rebrand yourself there into Finance. But it wont be all perfect on Day 1 there either. It does take sometime to establish yourself but once you are in that sweet spot, things work out around you

Feel free to message me if you wish to have a detailed chat on this. I have helped a number of people assess their current career and design a new pitch & career track.

Hey there,

Sorry to hear about your frustration. This does happen sometimes when:

  • The firm is not getting the right volume and size of work
  • Demand-Supply matching is not good and this is often the problem as client needs changes, budgets change etc
  • One's own branding and visibility are not that great; best roles typically get staffed via networking to sought after people- this is very common in almost all big consulting firms

Here are some suggestions to help you break the rut:

  • Is your current role really the right one for you? Does this field of work inspire you, make you joyful? If not, you have to do some digging within yourself to understand where you want to steer your career. I moved out of Strategy to Operations Consulting for example..
  • Refresh your own pitch, make your functional & industry skills crystal clear when you talk to people. What are you good at now and what do you want to be known for in future?
  • Clearly indentify the gaps in your skills- consulting skills & functional/industry knowledge
  • If Finance is where you want to go, be specific e.g. corporate finance; start getting involved in side of desk projects/activities which will make you known to that team, be ready to do the trivial work while you are building your reputation & visibility
  • Talk to as many senior people as you can with your new revised pitch & understand the pipeline. Be ready to offer something to them in return of their backing to get you a role
  • If all above fails, consider going to another firm and rebrand yourself there into Finance. But it wont be all perfect on Day 1 there either. It does take sometime to establish yourself but once you are in that sweet spot, things work out around you

Feel free to message me if you wish to have a detailed chat on this. I have helped a number of people assess their current career and design a new pitch & career track.

Thanks a lot, the advice is awesome! — Anonymous A on Dec 28, 2020

Book a coaching with Ian

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Hi there,

My advice for all three of your questions (really all the same question) is the same: Network, network, network.

Unfortunately, you can't just reach out to seniors to express your interest...if they don't know you/your name this will serve no purpose!

You need to build stronger relationships with these seniors. "Water cooler chats" and firm functions are great ways to build relationships and get notified of opportunities. Gossip is gold so to speak.

So, I recommend putting yourself out there socially in order to advance professionally. As a "bonus" also try to demonstrably develop your finance skills...if you're completely green, noone will take on that risk for you. If you can get certifications, side projects, etc. that show your ability to be a star in finance, then do so as often as possible!

Hi there,

My advice for all three of your questions (really all the same question) is the same: Network, network, network.

Unfortunately, you can't just reach out to seniors to express your interest...if they don't know you/your name this will serve no purpose!

You need to build stronger relationships with these seniors. "Water cooler chats" and firm functions are great ways to build relationships and get notified of opportunities. Gossip is gold so to speak.

So, I recommend putting yourself out there socially in order to advance professionally. As a "bonus" also try to demonstrably develop your finance skills...if you're completely green, noone will take on that risk for you. If you can get certifications, side projects, etc. that show your ability to be a star in finance, then do so as often as possible!

Book a coaching with Iman

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Hi,

Really sorry to hear about this but it is unfortunately more common than you think even in MBB.

A couple of suggestion:

  1. Leverage your coach / mentor to help you market yourself. People will need to hear that you are good from other people.
  2. Expand your skill to match with the existing project demand - e.g take a CFA
  3. Network and show how good you are (deliver beyond expectation) even in the so called meaningless task. People need to see you as a guy that is overdelivering in any situation so they will slowly trust you.

Best,

Iman

Hi,

Really sorry to hear about this but it is unfortunately more common than you think even in MBB.

A couple of suggestion:

  1. Leverage your coach / mentor to help you market yourself. People will need to hear that you are good from other people.
  2. Expand your skill to match with the existing project demand - e.g take a CFA
  3. Network and show how good you are (deliver beyond expectation) even in the so called meaningless task. People need to see you as a guy that is overdelivering in any situation so they will slowly trust you.

Best,

Iman

Book a coaching with Clara

100% Recommendation Rate

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Hello!

I get your frustration.

MBB is not that extreme, but there is also some of it.

Best way to overcome it is to network deeply and fast, and get to know -and be known- by the leadership focused on whatever you want to do. This is what opens the interesting engagements doors.

Best,

Clara

Hello!

I get your frustration.

MBB is not that extreme, but there is also some of it.

Best way to overcome it is to network deeply and fast, and get to know -and be known- by the leadership focused on whatever you want to do. This is what opens the interesting engagements doors.

Best,

Clara