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I have a PhD in Food Engineering and 8+ years of progressive R & D experience in the US food industry (more details underneath). I am pursuing an online MBA, and am interested to pursue a career in consulting. I am 39 years old. What would be a possible way to gain entry as a Associate/Senior Associate in the consulting industry? I am too old, given that usual MBA hires are 27-30 years old.

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I earned my PhD from a really reputed graduate program (part of a public university) in the US, though it's a non-traditional college for the Big three consulting firms. Since then I've been in working successfuly in the food industry R & D for last ~ 8 years.

I am interested in consulting because I like the challenge involved. I hadn't thought about consulting as a career choice until couple of months ago when I was thinking about career post-MBA. I have been doing reserach online to understand the pros and cons, and would appreciate some feedback.

I also understand that while age is just a number, I'd like to keep my expectaitons realistic.

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Andrea
Expert
replied on 02/11/2018
BCG decision round interviewer with 300+ real interviews conducted and 8 years interviewing experience

With your work experience I think the chances to enter in top 3 are between highly unlikely and very unlikely.

The variation depends on whether you had a significant role progression during your 8 years in R&D.

  • If you progressively had more senior and managerial roles in the department/lab, then you can have a chance of positioning yourself as an experienced hire and join as a consultant with tenure or project leader. However, yours is still a non-traditional profile among the non-traditional ones and your best chance to pass resume screening is to have a someone at the firm to refer your application (think about building connections through shared alma mater in undergrad/grad). If you do not have anyone, you will need to network at events.
  • if you progress in seniority, expertise but not in managerial functions, then I think there will need some of that experience before you can apply, if you want to have a chance. MBA title at this point, unless is from top 10 full time or top 5 exec, is not relevant - experience is the thing that matters most.

Chances on second tier and boutique are better as stated in other answer because:

  1. your profile might match their specialty/industry focus
  2. they are bigger and have a bigger diversity of project and hence are more prone to hire a greater diversity of people

As stated, road to get a foot in the door will be hard, but is doable with proper planning, networking and preparation.

good luck!

andrea

Hemant
Expert
replied on 02/11/2018
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.

A lot depends on what your consulting goals are:

  • Easier: specialized / boutique consulting firms
  • Hard: Tier 2 firms (ZS, IBM, Accenture, etc)
  • Hardest: Tier 1 firms (Mckinsey, BCG, Bain, Booz)

Now overlay that with how consulting firms hire:

  • Top MBA programs: typically the wheelhouse of tier-1/2 firms depending on which MBA program. This does NOT include online MBAs.
  • Professional networking: direct connects at networking events, firm-orgranized Mixers, or you know someone who knows someone who knows someone at a firm, or you have an industry reputation already (famous blog, active following on twitter, etc).
  • Direct applications: you apply directly through their web portals (if it exists).

So, given your background, etc, the most likely path for you is networking like crazy, start building a 1:1 relations with current consultants, try to get one of them to refer you. You will have the best chance with boutique firms, BUT given you have a PhD from a top program, you might have a shot at the tier2/1 firms if they have expert-track offers (mckinsey has the subject-matter-expert roles). I'd say if you are sure of doing consulting as a career, you should diversify your approach to focus 70% of your time on boutiques, and 20% on tier2 and 10% on tier1. If you only want to do consulting for MBBs, then start networking hard and find a way to get an interview.

Hemant

Vlad replied on 02/11/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

I see 3 major obstacles here:

  1. R&D in the food industry - I'm afraid it's not the relevant industry expertise and TOP3 companies will hardly hire you as an expert.
  2. Online MBA I'm afraid is not relevant at all. Reputable university does not matter as well at the age of 39
  3. Age - as you've mentioned 39 is quite old. You'll feel yourself uncomfortable under the command of the much younger consultants.

I see 2 potential solutions:

I personally think that chances to get a great position in the industry are much higher.

Best,

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