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Internal role vs. External role

operations roles
New answer on Jan 15, 2023
5 Answers
1.1 k Views
Sunny asked on Jan 10, 2023
Prefer candidate-led medium-level cases.

What's the difference between an internal role and an external role? 

Manufacturing consultant in operation practice is an internal or external role?

How difficult it is to switch from an internal role to an external role?

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Cristian
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Content Creator
replied on Jan 10, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi Sunny, 

Let me take your questions one by one - hopefully I understood what you are getting at :)

What's the difference between an internal role and an external role? 

In consulting, internal roles are filled by individuals who assist those working directly with consultants. Some of these might be support functions (assistants, HR, etc.) or they might be knowledge related functions, e.g., research analyst within the mining practice of BCG. These knowledge roles are in charge of developing research that then supports actual engagements. Depending on the firm, these knowledge roles sometimes also get client staffing, which means they sit somewhere between internal and external. 

Manufacturing consultant in operation practice is an internal or external role?

Based on this high-level description, this rather sounds like an ‘external role’. You will most likely work with clients only within the manufacturing area, so you'll be specialising in this topic/industry. You might also be expected to develop internal knowledge. 

How difficult it is to switch from an internal role to an external role?

It's possible, but not that easy. The reason is that external vs internal roles require a different skillset and to make the transition you need to prove that you have these abilities. For instance, in an internal position you have likely not worked much or at all with clients. Whereas this is the bread and butter of an ‘external’ or traditional consultant. If you're planning on making such a transition, speak with the senior leadership in your office or practice and they will gradually give you more opportunities to develop the new skillset you might need before you do the actual transition. 

Best of luck!
Cristian

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Hagen
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replied on Jan 11, 2023
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi Sunny,

I think this is an interesting question that may be relevant for many people. I would be happy to share my thoughts on it:

  • In consulting, employees who support the work of external consultants are considered to be in internal positions. These roles can include support functions, such as administrative or HR, as well as knowledge-based roles, such as research analysts in specific practice areas. Research analysts in these positions are responsible for conducting research that will be used in engagements with clients. While these roles are primarily internal, they may occasionally involve working with clients and be considered a hybrid of internal and external positions, depending on the specific company.
  • A manufacturing consultant in the operations practice is typically considered an external role. This role would involve working with manufacturing companies to identify areas for improvement in their operations, such as increasing efficiency and reducing costs. The consultant would then work with the company to develop and implement strategies to achieve these goals.
  • Switching from an internal role to an external role in strategy consulting can be difficult. Internal roles often involve a deep understanding of a specific topic, which can be difficult to replicate in an external role. Additionally, external roles may require more specialized skills, such as the ability to quickly understand a client's business and recommend solutions. However, it is not impossible, and people do make the switch successfully, especially if they have the right skills, attitude and a clear understanding of what the new role involves.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to address your specific situation, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Moritz
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replied on Jan 10, 2023
ex-McKinsey EM & Interviewer | 7/8 offer rate for 4+ sessions | 90min sessions with FREE exercises & videos

Hi there,

Let me break this down:

What's the difference between an internal role and an external role? In the consulting world, which is essentially a client-serving business, external roles are client facing whereas internal roles tend to support those client facing teams and/or develop firm-wide knowledge, solutions, products, etc.

Manufacturing consultant in operation practice is an internal or external role? Sounds very external. I was part of McKinsey Operations practice, which was heavily client facing i.e., on the ground with the front line all the time (not just c-suite). Requires quite strong people skills because you'll be dealing with engineers, technical experts, etc., all of which may have a different opinion from you and may not necessarily even want to work with you. However, most of the time it's good fun and I loved connecting with the people since I was one of them for a long time i.e., technical expert (Geology & Geophysics) in the Petroleum Industry.

How difficult it is to switch from an internal role to an external role? Impossible to say and depends on so many things e.g., scope of the internal role, technical and soft skills, your personality, etc. Generally speaking, however, I have seen some people going from internal to external in the consulting world but it's never easy and it's definitely the exception.

Hope this helps a bit. Best of luck!

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Pedro
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replied on Jan 15, 2023
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

Either you face clients or you don't. It's not impossible to switch, but people focusing on internal roles tend to be more specialized and have a narrower skillset (and a better work life balance).

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Ian
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replied on Jan 10, 2023
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Sunny,

An internal role is advising a company on their own strategy while you work for them and are employed by them. 

An external role is advising multiple companies while they contract you out for specific projects.

Internal roles are generally “easier” and deal more with internal stakeholders, smallers teams, etc.

External roles involve longer hours, more travel, more project types, etc.

I suggest you network further to truly learn more about what this looks like!

Internal to external is harder than external to internal. But it is still do-able.

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Cristian gave the best answer

Cristian

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