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Is there an upper age limit to graduate recruits?

career path Non-traditional recruiting
New answer on May 28, 2024
8 Answers
145 Views
Anonymous A asked on May 27, 2024

Hi everyone. 

I've a nontraditional background, with  ~10 years of work experience directly after secondary education (spread across low-level IT, entrepreneurship and working for the family agricultural business.) I did not go to university, failing to see the value of it, as I come from a country where higher education gives barely any competitive advantage, due to a combination of  a very high percentage of university graduates among the population and lack of skilled worker positions/any corporate traditions in any industry outside of the IT sector.

While working on my entrepreneurial projects, launching an entertainment/cultural brand, and as a successful participant in a startup accelerator program, launching a food product, and mentoring teams on a subsequent edition, I was introduced to the concepts of strategy consulting, and I became increasingly excited about the prospect of a consulting career. 

With this newfound ambition I got back into the academic track and am set to graduate from a non-target, good local university next year, aged 29. I believe my experience to be insufficient for post-MBA recruitment, thus I am preparing to apply to a top-rated European MiM program, to then try and recruit to MBB/Tier 2 consulting in the geography of my masters. 

If I successfully enrol into an LBS/RSM/HSG Masters, would I be on equal footing to apply for analyst roles with my university peers, or would my age (~31) be a disqualifier/hindrance?  

Is all of the above a pipe-dream, and my chances entirely murdered by the errors of youth? If not, should I focus on getting the typical internship experience ( big4, m&a, government ? ) in the last year of my undergrad, or given my non-typical background, is there a better path?

(edited)

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Best answer
Anderson
Expert
replied on May 28, 2024
Ex-McKinsey |5y consulting experience | Specialization in Psychology | Proven holistic mentor

Q: Is there an age limit and do I have chances securing an offer to consulting firms with my background and age?

Hi,  there

I like your question because I can relate to some of your concerns from when I was younger. I hope I summarized your 2 main questions correctly. If so, I’m going to split the answer in two:

1.      Age limit: the general answer is no, there is no age limit when applying to consulting. Of course, there could be if you were like 50 and would be applying to entry jobs, but it’s not your case.

2.      Chances of success given background and age: in my opinion you will be in very strong shape to applying to consulting when you apply during your MBA.  What I saw in McKinsey is that they want diverse, interesting life and work profiles, that can bring additional, relevant perspectives to the projects you take part. By the way, I don't think you will be applying to anaylist roles, but to Associate / Fellow Associate roles. For context, I first joined McKinsey as an analyst at the age of 29 and became a post-MBA associate at the age of 34, and I was not even the oldest in that role.

From my experience, being older can be a strong advantage if you leverage it correctly. You will likely perform well with senior clients and will show a level of calm that transmits confidence to the leadership of the project. There is a catch, though: as a more experienced person, you are expected to bring solid stories (maybe including moments of leadership, entrepreneurship) and some degree of expertise in some topic.

Therefore, my final words are: go for it and good luck!

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there, 

1) If I successfully enroll into an LBS/RSM/HSG Masters, would I be on equal footing to apply for analyst roles with my university peers, or would my age (~31) be a disqualifier/hindrance?  

Most likely with your experience you should apply for a post-MBA role (Associate at McKinsey, Consultant at BCG/Bain). Rather than a MiM, I would recommend an MBA if possible to align more with that option. You would not be too old at 31 to join that position, there are several people who join later than that.

2) Is all of the above a pipe-dream?

If you enroll in a top school and apply afterward, I don’t think you are going to have a disadvantage.

3) If not, should I focus on getting the typical internship experience ( big4, m&a, government ? ) in the last year of my undergrad, or given my non-typical background, is there a better path? 

If you want to work in consulting, I would recommend a consulting internship if possible.

Good luck!

Francesco

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

No. 

Your age is not an issue.

I've worked with people transitioning from the industry into consulting at age 50. 

I've also had peers in McKinsey who joined the firm at 50+ at manager level. 

Really, age is not a problem and you're definitely among the young end of the cohort. 

You might find it useful to read this guide on the elements that you can control regarding your application:

Expert Guide: Build A Winning Application Strategy

Best,
Cristian

 

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Ariadna
Expert
replied on May 28, 2024
BCG | Project Leader and Experienced Interviewer | MBA at London Business School

Just to complement what everyone is saying and maybe bring a clarification: in your specific case, an MBA would be significantly better fit for your ambition than a Masters' programme. I actually had MBA colleagues with very similar stories to yours, successfully recruiting into consulting. 

It is better suited for people with work experience and a better pipeline for recruiting at the levels the others recommend you should apply to (and I agree with them): Consultant at BCG / Bain or Associate at McKinsey. 

There are of course downsides compared to a MiM, biggest one being the cost and for some programs the opportunity cost in terms of duration (e.g., LBS MBA being two years), so this is also something to consider in your decision. 

Best of luck, 

Ariadna 

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

Great ambition! 

To answer your final question properly, I would need the full CV as other factors play a role as well.

I don't see age as a limiting factor here but you should also consider

  • GPA of your degrees, awards, honors, etc.
  • Relevant work experience (brand names of companies, roles that align with the work of strategy consulting)
  • Leadership and initiatives outside of a work context

MBB seek for consistent excellence since high school graduation in whatever role a candidate was active.

Reach out for more tailored insights with your resume! 

All the best,

Florian

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Agrim
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2024
BCG Dubai Project Leader | Learn to think like a Consultant | Free personalised prep plan | 6+ years in Consulting

Your age is fine for your mission.

The key will be to sharpen your answers regarding your motivation to join consulting - and being able to convince the interviewer.

However, where you came from, is where many consultants aspire to go after spending many years in consulting.

If you share more specifics of your experience over messages - then I can perhaps provide more personalized advice.

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Pedro
Expert
replied on May 28, 2024
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

I thought you were going to be older :)

It is a limitation nevertheless, but being 31 is far from preventing you to get a job in consulting.

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Alberto
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2024
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

You have good entrepreneurial professional experience. This plus your MBA with strong grades should be a good mix to have chances into consulting.

Your target roles should be Associate or Junior Associated, based in your experience.

Best,

Alberto

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Anderson gave the best answer

Anderson

Ex-McKinsey |5y consulting experience | Specialization in Psychology | Proven holistic mentor
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