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Target: Consulting in two years. Going to Big4 or start-up for a gap year

Anonymous A asked on Sep 18, 2018 - 5 answers

Hi everybody,

My goal is to apply for Tier1 and Tier2 consulting companies in two years.

In the mean time I am planning to work for a year fulltime and make my masters degree.

Master I am scoping on Top15 FT Master in Management, which so far is looking good, but I am a little bit unsure what I should do in the mean time.

I have two options basically:

- Big4 Audit

- Tech startup company, very small, but great team and I can work directly with the CEO

Can some of the experts help me to give some feedback on the impact of these two options on my long term goal consulting. From what I heard it makes most sense to target a F500 company or a big brand (as this also helps to get into the good masters programs) but I dont have enough time to go through an entire application process right now.

Thanks in advance and best wishes.

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updated his answer on Sep 18, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

just a reality check: why would you not have time to go through an "entire application process right now"?

Other than that, both options have advantages and disadvantages with view towards consulting:

  • In Audit / Big4 you will surely learn a lot of the "technical skills" required, like Excel, finance know-how etc. You will have a taste of the consultant lifestyle, with travelling, working at the client and such. But you'll also be at the bottom of the food chain, spending weeks in windowless offices hunched over some spreadsheet
  • In a startup, you have the potential for a lot more personal growth. You may get to work with amazing, inspiring people (like the founder / CEO) from whom you can learn a lot. You will constantly be out of your depth and will need to improvise and figure things out on your own. Not such skills to acquire, either.

Personally, I'd lean towards a startup, if it's really a serious endeavour with some great people you can learn from. And it's a lot more fun as well.

There is a catch-22 though: I predict that if you thrive for two years in the startup world you'll never go into consulting. But that will be ok as well, I guess.


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replied on Sep 18, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Elias and Vlad, a startup experience generally speaking would be better. The main advantages I see are similar to the ones Vlad mentioned:

  • A Big 4 brand is not a particular good for strategy consulting, while a startup experience could differentiate you from others
  • You will have more leadership/drive/impact experiences
  • You will develop a lot more problem solving

This also comes from personal experience - many of the intern who worked in our startup successfully moved to strategy consulting later on.

Having said that, why not apply for a consulting internship directly (even 2nd tier and for 6 months only if you need time to apply)? This would be the best way to show alignment with your future application and to learn similar skills to the ones you will have to develop as a consultant.



replied on Sep 18, 2018
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I would recommend joining a startup for the following reasons:

  1. Audit is not considered to be the relevant experience for consulting (At least for MBB companies).
  2. If the startup grows - you'll have tons of thing to write in the resume
  3. The startup will provide you with a lot of PEI stories
  4. CEO exposure in a startup


replied on Sep 19, 2018
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Tons of great answers already, I'll just add a personal story: after my first degree, I wanted consulting. To "improve" my odds, I considered going through some engineering masters, or doing auditing at a (then) big 5. One of my star professors stopped me with the following question: "why wait? Try consulting now!".

I agree startups would be a fantastic experience; but if you want consulting, go for it - now, not tomorrow.

Anonymous A replied on Sep 18, 2018

Hey Guys,

Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

So I don`t want to go for an internship to be honest, because I am already 24 and I want to display some consistency in my CV now. Does that make sense? What would be good companies to apply for an internship? I heard that lower Tier consulting does not make really sense and even have a negative effect on my CV?

And I am currently in a transition phase, meaning that I am not doing any job. If I start my application now for the MBB and 2 Tier consulting companies that would take 2-3 month I guess and I don`t want to spend that much time doing nothing especially with my A Level being over 2.5. So I want to spend the year, that I am working now and the master to start network my way into MBB.

Thanks for your help!