Which career path to take?

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New answer on May 22, 2020
12 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 15, 2020

Hi Preplounge,

I am a recent Master graduate from a top-tier university in mechanical engineering and recently got two job offers. One is as an engineer at ESA and one as a strategy consultant for a local consulting firm. My long term goal is to climb the career latter in a top consulting firm (preferably MBB).

However, I am not sure yet which position seems more suitable in order to push me into this direction. Gaining experience at an international well-known company (ESA) and having its name in my CV (besides gaining more experience as an engineer) or starting early in consulting and learning its methods at a smaller firm? What do recruiters for MBB prefer in a candidate?

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Apr 15, 2020

Hi there,

Congrats on the offers! This is a good question to solve at this period of time.

Either option can potentially lead you to a top consulting firm down the road. But you should try to find out and consider:

(1) For the engineer role in EAS, would there be opportunities for you to transfer to a business role or get enough business exposure? There are people who move from engineering background to consulting as experienced hire, but they usually have gained decent business knowledge and skill sets. Otherwise you likely would start from a junior role when you switch to consulting;

(2) For the local consulting firm, how is its reputation and credibility in the consulting industry? Are there prior successful examples of people moving from this firm to the other bigger consulting companies? If so then it sounds a legit path. Nonetheless if you choose this route, make sure you work hard and get most out of the work - make yourself a top performer that all firms would want to hire.

Anyway, congrats again!

Emily

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Christian
Expert
updated an answer on Apr 15, 2020
Ex-Roland Berger | Recruiter in 80+ Interviews | INSEAD Case Coach | Focus: in-case behaviors that persuade ANY interviewer

Hi Anonymous,

starting as an Engineer will help you to get some industry-specific knowledge, but that's usually not what helps you succeed in Consulting in the first couple of promotions - it's much more the methods and tools to familiarize yourself with an unfamiliar situation.

In my view you will learn that a lot faster if you take the offer from the small consultancy - and the large consultancies will notice these skills in your interviews with them right away.

Best, Christian

(edited)

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Clara
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replied on Apr 15, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello,

If you goal is consulting, start doing it asap. It will also help you get better prepared for the interviews themselves.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Anrian
Expert
replied on Apr 15, 2020
Ex Kearney Senior Manager | Ex McKinsey Engagement Manager | Interviewer & Case Coach at McKinsey (200+ Real Interviews)

Hi There,

Congrats on the offers!

There is no right or wrong answer on this one. I was also coming from experienced-hire and had advised people that made a move from corporate to MBB.

Let me give you my personal perspective:

  1. Fundamental skills/traits to be a strong MBB consultant at the bare minimum: Strong Problem Solving, Distinctive Structure, Solid Communication/Presentation, Top-notch Client Handling, Great Leadership
  2. Now, you need to assess which track will help you to gain/strengthen those skills
  3. From a CV/Resume point of view, being an ESA engineer will provide a more unique and distinct element rather than being a local consultant
  4. However, speaking from experience, engineers in a consulting interview usually tend to lose either their strategic side, structure in communication or not able to really show the ability to handle hard clients properly
  5. I am not going to say that is a stereotype of engineers, but the nature of work shapes it that way (similar to an accountant - been there myself)
  6. There are obviously some outliers that have the ability and can show it

So, if you can be the outlier, I would suggest taking ESA engineer job before going to MBB. It will simply give distinct elements in CV and more unique stories. Also, MBB currently has specialist roles that look for people from specific industries e.g. Energy, Financial, Telco, etc.

Hope this helps!

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Anonymous replied on Apr 16, 2020

Hi, First of all congrats for the offers.

I think both path can lead you to the MBB as I've seen both cases. There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled:

  1. ESA: Make sure you still ace your case interview and involve in interesting works that can be sold on your CV. Consulting love engineers due to their perceived logic and analytical power. However, some engineers that fails on my case interview are the ones that cannot think strategically or has very limited business acumen. Both can be addressed through a regular case practice. I would also suggest to apply to MBB as early as possible (i.e. 1.5-2 years) after joining ESA.
  2. Smaller Consulting - Ensure the brand credentials of the local firm are recognized (i.g. they handle similar client as MBB only on smaller scale / more specialist projects). Try to also see the market perception of people regarding the smaller firms and track record of the alumni. Finally, practicing case also still needs to be in the agenda as working in consulting does not mean you can always maintain your case interview skill.

Hope this helps :)

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Anonymous replied on Apr 15, 2020

Hi,

First of all congratulations. It's very nice to have 2 offers in this context, well done !

I would say that there is no good answer to your question.

On one hand, if you start working for ESA you will develop, industry / vertical skills probably very valuable for any consulting firm once you get credible enough to market those skills :)

On the other hand, working in another consulting firm from now on will provide you more soft skills (how to manage a project, to interact with a client, to do slides, ...) which are very very usefull as a consultant.

You need to see which skills you wanna develop first. I would say; maybe start at ESA because your technical background will definetely be a differentiating lever and it's never too late to develop the pure consulting skills.

Hope it helps.

David

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Thomas
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replied on Apr 15, 2020
150+ interviews | 6+ years experience | Bain, Kearney & Accenture | Exited startup| London Business School

Hi there, first of all, congrats! There is indeed no right answer, but I am leaning more towards taking the engineering offer over the local consulting offer. In my experience, it can be quite a challenge to switch consulting firms if the smaller one is not that well-known. Secondly, an engineering career makes you stand out and consulting is quite a logical step after a few years of engineering.

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Vlad
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replied on Apr 15, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

I think you are covering only one aspect of your application - pass / no pass of your resume.

However, another important aspect is - will you be able to pass the interviews? Working in consulting right away will help you to prepare for the interviews more than anything else

Best

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Udayan
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replied on Apr 15, 2020
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

Congratulations on two great offers!

I don't think there is any 'right' answer to this question. I would say if you do consulting at least you will quickly be able to tell if it is the right career path for you and can switch to something else if needed. Additionally it is a directly transferable skill to MBB if you decide to apply later.

Best,

Udayan

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Francesco
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replied on Apr 16, 2020
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Hi there,

congratulations on your offers! I would say it depends on the level of the local consulting firm:

  1. If it is a known brand which has a track record to lead to MBB or at least Tier 2 (you can check on LinkedIn), it would then be the best option
  2. If it is an unknown brand and there is no historical track record to MBB or other consultancies, it means you would need an MBA to switch to MBB later on. Given that, ESA would probably be better. You may still have to do an MBA anyway with ESA to switch, but at least will give you brand recognition.

Best,
Francesco

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Anonymous replied on May 22, 2020

Dear A,

I would like to add to all of these answer the following. Please, consider the fact like financials. If both offers are more or less equal, I would go rather for a smaller consulting company, because it brings you one step closer to your targeted company.

Hope it helps,

Good luck,

André

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Antonello
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replied on Apr 30, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, congratulations for the offer! I'm an aerospace engineer too and ESA is great! If you are still not decided about consulting vs technical path I would go for ESA: it has a big brand and it is totally fine to strengthen your cv for a future application in MBB

Best,
Antonello

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