There is no doubt that management consulting is a great career. However, this is a profession that is both hard to get into and with a gruelling workload for those who do.
In short, it isn’t for everyone.
There are many factors to consider when you decide whether to pursue a life in management consulting.
However, if you are going to make a genuinely successful career, it is important not just to consider the initial job you apply to and how you might get it, but also the prospects for promotion, the pay scale and what doors might open up for future employment.
In short, you want to consider the full trajectory of a management consulting career path.
Here, we’ll do just that, starting off with your education and working forwards.
If you want to get into a top management consulting firm like McKinsey, Bain or BCG, you need to start your career early for an immaculate resume that serves the purpose.
To join a top firm like McKinsey, Bain and BCG, you’ll need an outstanding resume that gives you an advantage.
It all starts with a stellar performance in school, from a leading institution – Ivy/Oxbridge level or equivalent. It would be best if you scored top grades in the relevant subjects like economics or engineering.
Also, you need to have great soft skills, proven through excellent performance in co-curricular activities.
In terms of experience, for those just starting, you should have an internship experience at a top firm in the related industry, or another high-ranking management consulting firm.
Entrepreneurial and charitable experience comes as an added advantage.
Landing the job
Now that you have amassed all these grades and great entries on your resume, you need to make it past the infamously formidable selection process.
Before you even draft your cover letter, network with people in your target company. Talking to current and former employees will help you learn about the company culture.
Besides networking, research about the history, values and mission of the company, and everything else you can learn about it. Do the same for your target office.
You have excellent grades from a renown university. In addition, you show great internship experience from leading consultants and lots of extracurriculars as proof of your soft skills. But all that is nothing if you can’t piece them together into a resume that stands out among the applicants.
Over 60% of applicants don’t go past the initial screening phase because of their resume. Their worst mistake is often sending an up-to-date general resume from their previous careers. For management consulting, resumes are job-specific.
Start writing your resume from scratch and configure your cover letter to the requirements of the job. These two documents are your best foot forward and play a critical role in the selection process. The following link is a great place to get more detail:
Also, prepare for the screening tests like the McKinsey Digital Assessment or the Bain Online Test. The recruiters use them to filter out even more candidates ahead of case interviews.
Eventually, you get your opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge of the target position through a case interview. While the name might scare you, it shouldn’t if you are prepared.
In management consultancy, case interviews are simulations of the open consulting job itself. The interviewer presents you with a hypothetical problem to put your skills to the test. If you prepare adequately, then you have nothing to worry about.
Promotions and Pay
Let’s be honest; of course, the main reason why most people become interested in management consulting in the first instance is the astronomically high salaries associated with the profession.
What exactly you earn will depend firstly on how senior you are. For starters, if you have an undergraduate degree or standard masters only, then you can only join as an associate. Those who have an MBA, PhD or better still, considerable industry experience, qualifies as . or as consultants.
In this industry, there are significantly high pay rises in between every year and a half to three years. The raise is as a result of the high demand for management consultancy employees as well as great exit opportunities.
Nonetheless, the amount you earn depends on many factors, among them, your firm, and the office geographical location.
Not Getting Fired…
It is important to note here that, for the top management consulting firms, a lot of staff are simply let go. A lot of individuals will never make a partner because they have been asked to leave the firm.
This isn’t even because those individuals were actually bad at their jobs, but simply because they weren’t performing well enough to be promoted within 2-3 years.
In practice, this means that you cannot simply remain at one level in the hierarchy, do your job acceptably and get paid. You always have to be performing well and moving up the ladder.
This kind of “Up-or-Out” policy is designed to keep staff productive and on their toes – but can be incredibly stressful. Certainly, something to bear in mind when you imagine a long career in consulting!
Get a Free MBA!
MBAs are outrageously expensive in terms of tuition fees. Add to this the fact that they cost two years of salary and possible promotion from the pause in your career, and they start to seem like a pretty lousy investment.
It is a significant advantage of management consulting, then, that major firms will often sponsor free MBAs at top global business schools in return for a few years of service when you return after graduation.
But isn’t an MBA a prerequisite?
As an aside, we should address the persistent myth that you need an MBA to apply to be a consultant at all.
You neither need an MBA to become a consultant nor to ascend to a partner level. However, an MBA enhances your chances, particularly if you intend to go straight into consultant level. As we have put it earlier, an undergraduate or a standard masters degree is what you need to enter at the Associate level.
Even so, the management consultancy industry appreciates more specialist knowledge, and thus high academic levels and the industry experience are an added advantage.
Life After Management Consulting
It might seem contradictory, but a large reason to enter management consulting at all is the opportunities it opens up in other industries.
When you join a consultancy, you get excellent exit opportunities. And due to the highly demanding nature of this job, most people don’t work long here. Many are pragmatic. They wait for lucrative offers with better working conditions and parachute to other sectors.
Generally, consultancy acts as a springboard that propels you to your dream job. However, it works better if you specialise and exit to an industry you previously worked as a consultant.
Up to You!
This article should give you a great idea of a typical consultant career path. The question you now have to ask yourself is if it is really for you. Do you want to make a large salary if it means the pressure of the up-or-out system? Can you afford to do an MBA on your own steam? We can’t answer these questions for you!