The consulting industry is the best place to begin your post-MBA career, full-stop. Other industries are likely “better” at maximizing a single metric (money, lifestyle etc.) but no industry offers the combination of benefits that consulting does. Let’s take a closer look at five areas that make consulting a no-brainer for your first job after graduation:
- Experience – More than anything else, the consulting industry offers new grads unmatched experience. The project-based model in consulting provides the chance to work at leading companies across industries, functions, and geographies. In our relatively brief stints at McKinsey and BCG we worked on 16 different projects covering:
- Industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, non-profit, automotive, tech, telecom, and retail among others
- Workstreams including strategy, organization, analytics, sales, implementation, and, of course, revenue growth and cost cutting
- Clients in 14 U.S. states and 5 foreign countries
There was nothing superficial about our experience either. You are expected to own and master your workstream working closely with your colleagues and clients to deliver real impact (more on that later.) This is why consultants measure their career in “dog years” claiming 3 years of experience for every 1 year in the industry!
- Impact – Consultants are brought in to work on an organization’s biggest and toughest problems. Hiring and onboarding consultants is disruptive and expensive. Organizations don’t take that lightly so they make sure the juice is going to be worth the squeeze. That means that whether you’re crafting a new strategy, driving a corporate re-organization, accelerating sales growth, or reviving a business from bankruptcy you’ll be doing something that has the organization’s attention and something that matters to its employees and stakeholders. That’s not to say every project (or work stream) will feel like it’s changing the world. Some projects are bigger and more impactful than others but over time you will be doing bigger things more frequently than your peers working elsewhere.
- Compensation – Consulting firms ask a lot of their associates who must endure long hours, frequent travel, and high expectations. In turn, these associates are compensated generously. Beyond the career benefits we describe elsewhere compensation often includes:
- Base salary of ~$150k before sign-on and performance bonuses
- Annual raises ranging from 10-25% (partner compensation is often $500k-$1mm+)
- Significant retirement and insurance benefits
- Insane travel perks including tons of frequent flyer miles and hotel points (at least before COVID!)
- Generous time-off and parental leave policies
These salaries and perks don’t just matter while you are a consultant. They set the starting point for compensation negotiations when you leave the industry, too, resulting in lasting impacts on your career earnings.
- Network – We probably don’t need to convince anyone of the importance of growing and cultivating your professional network. For better or worse, who you know often determines the career opportunities you do and don’t get. No doubt this reality was a major motivation in your decision to go to business school in the first place. Joining a consulting firm allows you to add a university’s worth of alumni without having to go back to school again. Big name firms like Deloitte, Bain, and Booz have numerous alumni in nearly every single major firm in America. McKinsey alone has hundreds of alumni leading billion-dollar organizations in addition to scores of government and non-profit leaders. No matter where you want to go later in your career you’ll probably find yourself tapping into your consulting network to help you get there.
- Optionality – In the financial world “options” are instruments that deliver the right to do something but not an obligation to do it. Sometimes they expire worthless and sometimes they change your life. Think of a career in consulting the same way. The broad exposure to different industries, companies, and functions increases the chances you’ll find something that you love (or at least help you cross things off the list that you don’t love!) Your experience as a consultant will also increase your odds of getting a chance in a new industry. It’s tough to get someone to take a chance on you when you’re new to an industry but it’s a lot easier if you spent years rapidly getting up to speed and delivering impact in new industries while working at a consulting firm.
- What if I do know what I want to do? – Some lucky folks do know what they want to do after business school. We’d offer two points to consider. First, you might be wrong. People change, industries change, companies change, everything changes over long enough time horizons. The more optionality you can build into your career the better able you will be to navigate those changes. Second, even if you are right about your professional future a few years in consulting will help accelerate your path in that direction.
In closing, we want to leave you with an important interview lesson. When you are articulating a position, it’s always good to be armed with a few bullet point headlines. We chose five points here but could have chosen more (or less!) The point isn’t the number you use, the point is to organize and synthesize what you’ve learned into the key insights that drive your answer. Good consultants use bullets and lists and structure and framework to distill their work into consumable, actionable pieces. File this away because it is crucial for interviews and even more important when you get the job.
We’ll be back soon to look at what you learn while working in consulting and will consider the impact those lessons have had on our careers.
Matt and Ryan