The following article is part of the serialisation of more than 100 pages of career editorial from The Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms. Professionals seriously considering the option of furthering their career in consulting may download the full guide.
Moving between consultancy firms – How and why
In order to discover why it is that consultants move between firms and how they go about doing this, we must first discuss the different types of management consultancy firms and what they offer both in terms of services and to their employees.
Consultancy firms differ greatly from one another in many aspects (for example, size, specialism or culture) and as a result after a period of time many consultants feel the need for change. In this chapter we will briefly examine the differences between companies, why many choose to make a move, as well as why companies think they should.
Once a consultant has gone through the rigorous process of finding a role, with some firms having up to seven stages of interviews, they must then ask themselves why they should put themselves through that arduous process again. So what are the advantages in moving?
For many people within the workforce, the primary motivator is money. With the cost of living continually increasing, it’s easy to understand why consultants might look for a salary increase, if only to maintain their current standard of living. Consultancy firms are aware of this and with the war for talent on the increase, they are tempting away experienced consultants with salary increases.
Many of our candidates decide to move as they feel they are at the pinnacle of their achievements within their current role and are seeking a new challenge. In some firms, being promoted can often be a slow process. A means of circumventing this can be to move to a new firm who have a lack of talent at the appropriate level. Steve Bevan, EMEA HR Director at A.T. Kearney, said: “It is never easy to hire quality people from competitors; however, it does happen when we are able to offer good candidates career opportunities that their current organisation can’t.”
As with salaries, consultancy firms will often offer a promotion in order to obtain talent from potential competitors. Adam Sutton, Global Head of Strategy and Transformation at EC Harris, said: “People tend to view a move as an opportunity to accelerate their progress up through the consulting grades; for some this can be the right answer, if the skills and experience that they possess are in demand in the firm they are looking to join.”
New role focus
Candidates might feel they have worked in a specific area for too long -change management for instance- so will look to move companies in order to diversify their experience. Many do not want to find themselves labelled as too specialised, especially early in their career, so will try to develop a wealth of different industry experience in order to achieve as diverse a CV as possible. Often they will join firms such as Alexander Proudfoot where Mike Melling, UK President, remarked that: “People joining Proudfoot will be able to really build careers across all industries.” Candidates often feel that gaining a range of experience will stand them in the best stead moving forward with their career, making their CV more attractive to future employers.
In direct opposition to the previous point, some consultants will find an industry that they excel at and are interested in developing within this area. They may look to move to a company that specialises in their chosen industry.
Major life changes can often occur during the careers of individuals resulting in the need to move, which is not always possible within an organisation. International moves occur with regularity in the consultancy area and consultants who regularly travel abroad for work may find a specific geographical location more attractive than where they are currently based. Vipul Kadi, Director and Co Founder of Qedis, said: 1Whilst we are UK based/ we operate on more of an international basis than some consultancies who would brand themselves as global. We allow our consultants the flexibility to work in other countries.’ Mike Melling, UK President of Alexander Proudfoot, said: “At Proudfoot, we provide our consultants with the ability to work in different geographies, building broader experience.” Having an EU passport has made this very easy within Europe; however, with changes to the international visa system, relocation may become more difficult in the future.
As people progress within a career, they can often find themselves re-assessing their priorities. Work/life balance is often a major factor in a move. Volker Schloenvoigt, Manager at Edgar Dunn & Co, states that this is something that they take into consideration, ensuring that “work/life balance is good, without a culture where weekend work is expected.”
Company culture can also be a reason why someone looks to move as the culture in one firm can be very different from another. Andrew Zielinski, Director of Organisation and People at Molten, said they “look for people who can work outside of the consulting box they have been put into.” Managing Director from Satori Consulting, Justin Ockenden, suggested that: “Many consultants like the fact we are a small consultancy with a collegial environment where people are willing to share. There is also a level of self-reliance and less politics than can be found in other firms.” Specialist consultancy Novo Altum ensures their company is a place consultants would want to work as described by Shane Mugan, Executive Director: “0ur leadership team understands that our greatest asset and source of competitive advantage is our people and that our values are as important as what we do for our clients. Therefore, we focus on realising our people’s potential by creating/ fostering and promoting an entrepreneurial, exciting and empowering culture and environment.”
Anyone who has started on the quest for a new direction has been faced with this question: how do they go about searching for a new role? There are many options available, all have potential pros and cons, and each candidate may have radically different views on which option to take.
In many cases this can often be the best option to take as you’re dealing with people who have in-depth industry knowledge and are aware of market trends. Recruiters can provide advice on tailoring your CV as they work closely with the company and understand what they are looking for. Recruiters will shortlist the applications before sending suitable candidates to the client for review. Consequently, firms are more likely to review CVs sent via a recruiter in greater detail.
Recruiters will know:
• The job market: Being in close contact with the job market on a day-to-day basis provides recruiters with a much better idea of how the job market is behaving. As recruiters, they can offer the best idea for proceeding, even if the advice is to maintain working at your current role. They know who is recruiting and the roles they have on offer; this can give a substantial advantage through targeting companies they know will express an interest in your skills and experience.
• Your worth: Unrealistic salary expectations are perhaps the biggest turn-off to potential employers. By managing expectations, recruiters can give you a better idea of your target salary within the market. This can be useful to candidates who are unaware of the management consultancy market.
• Your level: Companies often have different terms for each level internally and what amount of experience, qualifications and skill level they expect across these. Therefore recruiters can advise candidates on what level they should be pitched at to each company.
• The interview process: Recruiters will know the interview process of the companies they are working with. They can let you know in advance what the process will be and give advice based on previous interviews.
Uploading your CV online
Using websites such as Top-Consultant gives increased visibility to your profile and it can be viewed by a number of organisations. It can often be useful to post a more general CV online to attract interest from a greater number of potential employers. The downside of this is that you will inevitably be contacted regarding roles that are not what you are looking for. Industry-specific job boards can be very useful as they provide a more targeted approach to job hunting.
This can be very useful if you have a strong CV, knowledge of the industry and which companies to apply to. The disadvantage of direct applications is that less well known, niche or specialist consultancies may be missed by the applicant. If not responding to a direct advertisement, sending your CV speculatively gives no guarantee that it will be viewed by the relevant department or even at all. Therefore a potentially successful applicant may be discarded. Online submissions can become a ‘box ticking’ exercise, where talented candidates may again miss out due to not matching up to the exact profile. Nic Farhi, Partner from OC&C; Strategy Consultants, described how they have never believed in online application forms: “We find application forms for some firms can contain uninsightful questions such as ‘give an example of when you worked in a team,’ which will irritate the best candidates. We choose to spend our time talking to candidates instead.”
Entry into the application process through contacts can be a simple affair. Ivan Lax, Director at Catalyze, described how “most of our recruitment is through personal relationships as opposed to direct recruiting, for example from industry and networks.” This is generally more effective for senior candidates who have experience within the market and have built up relationships and contacts. However, with social media becoming more entwined with the business world, sites such as LinkedIn are providing a fast track to gaining contacts in the consulting community.
Through using several of these methods, a candidate ensures they have maximised the potential for their job hunt to end in success. Most candidates we speak to use multiple websites, one or more agencies, contacts they have within the industry and direct applications. We know many consultancies use recruiters due to the added value they bring but as Richard Goodson, Vice President from Hitachi Consulting, said: “Moving consultancies is a personal choice; you need to think about what different firms can bring you.” James Platt, Partner of The Boston Consulting Group, agreed: “Different sectors in the consulting market appeal to different people; you have to look at what the firm offers. What we offer is working with large blue chip clients in a strong collaborative manner which suits a certain type of person more than others.”
It is the same with methods of moving between consulting firms; you have to find the one that works for you.
This piece is reproduced from The Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms, a 400+ page careers guide for candidates looking to pursue a career in management consultancy. A free resource, this guide contains over 100 pages of career editorials followed by a directory of consulting firms active in the UK market – with over 380 employers listed and 189 employers profiled.
The guide is free to download in PDF format, with hardback copies also available from October 2011 onwards. Access your copy of The Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms (2nd Edition).