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.
Career options after consulting – Moving into industry or the City
Consulting is a tremendously rewarding career, where personal development meets long-term earnings. However, there will be numerous moments during your career as a consultant where you may be approached by organisations outside of consultancy looking to appropriate your skills. This type of approach is testament to the fact that consulting has elevated your skills and personal worth to a level that few other careers could have matched. This is one of the many key reasons individuals, such as yourself, have chosen a career in consulting.
This article will identify the types of options open to a consultant who may be looking to migrate into new areas, and analyse the four key ‘hygiene’ factors that influence this decision. The four key hygiene factors that will be used to assess which path provides the greatest rewards are: salary, lifestyle, skills development and networking.
There are five main options open to a consultant migrating from consultancy. They are:
• Moving into corporate industry
• Becoming an internal consultant
• Setting up as an independent consultant
• Working in private equity/venture capital
• Investment banking
This list is not exclusive, and, therefore, there will always be other career paths that consultants move on to. The options listed are the five most common and will be analysed using the four key hygiene factors, which any individual should apply to their current and future job roles.
The first hygiene factor is salary; the greatest superficial difference between one career path and another. Although we all appreciate that in this modern, fast moving world, salary is not always the most important driver in choosing a career path, it still plays an important part in one’s decision making. For instance, consultants and investment bankers are often paid comparable base salaries. However, at the end of the year investment bankers can be handed bonuses in excess of 50% of their salaries. This means that in terms of cashflow throughout the year, their compensation is very similar, but having that golden payout at year end can make a distinct difference. Cashflow or not, the extra money is substantial and a defining driver of why many consultants switch to careers such as investment banking. This is also a difficult issue for consulting firms in respect of employee retention, as many of their top staff are regularly appropriated by other areas purely due to much higher remuneration packages. This effect does, however, work both ways and it is often the case that leading industry experts are poached by consultancy firms.
The key differences here are:
Hours. It will come as no surprise that consultants can work long hours. They can average 12-14 hours a day but it can vary significantly depending on client, team goals etc. The challenge with working hours is that if a consultant moves into corporate industry or internal consulting they can expect their hours to be in the 1 0-12 hours a day range. However if they choose to become an independent, or move into venture capital or investment banking, their hours could range from 12-16 hours a day. It will depend very much on your appetite for working hours in the new career you choose.
Travel. Consultants, depending on the firm, spend 25-75% of their time travelling. At the Big 4 consultancy firms (KPMG, PwC, E&Y; and Deloitte) you can expect to be travelling 50-75% of the time. However, in corporate industry and most of the other areas consult ants will be looking to move into, they will spend around 90% of their time in one office.
Relationships. Interaction and time spent with co-workers, managers and the firm itself are less discussed but equally important areas. Consulting firms have a very communal atmosphere, where the centre of alignment is not only focused on project completion but also ensuring your professional success. This attitude permeates all interactions. Managers rarely yell, co-workers try to help each other out whenever possible and companies are organised to provide sup port to consultants through training, expertise etc.
However, other careers such as corporate industry or investment banking have a more competitive, hierarchical setup. You can expect tenser relationships with your bosses, and co-workers are much less willing to help each other out. Their focus is on their own success, and your accomplishments mean more competition for the biggest bonuses.
3. Skills development
During your time as a consultant, you will have most likely received some excellent business training. There is a distinct focus on intense exposure to textbook business principles and practices and the project team model leads to mentorship opportunities with managers, partners, and co-workers. Finally you will have had constant client interaction which develops ‘client skills’ – from managing client teams to running meetings and to learning how to navigate different corporate environments.
As you migrate into new areas, this ethos of self-progression, and mutual learning will shift depending on which new career path you choose. A move into corporate industry will greet you with a short induction programme to ramp up your skills followed by a ‘get on with it’ mentality where your ability to fulfil your job is of greater importance than your ability to self-actualise. This mind set change wiII be difficult for some consultants, and therefore they may choose to move into internal consultancy, or start their own firm. This would allow you to continue the consultants ethos, but in the new environment that you perhaps wish to move into.
The networking side of career paths is often less discussed but no less important. Consultants may have worked on or come into con tact with a vast array of fields – from industry to academia, government to non-profit. Networking is important at consulting firms and social events are focused on helping consultants build contacts and relationships throughout their firm and others. This will mean you have most likely built up a large array of contacts across several different areas.
However, individuals working in other fields often do considerably less networking – most continue within the specific world in which they are based, for example a banker, will stay firmly in the financial services arena. In corporate industry, silos within an organisation’s structure and culture often mean you will have limited expo sure across the company to other groups, departments, etc. One key factor for fields outside of consulting is that your professional network and future career opportunities will be heavily influenced by your colleagues and your firm’s alumni.
This is not to say that consulting offers numerous networking opportunities and if you migrate you will suffer the consequences; far from it. During your career as a consultant you will have already harnessed the power of the consultants’ networking philosophy, and carry with you a plethora of different names in your ‘Rolodex’. Now you can harness them to aid any move you wish to make, or take the basic networking skills you have learnt with you into your new field, and harvest the current employees and alumni network for those fantastic new contacts.
Your success in moving from consultancy into any new area will clearly be dependent on the decisions you make based on your desire for salary, lifestyle, skills development and networking. If you had asked the likes of Wolfgang Bernhard (chairman of Volkswagen), Vittorio Colao (CEO of Vodafone) or William Hague (leader of the Conservative Party 199 7-2001), when they each left McKinsey & Company if they had made the right choice, I am sure that they would intimate that their success, post consulting, has been testament to the skills development and networking which their time in consultancy gave them. This has allowed them in their post consultancy careers to make decisions based around salary and lifestyle. Your career in consultancy is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does it provide fantastic career opportunities within itself as a field, but it also provides you with the perfect launch pad to migrate into new pastures as and when you see fit.
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).