Deliverable #6: "Exit Opportunities"

Transitioning between consulting and the next step in your career

[Musical Intro]


Jay: “Welcome to Out of Bandwidth, the podcast guide for future consultants. I’m your host, Jay Alexander, and I’m here my colleague, Emily, to share advice and stories about being an analyst at a major consulting firm. In our sixth episode, we discuss making the potential transition between consulting and the next step in your career.”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “Emily, welcome to the show.”


Emily: “Thanks, it’s great to be here.”


Jay: “With every guest, I like to build a profile before we get started with the interview. How long have you been with the firm?”


Emily: “I’ve been with the firm for four years.”


Jay: “What type of consulting do you do?”


Emily: “I work in strategy consulting and actually focus in future of mobility and smart cities.”


Jay: “And how projects have you been on in the four years that you’ve been with the firm?”


Emily: “Ooh, about ten to twelve.”


Jay: “What industries have you worked in?”


Emily: “I’ve worked in a variety of industries. I have worked in automotive, manufacturing, consumer products….have actually done some work internally. Also for state governments, and then also for a startup.”


Jay: “Kind of all over the place.”


Emily: “Yeah, all over the place.”


Jay: “Very cool. Emily, it is no secret that you are leaving the firm. We’re gonna miss you, of course, but this brings us right to today’s topic, which is: exit opportunities. How does it feel to be leaving consulting?”


Emily: “I’d say it’s pretty bittersweet. In some ways I’m really excited for the next steps in my career, and on the other hand, I will definitely miss a lot of things about working at the firm and the people I work with.”


Jay: “I’d say, generally we work with pretty amazing people.”


Emily: “That’s right.”


Jay: “What are you going to miss the most?”


Emily: “I’m going to miss the people the most. Just really grown very close with the people at the firm, and they’ve become my friends and family, particularly while we’re on the road, so…”


Jay: “Definitely. The home office, too.”


Emily: “Home office, absolutely.”


Jay: “That’s probably the biggest family, I’d say.”


Emily: “Yeah, yeah. We have a really tight-knit group. Even one of my roommates, uh, is in our local office, and our group of analysts are just really fantastic, and we’re friends outside of work as well as in the work day.”


Jay: “What are you doing next? So we know you’re leaving, but where are you going?”


Emily: “So I’m actually going to grad school. I will be pursuing an MBA.”


Jay: “And how did you decide on that?”


Emily: “So in part, it’s always been a part of my plan and part of the track at the firm. So, coming into consulting, I always planned to stay for a couple years, and then go to business school sponsored by the firm. I’ve always wanted to work in the nonprofit space, and thought that I’d learn a lot in consulting.”


Jay: “So your overall goal is to use consulting as a stepping stone into that sphere?”


Emily: “Yeah, I’d say that’s accurate.”


Jay: “Okay. You mentioned this is a firm-sponsored MBA program. So, does that mean you’ll be coming back to consulting?”


Emily: “Um, that is part of the deal. Um, however it is a little bit open-ended. The firm really encourages us to go explore something else during an internship, and work in another industry and make sure that consulting is the right place. So, it is quite common for people to leave with the understanding that they are coming back, and then end up finding an industry that’s a better fit for them.”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “Let’s talk about some potential exit opportunities and cover the pros and cons of each. We’ve already discussed grad school.”


Emily: “Mhmm.”


Jay: “In addition to grad school, there’s also working in what we call industry, which is just…not consulting.”


Emily: “Yep, that’s right.”


Jay: “So basically anything?”


Emily: “Yeah, it could be anything. Uh, it’s not uncommon for employees at the firm to actually end up working for one of our previous clients. If you’ve proven yourself to be incredibly valuable to one of clients and they would love to have you come on, they might offer you a job. It might work out with the lifestyle you’re looking for, or the pay might be higher. And it actually might be cheaper for that client as well.”


Jay: “Then there’s also startups. You and I know people who’ve left to work at a startup.”


Emily: “Yes, absolutely.”


Jay: “What is the attraction there?”


Emily: “Oh, I think people find it really exciting. Sometimes at a startup, you might be able to work in a little bit more of an agile manner. You might be able to take on a much higher-level role than you might in industry as well. So, I have friends who are equivalent to a Chief Strategy Officer or leading operations at a startup, where if they were to go into industry, they would come in at, more likely, a mid-level managerial role.”


Jay: “Finally, there’s what your dream sounds to be, which is moving into the nonprofit sector.”


Emily: “Mhmm. Yeah, yeah. So there’s definitely a lot of opportunities in the nonprofit sector. A lot of people coming into consulting are very passionate and driven and have something that they care about a lot. And so, you know, while they may be doing that in their free time or as a firm initiative while they are at the firm, a lot of people leave to go do something that they find more fulfilling, I would say.”


Jay: “In summary, when you leave consulting, there’s a variety of things you can do, and there’s no necessarily right or wrong answer.”


Emily: “That’s right. And something I would add as well is, there are head-hunters that are just dying to hire consultants in every industry you can imagine. So, around that two-year mark where a lot of people tend to leave the firm, that’s when I saw a huge influx of head-hunters reaching out from organizations where they do something similar to the project I worked on in operations or strategy. Also, major tech firms in Silicon Valley as well.”

Jay: “Mhmm.”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “Unlike with other jobs, why is part of our culture to discuss the two-year mark and moving on? Why are we able to have this conversation out in the open, because we’re in consulting?”


Emily: “Hmm. I think there’s a couple reasons. The first reason is really the way that we staff. You’ve got your senior-level managers and they are usually overseeing multiple people on a lower level. If the firm had every analyst that came in become a partner, it wouldn’t be sustainable. They plan a specific turnover rate and, you know, sometimes the turnover is lower than they expected and that actually causes issues for the firm. Because they’re paying people that they don’t have projects to staff them on.”


Jay: “That makes sense, which will create a beach.”


Emily: “Which creates the beach.”


Jay: “Which we’ve discussed in a previous episode.”


Emily: “Yes. Another reason is related to, you know, selling work in the future. A lot of the firm’s clients are people who used to work at the firm. So, they want you to leave on a positive note. It’s natural for people to leave and the firm really wants to keep those relationships warm and don’t want people who used to work here to have a really negative feel. The firm even looks at people who no longer work here as alumni, almost like a university would, so we want to keep those relationships open.”


Jay: “Mhmm.”


Emily: “A lot of people who start in consulting end up in some really high-level roles within industry and could potentially be our clients and call on the firm in the future.”


Jay: “It’s part of relationship building.”


Emily: “Absolutely.”


Jay: “Let’s discuss some ways that consulting helps prepare you specifically for the next step in your career.”


Emily: “Mhmm.”


Jay: “Some things I’ve come up with are, practicing interviewing for roles and selling yourself constantly. Because we’re always searching for projects, right?”


Emily: “Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Every project is like interviewing for a new job. So, given that our projects are changing every couple months, gotten a lot of experience selling myself and also my willingness and ability to learn and become an expert. Another thing that I think has been incredibly helpful about consulting is project management, and…”


Jay: “Highly important.”


Emily: “Highly important.”


Jay: “The project doesn’t manage itself.”


Emily: “Doesn’t manage itself, but also in general, in consulting you learn very well how to plan and develop milestones, and make sure that you’re working towards whatever your deliverable is. So, I think that will helpful no matter what I do next.”


Jay: “I have one: um, networking. And when I say networking, like, not being afraid to talk to somebody very high up and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to meet you, I’m so-and-so.’ And then have a conversation, wherever that leads.”


Emily: “Yeah, absolutely. And that will be very helpful going forward. When leadership and partners start to see you as more of an equal, you know, and you taking that step to treat them as an equal…”


Jay: “They give you more opportunities.”


Emily: “Yep, they give you more opportunities.”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “What do you believe a future employee thinks when they see a consulting firm on your resume? Is it an asset or a liability?”


Emily: “So, in general, and particularly if you’re considering working with an organization that has any ex-consultants in it…ex-consultants know what it’s like and they know what it takes. The firm has already gone through the process of vetting you, and you’ve proven that you’ve been successful, uh, and you can be successful in, kind of, any type of environment if you’ve worked on many different projects. However, if you’re looking at some industries where there don’t tend to be a lot of consultants, or that may be more socially-oriented, they may not get the same feelings from consulting being on your resume. There is also a little bit of a stigma with consultants, you know. People say that they take your watch and tell you what time it is, and then ask you for $50. So, um, however, it will be very dependent based on where you’re recruiting, um, what organizations you’re looking at, and what exit opportunities you might be considering.”


Jay: “So let’s spend some time reflecting. Four years in consulting is a long time.”


Emily: “It is.”


Jay: “Think about what you envisioned consulting was…”


Emily: “Yes.”


Jay: “…and what you understand consulting is now. What were the differences in those two perceptions?”


Emily: “Mmm. I think that it is a lot more glamorous and a lot less glamorous than I expected.”


Jay: “Interesting.”


Emily: “Yeah. So I have had the opportunity to travel internationally, which has been fantastic.”


Jay: “I didn’t do that! How did you do that!?”


Emily: “Well, I’ve been to, I was just to Portugal earlier this year, and last year I was in Chile, so…”


Jay: “Wow.”


Emily: “You might get to fly business class, and business class international is fantastic.”


Jay: “You don’t say…”


Emily: “Um, way more glamorous than I ever expected. However, there are some things that are really not as glamorous as you would think. You’re dragging around a suitcase through the rain, through the mud. You know, and you ripped your pants and you can’t buy new pants because you’re in the middle of nowhere at a manufacturing facility. And life is still life. You’re still gonna trip and fall and, um, or spill coffee on yourself, or do something incredibly embarrassing. It still happens, so…”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “Now that you’ve done and seen it all, what would you tell a future consultant? What advice would you give them?”


Emily: “A positive attitude is the most positive and beneficial attribute you can have at the firm. We’ve got experts from every industry and really great leaders, but a positive attitude and being a team player, and putting in the legwork to do the networking to get into the area that you want, really goes a long way and will help you find your space at the firm.”


Jay: “Solid advice. Wrapping up here, is there anything you want to say to all the people you’ve worked with and all the people that made your time in consulting special?”


Emily: “Thanks everybody. Um, I’m really…”


Jay: “I’d like to thank my mom, and my dad…”


Emily: “I’d like to thank my mom, and my dad, and my cat. Um…to everyone I’ve worked with: it’s been an absolutely fantastic experience working at the firm. You know, I’m excited about my next step and I’ve learned a lot. However, I’m going to look back upon these years fondly. And it’s also been really great to learn from all of you and to build my friendships and relationships, and I hope to build those going into the future.”


Jay: “And I will close here by saying: you’ve been a really good friend to me, and thank you, Emily. You’ve helped me a great deal, too.”


Emily: “Oh, that’s great to hear. Always happy to pay it forward.”


[Musical Interlude]


Jay: “Emily, thank you so much for coming on the show.”


Emily: “Yeah, my pleasure. It’s been great to be here with you all.”


Jay: “Thanks for listening, and join us next time when we’ll be discussing life after consulting. Please be sure to subscribe and give us a rating, links can be found at This is Jay Alexander signing off. We’ll catch you at the client site.”


[Musical Outro]

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