It’s a question I am asked many times and I have never posted my thoughts. Now, a good few years after leaving, I think it is worth giving my reasons for becoming a management consultant, staying as long as I did and exiting as a managing director. Not everyone will agree with my thoughts, but it is an honest opinion.
Management consulting is a meritocracy. No matter how old you are, your background or views, if you are smart, can solve problems and clients like you, then you will move up rapidly. I have friends who entered their professional careers at the same time as me. They joined exceptional companies like GE, Nestle and a host of other blue-chips and investment banks. No matter how fast they were promoted, there was always an expectation they would need to work longer in a position before moving up. And they did. If you are truly intelligent and want to be recognized for this, then management consulting can get you to the top and cut out all the waiting time. The path to partnership is 6 -8 years as a principal and another 3 to 6 years as a director. If you are at the top of the pack that is just 9 -10 years to get to the top. Though, there is a wide range between the senior most partners and newer and younger partners.
Management consulting is a meritocracy. No matter how old you are, your background or views, if you are smart, can solve problems and clients like you, then you will move up rapidly.
The salary is exceptional. Many consultants downplay the salary as if it is dirty to talk about money. All the way from business analyst to managing director, you will earn more than your peers outside the industry. The only people who beat you consistently are investment bankers who actually earn much lower base salaries but take home a larger bonus. The salary allows you live a great life, save and plan for the future. The salary is a great motivator and is more than worth the lifestyle.
No other sector or group of companies outside of world of McKinsey, Bain and the BCG can look you in the eye and say we train tomorrow’s leaders.
It is the only industry that specifically trains its people to become executives. No other sector or group of companies outside of world of McKinsey, Bain and the BCG can look you in the eye and say we train tomorrow’s leaders. GE does produce many executives. However, as a percentage of their total employees, a mere fraction of them go on to leadership positions. Within the elite consulting firms you are being trained for that one goal. To be an executive advising other executives or to be an executive running a company outside the consulting firm. The percentages that go on to leadership positions are far higher.
You are allowed entry to the world’s most exclusive and powerful social network. Getting into these firms is incredibly tough. Staying and making it all the way to the top is even tougher. Yet, that does not matter. Once you are in you are now an alumnus of an incredibly powerful network and you can tap into that network whenever it is needed. Alumni of consulting firms like to help each other. They also want to help each other. They are proud to have belonged to these institutions and it opens many doors.
Once you get over the fundamentals learning curve, it is an entrepreneurial and dynamic place. Lots of consultants will tell you that the elite firms have their way of doing things. That is true and there is a reason for it. Management consulting firms understand problem solving better than anyone else. They are staffed with some of the smartest people on the planet obsessing about the best ways to solve problems. Unless you can show you also understand problem solving they will never ever allow you to be creative. They want you to be creative with solutions, not with the approach you use. Learning these basics takes about 2-3 years depending on the person. Many never learn it and are managed out. However, one you pass this learning speed-bump it can be a very fulfilling place. These firms will then actively support you to try new things, enter new markets and experiments with ideas. Yet, only after you earn the right to do so.
You work with some of the smartest people on the planet. If that excites you and you enjoy the intellectual jousting, then you will enjoy consulting. The more senior you become the more and more you will be lead things which have a massive impact on clients and the world. That chance to make a difference is worthwhile and is something to strive for.
These are just some of the reasons but they are very important reasons.