Consulting Exit Opportunities: Why Leave a Dream Job?

Consulting Exit Opportunities What Is Life After McKinsey Like

So many people apply for positions at top strategy consulting firms and so few get them. Why would anyone leave? In this article, we’ll talk about the consulting exit opportunities that lure people away from firms like Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.

This article will include:

  • The skills that make consultants at top strategy firms highly sought after.
  • Opportunities and lifestyle considerations that make consultants consider alternatives.
  • What former consultants say they learned from consulting.
  • Common consulting exit opportunities.

Let’s get started!

[EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING]

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

Skills That Make Consultants at Top Strategy Firms Highly Sought After

There’s a reason why former consultants are in high demand. They get intense training in a short period of time in practical skills that all businesses need and struggle to find.

What are those skills and why are they hard to find?

Problem-solving

Consultants learn to solve abstract business problems efficiently and communicate recommendations to executives. This requires mastering multiple skills including:

  1. Hypothesis-driven problem-solving: Can you develop a hypothesis on what the solution is before doing any analysis? Hypothesis-driven problem-solving is valuable because it saves time. You don’t have to research 10 different potential solutions, but just the one or two most likely to work.
  2. Structured thinking: Can you break down the problem into solvable chunks? Effectively breaking a problem down is important because the smaller parts of the problem are easier to solve.
  3. Analytical skills: Can you find relevant facts and develop analytical models to support the answer? Frequently, lack of data is the thing holding up business decisions. Consultants are creative at finding data and know how to use the data to support decision-making.
  4. Entrepreneurial drive: Do you know when enough analysis has been done and it’s time to move on? Consultants need to use the 80/20 rule and have the confidence to not waste time when the answer is clear.

Project Management

Consulting Exit Opportunities

Strategy projects are typically short (2-3 months), require multiple workstreams to execute, and are made up of a small team (2-3 consultants) of high-performing individuals. This teaches consultants a lot of skills:

  1. Work planning: Can you detail what individual tasks are required to deliver on your workstream? Can you assess how long each task will take to complete and which are “critical path” and need to happen first?
  2. Role distribution: Can you decide who is best fit for delivering on each workstream based on experience and skillset?
  3. Risk management: Can you plan for how the execution may go wrong and keep the project on track?
  4. Following-through: Can you ensure that nothing slips through the cracks?

Knowledge Building

Consultants are staffed on projects in various industries and functions, including ones they may have a limited understanding of. They’re still expected to deliver a thorough answer efficiently. This makes them good at:

  1. Asking the right questions about new topics.
  2. Finding credible sources to support their answer.
  3. Extracting relevant information from industry experts.
  4. Synthesizing information from multiple sources.
  5. Quickly understanding what drives success for an industry or business model.

Most importantly, learning a new industry or function every few months gives consultants the confidence to explore new topics, which is a superpower in a world where generalists lead.

Communication & Leadership

In intense, high-stakes situations, emotions rise and conflict can happen. Regardless, consultants learn how to act as leaders to decide on what is best for the client and the team. They have to be able to:

  1. Communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively to various constituents, earning trust and credibility.
  2. Engage the client at the right level so that they can focus on their day job but also take part in the problem-solving process so that the recommendation resonates with them and can be implemented.
  3. Understand the incentives of each party and how to leverage that knowledge to move everyone in the direction that is right for the client’s business.
  4. Inspire the team to take action.

Of all the skills we’ve discussed, this is probably the hardest skill to master. It takes years to develop leadership skills.

Few other industries offer this level of rigorous training to junior or mid-level business executives. As such, companies prefer to recruit former consultants who already have these skills to fill the need as they scale and grow.

Opportunities & Lifestyle Considerations that Make Consultants Consider Alternatives

Top consulting firms offer one of the best career opportunities available for young and ambitious talent. The decision to leave can be very difficult. It typically involves any one or a combination of the following reasons:

Lifestyle

Management consulting hours and pressure can be difficult to sustain over long periods of time. Many people decide to leave the industry for less demanding careers such as strategy roles at corporations. This allows people to spend more time with family, work on a side business, or get better at a hobby.

Independence

Consultants may want more control of their own lives. They want more freedom to make their own decisions and to take on the projects they choose. After a few years in consulting, they have the option to start their own venture or do freelance consulting, putting in as much effort as they want into their work.

Financial Compensation

Consulting compensation and its escalation rate are higher than most corporate roles. However, there are opportunities with higher risk and higher potential upside available for consultants. This includes tech startups, financial services and investing, or owning their own business.

New & Different Challenges

After spending a few years in consulting and achieving their goals, consultants may want to try something different. Fortunately, consultants are in high demand in many industries and can play various roles. Former consultants have become:

  • Presidential candidates (e.g., Mitt Romney)
  • CEOs (e.g., John Donahoe)
  • Entrepreneurs (e.g., Tony Xu)
  • And even musicians (e.g., John Legend).

Impact

Consultants may no longer be excited about a business career and want to give back to their communities. Government institutions, social enterprises, and non-profits also need top talent for tackling strategic and business issues, as well as delivering on large-scale projects and there is strong demand in purpose-driven organizations for the consulting skillset.

Former Consultants on What They Learned from Consulting

Consulting Exit Opportunities: Former Consultants on What They Learned from Consulting

Many successful professionals credit consulting as the springboard for their careers. Here’s what one of MCO’s case coaches says about their consulting experience:

Consulting taught me how to approach any kind of business question or problem, break it down into the most important analytical components, and then craft a logical and compelling narrative around my conclusions. While I’ve since pivoted into a social impact career, I use my consulting skills every single day – whether it is to scope sensible and “right-sized” analysis to inform a decision, to determine the most compelling way to present information, or to think and communicate in a hypothesis-driven, logical way. There is a lot of value in being able to help people cut through complexity to focus on the actions that will matter most in reaching their goals, whether they are business goals or social impact goals.

– Elizabeth Washburn Surti, Former Bain Project Leader and MCO Coach

Common Consulting Exit Opportunities

Here are common consulting exit opportunities listed from the most common to the least. Each has different trade-offs in terms of skills required, lifestyle, and risk/reward.

Fortune 500 Corporations

There are two typical options for former consultants in large corporations. First, they can do similar work to their roles in consulting (e.g., strategy and corporate development), but at a slower pace and as the project owner. This can be great for people who enjoy strategic thinking, want to lead the project, prefer a balanced lifestyle, and don’t mind the slower career growth.

Second, they can take on senior leadership roles. These roles include business unit manager, COO, or CEO. In these roles, work hours can be long and pressure for results can be intense, depending on the corporate culture, but they are a great option for people who want to lead a large organization. There can be more opportunity for financial up-side through bonuses and stock options.

Tech Startups

In tech land, you need talent with business acumen that can convert the technical output into commercial success. Former consultants typically play many roles depending on the company’s stage including strategy, business development, product marketing, or product management.

People who take these roles typically have a lifestyle similar to consulting, or better. The smaller the tech company, the more demanding. Tech roles are good for people who want to be on the cutting-edge of innovation, be part of high-impact businesses, and who want to participate in a potentially high financial upside (if the company successfully goes public).

Private Equity & Venture Capital

Investors appreciate the operational and hands-on experience that consultants have. Finance can be a potential career for former consultants who have extensive experience in financial modeling and M&A. The work-life balance is better in buy-side finance. Former consultants get to become decision makers and earn higher overall compensation.

You, Inc.

Many former consultants decide to bet on themselves. For instance, My Consulting Offer was founded by former-Bain consultant, Davis Nguyen. Udemy and Sprig were founded by former-Accenture Consultant, Gagan Biyani. Daily Muse was founded by former McKinsey consultant, Kathryn Minshew.

The cost to start a business has never been lower and capital has never been more available. Entrepreneurship is a rewarding and fulfilling path for former consultants who have a great idea they want to explore and have high risk tolerance. Consultants have a leg-up when they start a new business – great access to talent. They can recruit alumni of the consulting firm they worked for. One former-Bain consultant told us, “I know a lot of startups that are stacked with Bainies who are always recruiting each other!”

There are many exciting consulting exit opportunities beyond the popular ones we’ve listed here. With the skillset you gain in just a couple of years as a consultant, your career options are wide open.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • What you learn by working at top consulting firms.
  • Trade-offs of a consulting career.
  • What high-profile former consultants say about their experience.
  • Available consulting exit opportunities.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about consulting exit opportunities, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for consulting case interviews found the following pages helpful:

Help with Your Consulting Application

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for info on consulting exit opportunities. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with to get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how James was able to get his offers from Bain and BCG.

[EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING]

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

Leave a Comment

3 Things Consulting Firms Actually Look for in Your Application

We are sharing our powerful strategies to get your foot in the door, even if you have a low GPA, have little to no business experience, or study a non-business-related major.

We are excited to invite you to the online event.

Where should we send you the calendar invite and login information?