5 most important things I learned when exiting consulting

I left consulting a little over 6 months ago and was recently doing some reflecting on my time in consulting, finally exiting after 7 years and where I want to be in the future. As I look back, I wanted to share the 5 most important things I learned through exiting

My brief background: Spent 7 years in big 4 strategy (think S&, EY-P, Deloitte S&O), left at the manager / EM / Director level to take a leadership role at a portfolio company of a MM / UMM PE firm

1. Prestige is overrated (to an extent), your experience is going to drive your exit

Throughout all of my time interviewing, the biggest thing I realized was that at the end of the day, the majority of employers see the consulting shops as relatively equal and really your experience matters. Early in my career, I was much more of a "yes man" and took on whatever project the partners who I worked with wanted me to. My advice to early consultants is find a balance - if you want to do strategy at Spotify, make sure you're working on TMT strategy engagements. In my experience, the consultants that pushed back may have seemed high-maintenance, but I don't think it ever actually hurt them during reviews or compensation. One caveat - You likely will not get looks at the most prestigious consulting exit ops (e.g., PE deal teams, KKR capstone, blue-chip strategy, etc.) if you aren't MBB

2. Patience is a virtue - wait for the right exit

Over my 7 years in consulting, I saw a number of people take exits because "they needed to get out of consulting." IMO that's a fucking loser attitude, be patient and make sure you find the right opportunity and are compensated well (no pay cuts here). My framework for evaluating a lot of opportunities really came down to one question "could I have gotten this job if I didn't slave away in consulting for 7 years?" If the answer was no, I didn't pursue it. This job requires a lot of sacrifice, make sure it was worth it in the end in terms of the role and compensation

3. Where do you want to be in 1, 3, 5 and 10 years from now - how does this exit get you there?

When I was evaluating a lot of opportunities, one really helpful piece of advice was to think through how each opportunity put me on the right path for what I wanted to do. For me personally, I was really interested in learning how to be an operator and running a company or organization, and my current role allows me to do that

4. Do extensive due diligence on who you'll be working with

Consulting isn't like other careers - you don't typically have a "boss" and if you don't like working with somebody, you can probably avoid them in the future. "Industry" will be different, and your relationship with your superior(s) will be one of the largest factors on if you enjoy your role. Additionally, if you're going to work at a smaller company, start-up or PE port co, I would really think about if the executive team are people you trust and think can deliver - a positive outcome (i.e., a good sale / exit) rises all

5. If you were a high performer in consulting, you'll be a high performer wherever you exit. Make sure that exit gives you a piece of the upside

This will largely depend on where you exit to, but I can confidently say that extensive consulting experience will transfer really well to just about any role. If you were a high performer in consulting, you should feel confident that you will be able to exceed in your next role. When people say 1 year of consulting experience is 1.5-2 in industry, they aren't wrong. Also, find a role that gives you a piece in the upside - one of the things I hated about consulting is I was always grinding to fund some partner's pension

Would love to hear other thoughts as well

Comments (14)

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jan 18, 2022 - 7:43am

You sound like one of those template-employee boomers who will openly despise someone and secretly regret his life if you see someone else get that 'dream job' you went for, without those 7 years of grinding.

The generation before you would have had it for 15 years.

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jan 18, 2022 - 11:00am

I totally agree on this, but I wouldn't go as far as labelling people as fucking losers if they leave consulting for the sake of leaving. It's not the only meaningful job to take in the world and there can be many other ways to reach the same goal (which can sometimes be quicker). A loser in consulting can be a champion at something else.

Jan 19, 2022 - 12:09am
generic_consultant23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very helpful, thanks for sharing! A few questions:

1) How did you manage your time as you were interviewing / applying while still working in a demanding job?

2) In your search, any patterns you notice in the types of places / roles that tend to be "consultant friendly"?

3) How much of your recruiting was proactive outreach from you vs. initiated by recruiters?

4) What specific experiences / project types positioned you well for your current PE role?

  • Manager in Consulting
Jan 20, 2022 - 1:05pm

1. I did a lot of prep on nights / weekends, once you are actively interviewing, the incremental preparation for each interview decreases. Doing stuff like case prep makes it a lot more difficult. For me, I only began the interview process if it was a job I would take (compensation pending)

2. It's going to vary by the role, but I think most places are really consultant friendly given the experience you'll gain through an extended (5+ years) consulting career. The PE firm which brought me on typically hires consultants for my role at their port co's

3. I went through a process where I made a list of roles / companies where I was interested and began reaching out to individuals who could connect me to that group or provide a referral, this is really helpful because the market is so competitive and there's 1000s of consultants looking to exit. The role I eventually ended up taking was through a recruiter reaching out to me on LinkedIn - I would recommend keeping your profile somewhat up to date

4. My current role is M&A and strategy focused - while in consulting I focused on those two areas so the experience translated well - goes back to my point about making sure you're working on projects that are aligned with what you want to do after consulting

Glad you found the post helpful

Jan 19, 2022 - 10:33pm
sssshhhhh2077, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I get where ur coming from on the prestige point, but saying that all shops are viewed in a similar manner is a bit much. Very much agree you can still get fantastic exits from T2/Boutique if you leverage your experience correctly, but you said it yourself, a lot of firms/companies only take from MBB. Tbh even a lot of companies that aren't super "prestigious" would probably take a McK generalist over a boutique specialist, as odd as that may sound, simply because for better or worse the MBB brand is a helluva drug.

  • Manager in Consulting
Jan 20, 2022 - 4:05pm

That's a fair point and would definitely agree the MBB brand is the professional's heroine. Another point is your experience at MBB is going to be a lot more valuable than at a T2 or Big 4 Strategy IMO.

I was there for 7 years, but probably could've learned everything over 4-5 years if I was on the right projects. A lot of work at these firms can be mediocre and you can go extended periods of time without really learning or being challenged. I never worked at MBB, but imagine this isn't nearly as common there

Jan 20, 2022 - 4:38pm
consultipro, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Is MBB really that much better though, or is it perceived to be better. Especially in specific areas. Is McK healthcare better than ZS? Is Bains CDDs really better than LEKs/EYPs? I don't think so. Plus 95% of exits are the same. It is just the outliers do better from MBB. I would also say the #1 performer at LEK would be a top performer at Bain as well. It's all a fallacy, and I work at a MBB fwiw

Feb 12, 2022 - 4:49am
sruthii0697, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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