4 Real-Life Consulting Exit Opps of My Former Colleagues

Since I have always continued my career in consulting, I decided to do a social experiment. I conducted an environmental scan through my LinkedIn network. I then categorized my findings into key themes of the most common consulting exit career paths using a cohort of 45 former consulting colleagues.

For this scan, I decided to define consulting exit opps as any career path outside of employment with a large consulting firm. I removed individuals that jumped to another Big 4 or MBB firm (which represented 5 former colleagues). I wanted to focus my analysis solely on exit opps outside of the traditional consulting career model.

Career Paths of 40 Former Colleagues:

I analyzed the career paths of 40 high performing individuals, all exiting with an average of 3-7 years of consulting experience. The results were surprising. Below are the 4 common consulting exit opps I came across:

Entrepreneurs:

Entrepreneurship represented the career path of 15 (or 37.5%) of the consulting exit opps. A number of colleagues have either decided to start their own business, are freelance consultants, or have taken on an executive leadership role in a family business.

Industry:

Interestingly enough, 11 colleagues representing 27.5% of the cohort decided to leave for industry roles. There were all in either mid-management or executive leadership roles in 3 key industry sectors: 3 are in tech companies like Google or Amazon, 4 are employed at a large financial services firms like Goldman Sachs, and 4 colleagues have decided to go into non-profit/social enterprise work.

Graduate studies:

20% of the cohort (or 8 of my former colleagues) are currently enrolled full time at a top 15 business school program. One colleague is a PHD student at an M7 business school program and another colleague is finishing up medical school.

Local consultants:

Six former colleagues represented 15% of the cohort have jumped to boutique consulting firms in leadership roles that doesn't require travel and service local clients.

You can see my ongoing AMA here: AMA: I grew up in Consulting and reinvented my brand 3 times

Comments (26)

Mar 1, 2017

You work at EY in "Organizational Development" - isn't that the equivalent of "Business Analysts in" BB IB, aka middle-office operations? I wouldn't be describing myself as a consultant tbh

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Mar 1, 2017

Thanks for your thoughts @PE_Reaper I appreciate your perspective. I'm not sure what type of middle office operations work you do nor what your definition of a consultant is.

In my current role I partner with my clients to design, plan, and implement strategic talent initiatives. It is great to help my clients solve complex people related problems, both internally in my firm and in the marketplace.

I wake up and partner with our executive leadership and HR/talent teams to shape the culture of one of the biggest management consulting firms in the world. It's fulfilling, impactful work for me to have the opportunity to experience being a consultant from this lens.

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Best Response
Mar 1, 2017

@PE_Reaper, Douchebags like you are the reason this website is laughed at. Christie is definitely in a front office role, albeit in one different than "traditional" strategy consulting. But I'm sure she does some very useful work in her niche. Consulting isn't MBB or bust - I say that as an EM at an MBB. We in the industry know that there are many ways to create value for clients.

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Mar 1, 2017

Thanks @aspiringchimp !

@PE_Reaper in case you were trying to connect the dots between what is called org development at EY vs other large firms as it relates to front office "people strategy" work, let me break it down further for you:

You are correct, my current role sits in an internal consulting practice called Organizational Development. Our sister (market facing) practice is called People Advisory Services
* Accenture call it Human Performance
* Deloitte calls it Human Capital
* Bain calls it Organization
* Boston Consulting Group calls it People and Organization
* McKinsey calls it Human Capital
* Oliver Wyman calls it Organizational Effectiveness

To the point @aspiringchimp was making, it is a specific niche type of work and not as widely popular as some of the other strategy work out there.

To kind of visualize it, think of the Billions character Wendy Rhoades, who plays an in-house performance coach for Axe; while the show really spins the role for entertainment purposes, the basis of her work can be (sort of) compared to some aspects of what I currently do.

I hope this helps.

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Mar 2, 2017

You sound like the frat bro in college who starts calling everyone bottom tier.

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Mar 6, 2017
PE_Reaper:

You work at EY in "Organizational Development" - isn't that the equivalent of "Business Analysts in" BB IB, aka middle-office operations? I wouldn't be describing myself as a consultant tbh


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Fuck right off you numbskull.

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Mar 2, 2017

How many years of experience did your colleagues have before they went for their MBA? How many years out of college where they?

BTW I think your awesome for doing all of this.

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Mar 2, 2017

@TheKid1 Good question. Looks like those that went back to b-school range between 2-6 years of consulting experience. Several actually had 1-2 years of industry experience, others came in straight from undergrad into consulting, and 2 of them actually already have a masters degree (they completed a 5 year program at their schools and graduated with a non business master's degree). It's actually pretty interesting.

You are most certainly welcome. I do this because it is the type of information I wish was available to me when I was younger in my career; sometimes you have to become the mentor that you wish you had. :-)

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Mar 2, 2017

I personally made the change from consulting to industry and think it's interesting to compare notes with what others have done. Cool insight, thanks for contributing!

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Mar 2, 2017

thanks @sasquatchTX - curious as to what made you change to industry? Do you think you would come back anytime in the future?

Mar 2, 2017

I was very content with my career trajectory at the time, and loved the people at the firm I was with -- but was approached by a recruiter with an opportunity at a younger company with a lot of growth potential, and ultimately an attractive compensation package. My wife and I had recently gotten married and were looking to start a family in the near future, so cutting back on the M-Th travel was an added benefit.

I can definitely see myself returning to consulting one day, especially further down the road. What are your thoughts on re-entering consulting after a stint in industry? Do you think there are particular career-levels at which it makes more sense than others (manager/principal/director/etc)?

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Mar 2, 2017

I left consulting for industry. For me, it allowed me to work on similar projects (M&A, process improvement, new product strategy, etc.) but cut out the endless revisions needed between the various review levels at a consulting firm. Now, I just walk into my SVP/EVPs office with my analyst and he says: "guys, make these small tweaks on slides 5-7, then we're good to go. This is going to CEO in 2 days, let's lock it down". Done. You are getting your feedback straight from the "client", and this contributed greatly to my improved work-life balance.

I also don't have to do bullshit like "practice development", e.g., plan events to keep the newly hired undergrads entertained, random assignments from partners that are pitching, or participate in recruiting (though I did like this bit). Booking meetings is taken care of by the EA. Oh and the best part, I'm not expected to sell. I deliver on my projects, I get recognized. Simple as that.

Mar 2, 2017

How have you found the compensation trajectory? I'm at the point in my career now where I have to make a choice between gunning for partner or jumping into a role in industry. I know I can expect less in industry, but by just how much?

I really like this job and the hours aren't bad for me (and I'm very much considering the long road to partner), but I'm wondering what the trade-off was for you and what made you pull the trigger on leaving consulting?

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Mar 3, 2017

@aspiringchimp Depends on how you are defining your compensation and what is important to you. We all know that the pay in consulting is slightly above industry pace, which sucks if you try to leave for industry at the senior manager/engagement level. I actually know several SM/EMs that simply do not leave because they will not command the same salary in certain markets. Since I didn't leave consulting, I have kept my compensation trajectory but the bonuses are not the same since I'm not in a revenue driving role....however I will take that trade-off right now for family reasons.

I got married in 2015 and am helping raise an amazing 12 years stepson. It was more important for me to create a stable family environment with my husband. I continue to build relationships with my colleagues, Partners, and build my brand as a seasoned expert without the pressures of travel or a revenue target. I can always jump back into a market facing role in the future. Because I partner with our executive leadership, my work environment mirrors the rigor of market facing challenges of an engagement (with a lot less travel) because my clients demand it. I have more interactions with key leaders than I ever did when I was out in the market, which is also cool.

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Mar 3, 2017

@aspiringchimp my understanding from talking to Partners is that making the decision towards that path is actually the hardest part. Once you make the decision, your thoughts, actions, and moves are more purposeful and you expand. Create a runway towards your business case and make sure you have your support network, mentors, sponsors, board of directors on board with your decision. From there, just take a step towards it everyday. Good luck on your decision!!

Mar 3, 2017
aspiringchimp:

How have you found the compensation trajectory? I'm at the point in my career now where I have to make a choice between gunning for partner or jumping into a role in industry. I know I can expect less in industry, but by just how much?

I really like this job and the hours aren't bad for me (and I'm very much considering the long road to partner), but I'm wondering what the trade-off was for you and what made you pull the trigger on leaving consulting?

For me specifically, I did not take a haircut on pay. Salary + bonus is about the same, but trajectory wise, I am one level below VP at my company. VPs here make around $300K-$500K, which means I'm below what new Partners make. But, the one big thing is that they don't have to sell! They do their work, have lots of responsibility (and real P&L), and then they leave their office at 5-6pm. Like me, they may take some work home, but it's mostly emails, reviewing materials, jumping on calls. From there, it goes like this:

VP = $300K-$500K
SVP = $750K-$2MM
EVP/C-Suite = $2MM-$5MM
CEO = $10MM

Note this is all in comp, not salary and lots of variations of course below the c-suite. Personally, I think it is more likely that someone makes Partner than SVP/EVP. It is more about your ability to bring in revenue in consulting, rather than waiting for the guy above you to retire/keel over. In that way, I think there is a more straightforward path to $1MM+, but beyond that, it's a crapshoot and a big combination of luck, timing, and skill (in that order).

Mar 6, 2017

@Christie Lindor once again an excellent post and please understand (I believe you do) that a vast majority of us at WSO appreciate your time, effort, and thoughtful posts and find your insight to be valuable as we progress in our respective careers.

You mentioned some consultants are moving into non-profit/social enterprise work. Does this include roles such as impact investing? Can you describe the types of roles they are moving into?

I'm interested in this area and looking into perhaps working for a think tank or industry advocacy group post-consulting. Have you seen consultants move into these areas as well?

Thank you

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Mar 12, 2017
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