Consulting - the logical next step for me?

Hi all,
I've been following the site/forums for over a year now, and this is my first forum submission. I value the experiences and perspectives of you all, and was hoping for some insights that any of you may have.

My background: I am a non-US citizen (Asian-Canadian). I graduated in 2013 with a BA in Economics from a well ranked (NESCAC) liberal arts college. I finished with a 3.83/4.0 GPA, and graduated with Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and Scholar-Athlete distinctions. I was on a varsity team (DIII) team in college, although I competed in my main sport independently, as my school does not have a program. I competed at a competitive level, qualifying for and competing at Junior World Championship, World Cup, and World Championship level events, and won the collegiate level nationals in my only year of competing at the collegiate level (my junior year). I was fairly involved during my undergrad years, holding roles in various clubs as well as being an RA for two years.

Since graduating, I moved to Washington DC to work at a large multinational organization (think World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, International Finance Corporation, etc.). I have been in my current position for about a year now. The typical route for someone in my position is to go on to an Economics PhD, or a top (usually top 3-5) MBA/MPP/MPA program. I will not be pursuing a PhD, and will most likely go the MBA route but not for a couple of years - I was young for my class and want to gain a bit more work experience/money before going to an MBA.

As of January, I started my MS in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University, and I am completing my program in the evenings. I personally feel that it is a good move for me, given that a) it has a low opportunity cost, with no forgone wages/experiences, b) it increases my quantitative/analytical capacities, c) it improves my eligibility for certain positions that require an advanced degree, d) it connects me to a larger network, and e) it has a certain degree of 'signalling', and improves my candidacy in comparison to those with similar experiences as me but only holding an undergraduate degree. My expected graduation is Aug 2015, at which point I will be 23 years old (turning 24 that December) with multiple years of credible work experience and a MS.

Given my background, do you think that consulting is a feasible step in my career? I think that I am well qualified for an analyst role (one of my predecessors who made the switch to the private sector ended up at McK within a year or two of leaving my organization), but don't know how best to set myself up for success. I am sure that I am at least as strong as any applicant coming straight out of undergraduate programs, and would love to hear everyone's advice on how best to improve my shot at getting into a top (MBB) consulting firm. From a firm, what I would be most looking for is learning opportunities, room for advancement, exit opportunities (MBA, more-so than another company), compensation, and lifestyle/work-life balance. Also, as I will be finishing my MS in Aug 2015, I would be looking to start work in Sep/Fall 2015... What would be the best time to apply, as I would be later than the typical recruiting cycle?

Thanks in advance!

Reasonably strong academic background, feel well qualified but not sure how best to break into the consulting field. Is consulting the right move for, or should I be looking somewhere else (finance, economic consulting, etc.)?

Comments (7)

Jun 6, 2014

imo it sounds useless to be attending this MS program
you're already very qualified in your field

JHUs econ program is not very good, so it really doesn't add much
i would drop out ASAP and just focus on your current job, look to starting at a boutique

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Jun 8, 2014

JHU has a solid ECON program, dont know what that guy is talking about. Consultants usually have very diverse backgrounds so I wouldnt worry too much about your background, since it seems relatively strong. There's other posts on here that talk about skill sets that consulting firms look for. Check those out to see if you match up and if consulting would be a good fit for you.

Alright, Alright, Alright...

Jun 8, 2014

I think you have a very strong profile and could use it to gain admission to most top MBA programs or to lateral in to MBB. If you know you want to do consulting and MBA, I think you have a few options:
a) Try to lateral into MBB. Although this is a tough proposition, I think you have a good shot and that the MS degree helps. Even with the degree and a few years of WE, you would probably still go in as a BA/A/AC, which may mean a pay cut. The A/C/C role is still typically reserved for MBA/Ph.D/MD/JD holders. The upshot is that you could get the greenlight for sponsorship in less than the usual 2 years. I had a friend do 1 year as a BA2 at McK post masters and then go to HBS on their dime.
b) Go for an MBA first. I think you have a shot at any program, including H/S. From any M7 (or a bit lower), you can pursue consulting through OCR. You won't have sponsorship, but it will get you to the post-MBA consulting role 1-2 yeras faster than option a) above.

Jun 12, 2014

Thanks for the feedback so far. I appreciate it.

Both of the options listed sound reasonable, although I am leaning more towards (A). The predecessor that I mentioned went from my current role to a BA position at McK, so I expect that would be the same move for me (the MS/WE would just help strengthen my candidacy compared to other applicants coming straight out of undergrad, I would expect). Definitely worth knowing that MBA sponsorship is an option, as that is something that I think is definitely in the cards for me (and can be a big expense out of pocket...).

I know that many of the others in my position (who do not go the Econ PhD path) go on to elite MBA programs (HSW, MIT, Booth, etc) and MPP/MPA programs, so I think that I have reasonable prospects.

Moving forward, I suppose my best move now is to learn as much as I can about management consulting (informational interviews, networking, etc.) and trying to set myself up to be as strong of a candidate as possible. If I am looking to start a position in Sep 2015, when would be the ideal time to apply for a position? I feel like typical fall recruiting cycle expects an early summer (June-ish) start, so I am not sure if it would be appropriate to apply in Fall 2014 or wait a little bit longer. Any insight would be greatly appreciated, thank you!!

Jun 12, 2014

I'm not sure whether you'd fall into the experienced hire category ( in which case recruiting is a "rolling" process ) or whether you could somehow get in on the APD/ADC cycle (Feb-May I think) even though you aren't on campus. If either case, September 2015 intake is reasonable. Maybe even before that if everything aligns on the experienced process.

Either way, you're right that networking is the next step. Although applying online isn't quite the black hole that many would have you believe, your odds of getting a serious look increase dramatically if someone at the firm enthusiastically forwards your resume to the recruiting team.

One final question. The dual-degree programs certainly make sense given your long-term goals, but you should take a critical look at how much marginal value the MPP/MPA really adds. Is it really worth another year and a bunch more money? Your current experience and education coupled with an MBA and MBB experience might be more than enough.

Jun 13, 2014

Thanks for the quick response - I am not actually interested in pursuing the dual degree, I was moreso just trying to demonstrate that people go on from my current position to top schools in various sectors. I personally feel that it would have very little marginal value added after an MS in Applied Econ, which has a big focus on policy analysis but is more quant-heavy.

Re: networking, I have a quick question for you - I have a few contacts at McK, does it matter which office in which they are currently staffed? I think one of them is in Toronto, one on Boston, and one was in either DC or NY, although I think he is off at GS now... I was just curious if networking in a particular office might strengthen my chances at receiving an interview in that particular location or not.


Jun 13, 2014