HELP- Best Consulting Projects to get staffed on?

BigWave's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 66

Hello everyone,

Thanks to a lot of hard work, some luck, and advice from the WSO community, I will be starting at a Tier 2 (think PwC, Deloitte) management consulting firm in August. I'm trying to be intentional now about which Partners/ Managers I network with now so that I can try to influence which projects I get staffed on (I'm visiting the office and meeting with some partners this month). That being said:

1) Which projects will best increase my chances for a top 5 MBA?
2) Which projects will best increase my chances to make Partner?
3) Which projects will best increase my chances for top exit opportunities? (MBB, Corp Strategy, PE, etc)

I assume there is a significant level of overlap, and perhaps different Business Schools appreciate different projects. Any and all advice is much appreciated!

Comments (5)

May 14, 2014

Duuuude. Chill. It is a much bigger deal to do a great job on your first project than to get on a great project. If you want to be super-strategic, it isn't a bad idea of getting on a project with someone who is an alum of a school in which you're interested. I'd focus much more on hitting it out of the park in the next year than making partner in a decade plus. Try to get on something that you like/that interests you and opportunities will follow.

(I was tier-2 consulting before b-school)

    • 1
May 16, 2014

You really have next to no pull on what projects you get staffed on for most of your first year. B-School is more concerned with your performance than what you were staffed on. Yea it would be sexy to write about your influence in some massive front page merger, but that's going to be much more a case of luck than anything else.

As far as making partner... that is more a situation of what industry you're trying to get into than anything else. Highly dependent on firm, office, and industry or practice area. Strike a balance between what you actually like and what industries you see growing in the next 5-10 years that would have a boom in bringing in partners.

Again, your 3rd question is also not a simple thing to answer. What industry/practice area do you want to get into? That should dictate the project you go after once you actually have some pull in the firm. You want to go into Biz Dev for a tech company... clearly focus on corporate dev and tech projects in your 2nd year. Or pick an office where they are more focused on those industries to increase your likelihood of getting pulled into one of those projects.

Best Response
May 16, 2014

This is what you need to do.

When you get staffed on your first project, you will need to knock it out of the park. Key behaviors to exhibit/activities:
- Under promise, over deliver. It's cliche. And it's true.
- Get shit done. Related to the above mantra of truth. This cannot be emphasized more. Be seen as the analyst/associate that just got shit done. Partner asked for this deck? Say you'll have it done by Wednesday and give it to them Tuesday. Engagement Manager asked for a coffee? Make sure it's the exact way he or she likes it. Senior Associate asking you to print out the deck? Make sure you get the copies out way in advance to check. Be seen as the person who people can ask and forget about. Answer email requests with "Will do", "You got it", "Consider it done".
- Learn as much about the client/case/industry as you can. Live and breath it. Set up Google Alerts about the firm. Read research reports. Read previously completed documentation/work done by your firm at other similar engagements.
- All the usual jazz about taking initiative, asking if you can help with anything above and beyond, asking smart questions but making sure you try to figure it out first yourselves, etc. etc.

Assuming that the actual quality of your work is superb, simply by doing the above will allow you to position yourself for "better" projects because:

1. The Partner/Engagement Manager will want you on the next piece of work they have. This means that you will be the first person they think of when they need to staff the Analyst/Associate role
2. Other Partners/Managers will hear about how awesome of a worker you are and begin fighting among themselves to staff you on their project. I'm not kidding, I had one Partner call me and ask me when I would be finishing my case. I told him that I was scheduled to be there for another three weeks. He basically said, "we'll see about that, I'm gonna have a word with your current lead" and hung up. 20 minutes later, I was told to cancel my hotels and book a flight next week to the new location.
3. A combination of the above two points, you will not only have built a solid foundation/reputation/"brand" for yourself, but you will also have developed solid experience in an area. This gives you credibility to seek out those Partners/EMs that are in charge of those industries/clients you are interested in. It gives you something to bring to them, i.e. a mini interview of "Why do I want you on my project? Because I killed it for this other Partner and now I want to work for you"

Two caveats:

1. What I have said above will be dependent on your office location, as each one has different cultures/size etc. Do not take this as a blanket statement that every Partner will want you simply because you did a good job. It is about building your reputation as a rockstar analyst that will be successful no matter which case or role they get staffed in.

2. I think this site places too much emphasis on "high-strategy" cases and looks down, unfairly on those projects that involve major transformations, implementations, etc. I understand that many go into consulting wanting a variety of experiences, but honestly, in the real world, you cannot foresee or predict what you will learn from each engagement or case. You cannot say that you will learn more and your experience will be richer by doing one project versus another, just like you cannot predict what you learn by choosing to move to Europe over Asia. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, and the BEST Associates are those that go in with eyes, minds and hearts open and does their work amazingly without complaints.

May 18, 2014

Echo the above, with comments:
Focus on what you are good at/have a passion for; there are partners in every single area, industry, etc., and if you are going to sink that much time into it you better be able to become the information source for that area, build eminence naturally, etc.
A lot of it is going to depend on luck and timing - your role across a $1M engagement can be significantly more important and impactful than a $100M one.
Get involved in the PMO role as well - don't necessarily make it a focus, but make sure you are reporting out for your team, get some responsibility for oversight/staffing on your workstream, things like that. This will demonstrate more leadership/growth potential than simply being a 5 star consultant and crushing a cost transformation initiative.

Still not sure if I want to spend the next 30+ years grinding away in corporate finance and the WSO dream chase or look to have enough passive income to live simply and work minimally.

May 29, 2014
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I previously worked for McKinsey in London and have started a blog about consulting and how to get into it at www.theconsultingcoach.com