MBB vs. Direct into Industry

SamSays1989's picture
Rank: Chimp | 12

Hi all,

I'm about to go into an MBA (M7) and I'm interested in going into industry over the long-term, aiming to work up to a senior management position.

At first I got the impression that working at MBB for a few years and then transitioning into industry and working my way up would be the best tactic. However, from looking further into it, it seems that might not be the case. I have read that if you do that then you end up in strategy roles in a support function without any real P&L or management responsibility, thus limiting the upside. Is this an accurate picture of the situation? I don't particularly like the proposition of ending up in a support/strategy role and being stuck there long-term.

Is it instead better to perhaps apply directly for internal leadership roles at companies post-MBA in one the streams such as production/supply chain mgmt or general management? It feels like this would provide more direct experience in a P&L capacity/management?

I guess an important question is how difficult is it to go from MBB to an industry role with any P&L/management responsibility and work up from there? And would it instead be more effective to go straight into industry? Which route would be quicker to get to a senior position?

Many thanks in advance

Comments (22)

Most Helpful
Aug 4, 2018

Depends on how married you are to the industry in question. If you want optionality or are uncertain about which industry interests you most, then Consulting would be the ideal option. Otherwise, you're better off getting as much experience as you can w/ market leading firms in your industry of interest.

On average, most Consultants who jump into industry do end up taking Strategy roles but I don't see it as limiting their upside. They're essentially in a position to drive the company's direction, with lots of interaction w/ decionmaking execs. Lots of operators don't get that kind of facetime and exposure until later in their careers. There's also something to be said for coming in pre-branded w/ the MBB stamp. Secondly, Consultants who time their jumps too early take the path of least resistance and enter the Strategy track. Obviously, no one is going to hand an entire Business Unit over to a Junior Consultant with 2 years experience. Now a Project Leader or Director with an established track record and years of experience working on industry related projects? That's an entirely different story. They transition right into the most senior roles.

Aug 5, 2018

Thanks, this is really helpful.

Your first point is very true as I'm not 100% settled on an industry and so going into consulting at an office in a city like NY or Chicago (i.e. diversified industry base) would potentially be wise.

You're right on the responsibility, and I wouldn't expect to be handed an entire business unit after 2 years at MBB. I think it's more of a nagging concern over whether I would be pigeon-holed in a strategy department so that P&L/Management roles are not available. If it's possible for people after 2 years at MBB to transition into those P&L/Mgmt roles at a junior level then that would be great, because at least you can then prove yourself and work your way up.

I think the pertinent question is: do people get headhunted for junior P&L/mgmt roles after 2/3 years at MBB, from which they can then work their up?


Aug 5, 2018

Yes, why not?

Not sure why you think you'll be pigeon-holed into strategy. MBB'ers don't only exit to strategy. The exits of MBB are very very diverse. Less than half of MBB's work is pure strategy now adays. They also do a lot of Operations (including supply chain mgmt), Implementation, tech, analytics, etc. If you don't want to do strat work, as a generalist you are free to do other types of projects.


Aug 5, 2018

From running a general LinkedIn search and also using my own b-school classmates as a proxy, I can say definitively that it happens often enough.

You have to assume that a large % of the strategy exits are self-selecting rather than a result of pigeonholing; but folks are pretty competitive for most operational/finance/sales/mktg roles they'd want coming out of MBB.

Aug 5, 2018

When you say you have a family, what do you mean? Spouse, spouse and kids, or just a large extended family that you find it important to make time for?

Because if you already have a wife/kids, I think being in an "unsexy city" doesn't sound like a very big deal at all.

How bad is the travel? My understanding is that there are a number of MBB offices where if you really desire, you can be staffed almost entirely on local projects. Could you transfer to one of these (or get more local staffing at your current office)?

Aug 5, 2018

This is where 'tiers' of cities doesn't help much. I would generally choose option #1, but that being said, there are certain places I wouldn't live in no matter what. I mean, if we're talking about Beirut vs. Shanghai, they're not really comparable.

Aug 5, 2018

Thanks for your replies.

By family I mean a wife and a small kid.

Regarding the travel at MBB, currently I spend ~16 hours a week on the travel (transfer to airport, flight, time at the airport). But even if I could reduce that, it is the nature of my work and the type of environment that I find untenable. So a transfer to a better office will not change the fundamentals of my unhappiness.

Aug 5, 2018

I'd say hold it! Under any condition you should avoid doing things without some clarity. Try to narrow down your mid- to long-term objectives and then land there through MBB.

It is definitely much easier to transition to MBB into almost any job that from most other firms. Could go into how many companies, especially in more developed markets won't see your CFO experience as real C-suite experience and a bunch of other things, but I think clarity of purpose and maximizing MBB as a transition into a place you want to be at should be sufficient to persuade you.

I know availability of this type of program depends on office, but try to take some time off without quitting.

Aug 5, 2018

OP, this post could come off as posted by myself because I'm in the exact same situation - maybe worse, I wasn't staffed for four months for no obvious reason (ok rating from my last project, no negative career development feedback). I hate being on the beach and doing tons of BD work, but at the same time, I'm afraid of being staffed on a project because of the horrible hours, bad clients, and energy-sucking travelling with my last project.

I even regret joing MBB post-MBA...

May I know what did you decide in the end? Did you stay? Or are you on the shore now?

Aug 5, 2018

Questions -
--How many projects/studies have you been on? Has the work felt meaningless on all of them?
--Do you see work that your colleagues are doing (which you are not) that you would find more interesting?
--Have you spoken to your project's leadership about travel and your family life?

Basically, if the two main issues for you are lifestyle and type of work, what have you done to try to change or address these things?

Aug 5, 2018

Questions ---How many projects/studies have you been on? Has the work felt meaningless on all of them?--Do you see work that your colleagues are doing (which you are not) that you would find more interesting?--Have you spoken to your project's leadership about travel and your family life?

Basically, if the two main issues for you are lifestyle and type of work, what have you done to try to change or address these things?

Thank you for the questions Karl

--- Mainly one 3-month case which wasn't meaningless but, because of bad project management and bad client, the whole project didn't end up well
--- I've been doing tons of BD and hence read many past case decks...basically the model is researching what others are doing and then telling your client you should do xyz. Meanwhile, by doing BD, I worked directly with partners and found out that they don't have many views/opinions themselves on the clients' questions which kind of put me off...
--- From my project experience and what I've seen, sometimes we really don't know how industry works and when the clients' questions go beyond strategy and into the more operational details, we're clueless
--- Being so new and without much experience, my first priority is to get on cases so I won't have the luxury to choose projects and not travel

What I have done: interviewing, but really not many ppl leave MBB within a year post-MBA so I'm debating between stick it on and try to get on cases (which will prevent me from further interviewing because of travel/time)...or keep interviewing and quit once I get a desired offer

Aug 5, 2018

I'd take option #1 if it were readily available. That's about as good an exit as you'd get for such a short time in MBB and once you've added P&L experience under your belt, you're golden. You'll also see your lifestyle improve, which will make you happier and more productive.

One of my best friends is an Executive Recruiter and she's helped quite a few people from MBB transition into industry. As long as you don't damage any relationships or reputations in your MBB stint, length of time there isn't going to matter much. Especially around the 1-yr. mark.

Aug 5, 2018

Hi all,

Good to know that this little topic is still relevant to some,

Since I have posted back in November this is what has happened:
I quit the MBB and took that CFO role.

I have to say that my happiness has increased. I work less hours on average. Sometimes I stay late (like until 3-4-5 am) to finish a task, but its is not very often. And even if I do stay late, it is more bearable since I understand that the meaning of the task and know that there is an end to it. In consulting, on the other hand, the never ending stream of most-urgent, most-meaningless assignments felt much like the Sisyphus' task.

The cost of living is pretty low here, so I save 80% of my net salary. I also have been given a car with a driver and they rent me an apartment. I have repaid my MBA loan and will soon repay my small mortgage.

The quality of my interactions with my family has improved and so has my mood. So, overall, no regrets.

    • 3
Aug 5, 2018

Good to know OP! Hope that I can follow suit soon...

Aug 5, 2018

Good to know that you have found something better!
I also quit my consulting role at MBB 2 years post MBA, and the reasons were similar to yours. Not much meaning in my work, and I didn't know what exactly I wanted to do next. And the constant thought that came to me was: I'm not a machine, I'm a human being! Yet at the same time, I was fearful and uncertain about what it means for me to leave MBB. After all, it took me quite alot of effort and energy to get in MBB in the first place.

Looking back, what helped me was some clarity on the factors that were holding me back, and what I wanted out of my career/life. This gave me some direction as to where I should go, and allowed my decision to be a more powerful one, instead of allowing my decision to be driven by purely 'push' factors.

Questions I asked myself were:
1) In 5 years' time, what is the type of life that I want to have, beyond career? - this helped me have a more holistic view of the type of job and working environment/culture to have a sustainable lifestyle.
2) Given the broader future trends, what would allow me to pursue my interests while using the skills I already have, and is something that the market is willing to pay me for?
3) Using a longer term view, how would the opportunity costs compare to the value I will get?
I was offered a lower-paying job but when I calculated the pay per hour, it was much better than the consulting role. And I could use my free hours to pursue other interests that could lead to a profitable side hustle.

Recently, I came across a ebook written for people like us, on what we should consider before quitting our job. I thought that was quite relevant, and wished I had read it before I quit my job. That would have helped me figure out the questions I needed to ask myself, looked within myself and moved on faster.

Below is the link: http://bit.ly/burntoutlost
Hope it was helpful!

Aug 5, 2018

Similar boat as you...another big 4 is looking at me, and an industry job lined up.

Based on the whole People & Change title, send me a PM if it is PwC who is trying to recruit you.


Aug 5, 2018

^ from what it seems, I'd think he's implying he's currently at PwC

Currently: future psychiatrist (med school =P)
Previously: investor relations (top consulting firm), M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM)

Aug 5, 2018