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strategy consultant career progression

#1 strategy consultant career progression
06/03/2006 14:56


Anyone have a view on what happens to strategy consultants careers over the long term?

E.g. say 10 years after starting as a strategy consultant would a rough approximation be:

30% still in consultancy (not necessarily the same one)

20% in board or line positions in industry

20% in strategy positions in industry

20% started own business

10% other (maternity, unemployed, non-business careers)

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#2 Re: strategy consultant career progression
07/03/2006 08:50

Tony Restell (

I don't have any solid data on this, but my gut feel is that the figure still in consultancy would be less than 30%. For every 10 business analysts in a strategy firm there is only 1 partner and maybe 1.5 associate partners / principals. It's unusual to get to Partner in less than 10 years, so mostly you would be looking at the 10 joiners being reduced to 1.5 associate partners over the 10 year period.

Of my own intake at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants (~10 years ago), I know of only 1 person still in consulting (at a rival strategy firm). The others have gone into banking, industry, self-employment...

So I would say the 30% still in consultancy figure needs reducing - as probably does the 20% who have "started own business" unless we include in here people that are working as contractors. I would say 20% specifically go into banking careers, often after completing an MBA.

Hope that helps - and the key message here is you are joining a strategy firm for the enjoyment, challenge and experience you can gain over the next few years, rather than as a likely long-term career path.


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#3 Re: strategy consultant career progression
07/03/2006 10:42

Satya Rajput

Myself is a chartered accountant qualified under The Institute of Chartered Accountnats of India, New Delhi and Cost Accountant qualified under The Institute of Chartered Accountnats of India,Kolkatta (Calcutta) with rich working experience in accounts, finance management and taxation. please advise the possibilties of my working and settling in Australia permanenetly. Regards.

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#4 Re: strategy consultant career progression
08/03/2006 19:53


Thanks Tony.

If the work provides "enjoyment, challenge and experience" then what drives the attrition? Does it become less of a challenge and more routine? Or do consultants want the more visible status and hierarchical progression found industry?

Secondly, to what extent is there more of a longer term career in a generalist consultancy in the strategy/change management area - e.g. in PA, IBM, Accenture?

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#5 Re: strategy consultant career progression
08/03/2006 20:04

john mcbride

suggestion: work-life balance?

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#6 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 08:57

Tony Restell (

The attrition is down to two things I would say:

1. Work-life balance issues; consulting just isn't a career that sits well with living at home 7 days a week and being home in time to see the kids go to bed. So many people leave once they hit ~30

2. Ability/ Up or Out; there are 3 stages to consulting. First you are a doer, then you become a manager - and finally you become a seller. The skills required to be a good doer (ie. good analytical skills, programming skills, etc. are quite different to the managerial skills you need to manage a project (the second stage). Then the ability to sell £multi-million pieces of work to clients requires a different skillset again. A lot of people will be managed out over the years, as they simply don't have the skills or network to be able to progress through these 3 stages.

In terms of other consulting employers, I'd say these 2 issues are relevant throughout the industry - so changing employer will probably not help you to get around them.


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#7 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 10:07

john mcbride

Pretty interesting what you mention there about the network:

surely most firms would get you netwokring with other consultants in the firm - but the important network would be with the people you want to sell to.

How do you build up a network with potential clients?

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#8 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 11:48


Tony, I think you are right and the implication is that a consultancy would not recruit Richard Branson for lack of analytical skills; and would recruit Albert Einstein but "manage him out" after a few years. Why on earth are the three roles set up as a hierarchy rather than as separate functions as they would be in most industries?

Also, even with this hierarchy there must be some people who are outstanding analysts or managers; are getting job satisfaction from this; and do not wish to take the next step "up" to sales. Is your view that this is just not realistic in consultancies?

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#9 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 12:22

Tony Restell (

I was once told that McKinsey do make some exceptions and have people who effectively consult (rather than sell) for their whole careers; if true then I guess this is possible as a resourcing model. But the problem I would foresee is that most consultants would not put up with the work/life issues unless there was in front of them a clear "path to riches" to aspire to. Once you admit that you've got as far as you can get in a firm then it's hard not to become demotivated by the work/life balance issues I'd have thought...

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#10 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 13:18


Not sure if we're still talking about just strategy consulting or if the conversation has broadened. Firms like Accenture have been wise to different people's goals, ambitions and strengths for a long time.

We have a number of different career models, some up or out, others based on staying at level until you want to, and are capable of, moving up. Many people consciously choose this model, and are far from being put off because they might be forfeiting a "path to riches". Agreed, they may be capping their future earnings compared to the salesman route, but they are nonetheless rewarded handsomely for what they do, both financially and in terms of opportunities for career progression and variety.

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#11 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 15:21


The three roles are set up as a hierarchy (roughly, and with exceptions, as highlighted by Tony and Accenture) for two very simple reasons:

1. In general, to manage something, you need to have a good understanding of what the people you are managing DO, and to sell a good understanding of what the managing and doing issues are (ok, I have my flame-resistant jacket on - these are sweeping statements, but I think they are nevertheless true)

2. Relative scarcity. There are far fewer people who CAN form a trusted advisor relationship with a client and convince them to invest (spend?) in consulting services than there are people who can manage the same services (or perform them).

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#12 Re: 2 reasons...
09/03/2006 16:21


The scarcity might justify higher salary but does not mean they necessarily need to be higher in the hierarchy.

You definitely need a flameproof jacket on the other issue. Do all the sales people at Boeing need to know how the aircraft is built? Do all the sales people at Microsoft start off as programmers? Are all the programme managers at Vodafone communication engineers?

I agree that some who are not progressing might want to try something else; and some might want to shift work/life balance. However I cannot see why a business would need to "manage out" strong analysts and managers just because they cannot or do not wish to move into sales. Must be costly to keep having to train fresh graduates to replace experienced hands.

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#13 Re: strategy consultant career progression
13/04/2006 23:35


No chance, Ghandi.

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