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Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?

#1 Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
04/09/2006 10:56

Confused to deleted (#0)

This is a question directed particularly at those recruiting for consultancies - either agents of in-house HR peope.

Is it worth it to work abroad for one of the high end strategy consultancies (McKinsey/BCG) for someone who intends to return to the UK?

Will it make the CV more attractive and will you look favourably at an application, or will the foreign aspect be a disadvantage (I mean from a foreign office/market, not the person obviously)?

I have offers from both to work in Eastern Europe. The market is exciting and I speak the language but I don't see it as a permanenent move. However, getting them on my CV would be a coup.

Will I be able to come to the UK in 2-3 years as a PM and find a job? Or should I just stay here in my (far less) exciting role?

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#2 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
12/09/2006 15:20

Kevin to Confused (#1)

As a headhunter specialising in strategy consulting I would advise joining a top tier strat firm regardless of its location, although if you are referring to a European office it will make no difference at all to your options in the UK. Experience with a McKinsey et al will always be a credit to your CV and there is typically a high demand for consultants with this experience.

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#3 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
12/09/2006 18:12

Paul to Confused (#1)

I'd say that getting a top strategy firm on your CV is critical for getting a top job. If you can get there by working abroad then I would advise you to do so.

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#4 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
12/09/2006 20:09

Confused to Paul (#3)

Thanks to both of you for the useful advice - just as I needed to make a decision too!

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#5 They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 09:22

peters to Confused (#4)

I completely disagree with the below advice by other 'recruiters' - who I anger at not having the responsibility for putting you in the right path.

Lets analyse your situation.

If youre in the UK now and are considering jobs with Mck / BCG in Eastern Europe - that tells me that you have not been able to secure a job with those two companies in the UK.

If you went to CEE to work and came back after two years, its unlikely the situation will have changed. You will still not get in to tier one strat houses in london.

So youre where you left off - no? Youre reasoning only applies if you are not even in a top big 4 / ITIS.

Where do you work?

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#6 RE: They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 10:41

Confused to peters (#5)

Peters, thanks for your comments. I'd like to understand more.

I'm in the UK now, working in Industry and moving to consultancy. I have not applied to McKinsey/BCG in the UK (you can't apply twice) so I can't say what would have happened. I don't have an MBA but I have several years blue chip strategy experience as an internal consultant. My options at the moment are:

(a) Join a tier 1 strat house in Europe, or

(b) Join a niche (sector) boutique in the UK. These are the offers I have.

Both are acceptable to me as they each have (different) advantages: The strat house offers a good environment to establish myself as a consultant while the boutique being specialised in my sector offers very rapid promotion to MC.

However I would not take the strategy job if I after two years, I was unable to come back and work either in a strategy consultancy or strategy boutique, on the basis of my experience. I have no interest in the big 4/ITS.

Needless to say, if my only option is to join a sector specialist, I may as well do that now.

I am however confused by your view, that experience gained as a concultant/PM in a tier 1 strat house will not count. What is that based on? Is it the fact that the office is abroad or lack of qualifications, or what?

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#7 RE: They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 11:26

peters to Confused (#6)

Ok - what do you mean by you cant apply twice? that you have a) applied to mck in london and been rejected or b) that you have applied to eastern europe and therefore cant apply to london?

I didnt say experience in tier 1 strat house wouldnt count - it just wouldnt count as much as working here for a big 4 / staying in industry.

Example: in eastern europe you will generally work for tier 2 clients with tier 2 methodologies and tier 2 colleagues ( sorry if this is harsh - but its life) if compared to the UK.

I had the option of joining Mck in Argentina but chose not to - doing s. american projects with local BP / Shell clients is different than working for Shell in the Hague headquarters - even if it is with Deloitte / EY.

Recruiters - and employers will know that. And even might understand that you went to a tier 2 office just so that you could get in. Remember that the type of work and the client list you have is almost important as the company you work for -

working for EY / ACN in Business Transformation for BP / Unilever etc in Europe is greater on the CV than working for BCG in Brazil for a Brazillian company.

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#8 RE: They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 12:16

Confused to peters (#7)

Peters, thanks. Regarding the 'can't apply twice', I meant at the same time for different offices.

On to your main points, I agree with your reasoning in general.

I would argue that there you won't just find tier 2 customers or tier 2 offices in Europe. I can't comment on Latin America.

Regardless, I quite understand that working in a Tier 1 in London is better than elsewhere but this is not the choice I'm facing.

I have to decide between working abroad for a while to establsih some strong credentials or working for a sector specialist in the UK. Clearly the latter offers better prospects within the sector, but only there.

Are you suggesting that working for a tier 1 abroad is worthless, compared to the alternative?

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#9 RE: They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 14:27

peters to Confused (#8)

why is this your only alternative? why have you excluded working for the big 4?

it would be very useful if you could give me some names. for example, if you said your offer in London was with CRA international, then I would say stay. If it were with Kaiser Associates - I would say leave.

And most importantly where are you now?

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#10 PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 14:57

Beng to peters (#9)


I cannot disagree more with Peters. How can someone who works for a Big 4 make a claim about global methodologies and practices at a top-tier strat house when he hasn't worked for one? If that's how he consults for his clients (on the basis of hearsay, 3rd-hand information, or God know what else), I'm glad he didn't accept his supposed offer at McK Argentina.

McK/B/BCG/etc. are ONE firm. As long as language isn't an issue, we DO staff our South American consultants for North American projects. We DO staff our Eastern European consultants on Western European projects. We DO staff our Australian consultants on China projects. My Argentinian or Romanian colleagues are more than equal peers...they don't consider themselves "sub-standard".

If you can get a job at a McK/B/BCG/etc. at a developing country (and you have no issues living in a developing country), that is a sound strategy for getting your foot in the door. Your CV will say McK/B/BCG. Full Stop. In this age of globalization, how can Peters even say that location is relevant?

And what the hell is a "Tier 2 client" anyway? A paying client is a paying client. A strategy project for a "small" $500 million company is no less intellectually stimulating than a strategy project for a blue-chip $50 billion company. In fact, I find the $500 million client more challenging, as they have to compete in the marketplace with significantly fewer resources. They have to be much more "creative".


Stop giving nonsensical advice. You're giving Big 4 consultants a bad name.

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#11 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 15:21

The anti-beng to Beng (#10)

oh bengy, bengy, beng...

maybe a "Tier 2 client" is one who went to Royal Holloway...

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#12 RE: They have given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 15:25

Confused to peters (#9)

Thanks for taking the time to advise me.

I've excluded the big 4 because I don't enjoy working for very large companies. I've done corporate strategy for BT, CSC and IBM and would rather work in a smaller company where I can make a greater impact. The big 4, feel like a bit of an army to me.

When I say these are my alternatives, it's because I have these offers on hand and have been looking for long enough that I cannot wait any longer to make a move.

I'm a bit reluctant to name all the details in an open forum, I hope you don't mind.

The offer in the UK is from a Telecom/technology strategy boutique - small but very good in quality standards, peer group and clients. Package in line with the best strategy boutiques. Frankly its the easy choice. Also the hours are to be better there than McK or BCG, especially in CEE.

On the upside, if I move, I'd enjoy working in an excellent environment, learn from a superb peer group, and deal with a variety of sectors, including banking, transport, tourism and FMCG. Incidentally I was recruited for my senior management experience and sector expertise, not due to low local standards. I spent some time in their office and was impressed with the way they work – they definitely adhere to the same standards as London or NY (indeed all the consultants are transfers from there, and of various nationalities – definitely not a local franchise deal).

It will of course take me longer to make MC and the pay is lower than in Britain (in line with local rates), though the money seems to go further in Europe than in London where life is increasingly expensive.

The dilemma is in many ways personal, but I would like to know that if I take a chance and go abroad for a few years, I will come back with some decent experience and prospects and that I won't be kicking myself.

Many thanks for your advice.

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#13 PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 15:47

Beng to Confused (#12)

Unfortunately, there are many variables that will impact your ability to get a similar strat job in the UK. I've listed a few off the top of my head. At the end of the day, you will still have to take a risk. But IMHO, it's worth the risk. The gilded doors of the business world open pretty wide for senior ex-MCs from top tier strat houses.

- Overall MC climate in UK/Europe. It is a cyclical business, so if you're tour ends in a bad MC job climate, you're SOL.

- Number of years with the firm. 2 years may not be long enough. With at least 3-5 years of top tier MC experience, headhunters will be calling you.

- What position you're coming in at, and what position you're leaving at. The odds of successfully jumping to another firm improves the higher you move up the ladder. Again, this may take more than 2 years.

Good luck.

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#14 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 16:02

Confused to Beng (#13)

Thanks Beng, I appreciate your advice.

I mentioned 'two years' because that would mean I'd still be a project manager, hence not be expected to have a client list.

I had assumed it's hard for an MC to move country because they're highly paid and expected to bring a network of client contacts with them.

Is that not the case?

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#15 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 16:17

lofaq to Beng (#10)

Im in a top strategy house - of course we consider our colleagues in other countries to be good, just as good as us .

But ... if you look at how many have asked for and not been granted a a transfer to New York, London, San Fransisco or Hong Kong from S. Africa, Poland, Moscow and China that is a different story.... i wonder why....

and in reply to the person before, there is such a thing as a tier 2 client ... and a tier 3 ... and a tier 4....

in fact - there are lists of these, called 'pipelines' and 'priority accounts.' do you not use them at KPMG?

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#16 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 16:19

peters to The anti-beng (#11)

What is Royal Holloway? Isnt that a prison?

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#17 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 17:29

Confused to lofaq (#15)

Regarding transfers to the UK/NY etc, I assume it has a lot to do with the needs of the local office and the "billability" of senior people. If the London office has a need for and can get a healthy rate for a PM/MC, there's no reason why an internal transfer woudn't happen. However if the office can't easily charge the premiums these people's time commands, it will be hard to saddle them with an expensive person who will effectively dilute local earnings.

In my case I'm not considering a transfer, just coming back to look for a new job, which is why my question was, wheather an ex-PM or ex-MC would have good prospects in the UK.

I had assumed that a PM would be the right level to do this, because an MC is expensive and needs a network of contacts, which would be a problem for someone coming in from abroad.

Benq was susggesting an MC could in fact do this, so I'd like to hear opinions on the subject.

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#18 RE: PETERS has given you rubbish advice...
13/09/2006 17:52

Beng to Confused (#17)

Project Manager, Engagement Manager, Principal, or however your firm chooses to call it is not a Partner. Partners are hired based on their book of business and ability to generate revenue. PMs, EMs, Princes, are expected to sell "add-ons", "extensions", and maybe "assist" selling new engagements...but the primary job is to successfully lead, deliver, and exceed client expectations on client engagements.

That said, if you want to be promoted to Partner as your current Firm, you have to demonstrate ability to sell work. If you want to be hired as a Partner (note the distinction), you have to have a book of business. Different quals and expectations than being hired as a PM, EM, or Prince.


I do think you're asking the right questions. At the end of the day, it will be a personal decision and your appetite for risk. As financiers say, no risk no gain.

PS. With regards to Lofaq's comment on pipelines and priority accounts...please re-read Peters' comment. "...In eastern europe you will generally work for tier 2 clients with tier 2 methodologies and tier 2 colleagues" He was not referring to pipeline and priority accounts when referring to "tier 2". Brush up on your English before YOU crawl back to KPMG.

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#19 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
14/09/2006 13:47

Silver Tongued Cavalier to Confused (#4)

Though not a recruiter myself, CEE should be on a long term growth curve that outpaces Western Europe. Thus, if you wished to network in that part of the world and be able to take advantage of your local and UK experience with the support network of a good firm then it sounds like you have an excellent opportunity. London based firms are bound to require people with CEE experience as the economies there grow

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#20 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
14/09/2006 14:22

Blue Loon to Confused (#1)

Working abroad is always worth it - but the experience rarely enhances your CV. Working for a top strategy firm will make your CV stronger, no matter where you work.

Some cautions about working abroad. First, don't expect to have a job when you come "home." Despite the lip service, few firms truly value international experience. I have worked internationally for about a quarter of my career, and know of only one expat who was successfully reintegrated in the same company at home. The vast majority when returning home last less than a year before leaving or being asked to leave.

Second, living and working internationally is not easy, even if you do speak the language. A large percentage of expatriate assignments end prematurely, often at the request of a spouse. The glamour quickly wears off when you're not around and nothing works as it did "back home."

That said, getting a top strategy firm on your CV will work wonders wherever you end up, and working internationally is worth the price. I speak from experience, having led a strategy practice for one of the majors in CEE for several years. Nobody cares (except the rare former expat) where I worked, but they are always impressed by the big name on the CV.

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#21 RE: Attn Recruiters: Is working abroad worth it?
15/09/2006 14:35

Confused no more to Blue Loon (#20)

Thanks for all the helpful comments. They helped me to analyse the situation, and arive at a decision I'm happy with (I'm going to move and work in Strategy for a few years).

While this was really a personal choice, I appreciated getting your views. Thanks again.

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