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entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating

#1 entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 16:06

public sector grad


I am looking at getting into a strategy consulting after graduating 2 years ago in Economics from a second tier UK uni.

Since gradating i have worked in the public sector as an economist in a strategic role for government. I am looking to move as the chances of promotion are almost 0 due to lay offs and budget cuts and i see strategy consulting (as opposed to economic consulting) as the place i want to get to.

My question is should i:

a) look to join a graduate scheme even with my experience

b) Should i stay where i am, get more experience and then look to move

c) go and get a masters from a top uni (possible) so i have a specialisation and then look to move.

Couple of other questions:

1) what sort of level of firm could i pitch at? i.e. could i get into a top firm or should i aim for the big4 consulting practices?).

2) does my experience qualify me for a role higher than graduate?

Any advice much welcome.

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#2 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 17:32

Tony Restell ( to public sector grad (#1)

I don't think it's helpful to hold out false promise, better to be blunt and tell things as they are so that you can reassess options in the light of what's realistic...

My input would be:

1) The top strategy firms take people almost exclusively from the very top universities and business schools. They also tend to take people straight from university (or the end of a gap year). So they are a non-starter in my opinion.

2) Going back to university (or preferably business school) is only going to enhance your chances if you manage to get into a school that is one of the very best. So getting into a business school where strategy firms have a track record of hiring MBAs would be beneficial, but into a lesser school would not. The problem here being that - depending on which "second tier UK uni" you attended, getting in to a top business school may or may not be a plausible option (quite apart from the financial considerations of going down this route).

3) Your experience is probably not going to qualify you for a role higher than graduate - particularly as it has been gained in a sector where the firms will not be expecting to win lots of business (making you less marketable to their clients). But equally not being a fresh graduate may make you less appealing to firms who want to take in and train waves of fresh-faced new graduates.

4) In light of the marketability comment above, I wouldn't stay put as I wouldn't see another couple of years in the public sector making you a significantly more attractive proposition to the firms than you are today - indeed likely to be quite the opposite.

In your shoes, I think the most plausible scenario would be to decide which industry / sector interests you the most and then to try and secure a strategic role with a major FTSE brand in that sector. If you can build up significant strategic expertise with a FTSE over the next 2-3 years then that might open the door for you to join a strategy practice as an experienced hire a little way down the road (or you may find you like the lifestyle of a FTSE and just stay put). Probably you'd be looking at joining the strategy practice of a Big 4 type firm rather than MBB via this route - though you might get lucky and find your particular experience profile in high demand a few years from now and the academics being overlooked for the highly desirable sector experience. It's a possibility - but the odds are still slim. In most likelihood you'd be in a Big 4 strategy practice at the end of such a career move.

I hope this helps - I don't mean this to be a downer on your aspirations and would certainly never want to deter someone from trying to get into consulting; but equally I think a dose of reality now might leave you better placed to make the right choice for you and to ultimately succeed in getting into consulting.

Interested in others' thoughts on the subject...

All the best

Tony Restell

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#3 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 17:57

public sector grad to Tony Restell ( (#2)

Tony - Thanks - if it makes a difference i should be able to get into the LSE as my current place has links there, but only to study in the same area i am now.

Perhaps trying at the big 4 consulting and industry grad schemes is the best way forward.

Thanks again for your lengthy and informative answer, much appreciated.

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#4 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 17:59

Dave to public sector grad (#3)

I prefer the term "detailed and descriptive" to "lengthy".

I agree with Tony. Cash in on your academics and try to make the move to a good FTSE brand sooner rather than later.

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#5 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 18:00

Mars A Day to public sector grad (#1)

You simply wont get into a strategy consultancy with your background, but you could waste a lot of time, energy and potentially money chasing this ideal and miss out on the real opportunities. From your post you say you are in a 'strategic role in government' - 2 years after graduation. Guess what your peers are doing 2 years after graduation at strategy firms? After 2 years (and we will assume you havent exaggerated your role) you have a position where your contribution is recognised, and maybe even influences outcomes. Understandably you are unsettled at the moment with the public sector budget cuts, but remember this is aberational by comparison to the private sector. It will, in a short time, settle, and return to the reassuring lack of volatility you have become used to.

You could, as Tony, suggested, try for a role in a FTSE company - but competition is intense for the best grad schemes. So you could be looking at FTSE250 rather than FTS100. All the risk of the move for little actual reward. And you will still be an economist. Maybe guessing where cereal prices will go over the next 3 years would interest you? Thought not.

But let's not cry into our hypothetical coca pops.

I suggest stay put if the role is interesting - opportunities will open up again in due course. Or widen your definition of what is challenging - how about moving to a charity, an NGO, an NHS Trust, a political party even? Options. All more interesting than staring at powerpoint and excel, then telling your mates in the pub you were in a meeting with the CFO of BP when in fact you did some slides for that meeting, revised 30 times, and just want to go to bed.

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#6 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
24/01/2011 19:05

anon to Mars A Day (#5)

PS Grad, as I am not from UK, could you expand upon what u mean by 2nd Tier?

Whereabouts on a national ranking is that, 20-50? 50-100?

I'm not a top-tier strategy consultant, but someone who was frustrated by the holy grail of joining a top strategy firm for a couple yrs, which I have since overcome never having succeeded. So, knowing that, you can take or leave my advice on what you should now do.

1) Be clear on whether you want to work in strategy consulting, or just MBB. (I know u never mentioned MBB, but ppl seem to have led the discussion down that road)

2) If you decide on the former, be careful about what you consider as a "top" firm, and set your sights/scope accordingly. If you let ppl convince you top = MBB only, you may have a frustrated few yrs ahead. But in the grand scheme of the consulting world -from boutiques to IT firms, accounting firms, corp finance houses; global, international and local- I think you can consider many other firms as being "top". Of course ATK/Monitor/RBerger/OC&C ... but the strategy practices in Big4, ACN, PA also all work with big clients, in many countries, hire smart people (queue laughter from the Oxbridge+Harvard MBA snobs), will challenge you, are well known, and will open many doors down the road.

3) Match the financial resources and time you have available with your answer to Q2. If you only want to work in strategy consulting to get a really tip top name on your CV (ATK, Monitor et al), you'll need an MBA from Insead or LBS. If you can't pay for that, forget it and move on. Then of course that may only get you an interview, not a job.

If you'd be happy in the Big4 grouping, an MSc from a really good business school should at least get you an interview, as a degree in Economics is a solid base, regardless of the Uni. And even if those interviews don't materialise into jobs, you'll be in a good position to join a good company in Industry.

I have a degree from an extremely mediocre institution + a fantastic MSc. Over the yrs I've managed to get (unsuccessful) interviews with Monitor and Berger, among others. I now work in strategy for one of the world's most admired companies, and I wouldn't change my lifestyle for any consulting firm.

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#7 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
25/01/2011 13:40

Wasabi to anon (#6)

Pretty solid advice from the previous contributors.

My view is that if you are really set on entering strategy consulting right now, and given your background, I think your best bet would be with the really small players (i.e. smaller than the likes of the OC&C/RB boutiques).

These firms are likely to be more flexible with their grad entry requirements, and in some cases, offer pretty competitive renumeration.

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#8 RE: entering strategy consulting with 2 years work experience after graduating
11/02/2011 16:27

Fury to Wasabi (#7)

I can tell from experience that the OC&C's, Roland Bergers, A.T. Kearney's of this world are just as critical with their applicants as MBB. Actually, the Big 4 Strategy practices I've encountered are just as critical as MBB as well (but Big 4 strategy pay is less, with the exception of Deloitte S&O).

Thing with the boutiques is- they have less spots for recruitment but fill these spots with the same calibre of candidates that MBB do. Hence, the competition for these spots is really fierce.

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