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Some advice on a career change into consultancy

#1 Some advice on a career change into consultancy
21/09/2011 09:27


Hello all

This is my first post, but I'm hoping someone here can help me out. I'm considering a career change into consulting, but was wondering if my background would help or hinder me.

I graduated with a first class postgraduate degree in Biochemistry (from outside the UK) and have since worked in the life science/biotechnology field (going on 10 years now). I recently (May) completed a part-time certificate in Management at a UK university. My job at the moment is in product development, where I have to source new products and suppliers, evalute the commerical viability of potential new products (including market analysis etc) and I am involved in strategic discusssion on which product development direction the company wants to go in in the future.

I have no consultancy experience and no IT experience, but I do have a lot of transferable skills, like communication, problem solving, analysis, and I am a very quick learner. I'd like to move into management/strategy consulting. I have no problem starting at the bottom, including any sort of graduate training programme (do they take people who have been working for as long as me into graduate programmes?). In fact I rather like the idea of starting at the bottom, becuase I am hoping that it will give me a fairly broad experience, so that I can learn as much as possible and then start to specialise in a few years.

So the question is this: is this going to be a difficult change to make? I'm not concerened about whether I'll be able to cope, as I said, I am a fast learner and know that I'll be fine, I'm more concerned that my experience (or lack thereof) won't be of much value to consultancy firms.

And secondly, should I aim for a graduate training programme, or something higher? If its something higher, can anyone give some examples?

Thanks very much for reading this rather long post, I'd appreciate any feedback.

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#2 RE: Some advice on a career change into consultancy
22/09/2011 17:37

Tony Restell ( to cherryzelle (#1)

Happy to help insofar as I can.

You are quite right to question whether joining the graduate entry scheme of a consultancy is going to be viable. In my experience it's really uncommon for the major global consulting brands to take people onto these schemes unless they are recently out of college, ie. fresh graduates or with a year's gap year / internships experience. So I think this route is not an option for you.

I suspect having done a postgraduate degree already - and given how many years of experience you have - that the MBA route is also not going to be one that you will want or be able to pursue.

Which leaves you being recruited as an experienced hire. This would require that consulting firms' clients perceive that you have enough expertise about your specialist market (life science / biotechnology field) that they would welcome your input on their projects. Trying to secure any other consulting job would just leave you without any "ace card" you can play and will result in a lot of time being wasted in fruitless applications. So focus on experienced hire roles where your specialist sector knowledge is valued. This is your strong suit and you need to play it. The transferable skills you list are all highly prized in consulting, so please approach firms with the attitude that you are a valuable resource for them and not with the attitude that you have no relevant experience but are a very willing learner.

To conclude, I'd suggest you research the firms that are niche players in the life science / biotechnology field, or larger firms that have a practice specialising in this area. If you can break into such a firm, there will be opportunities from within to get yourself staffed on projects outside of this area; but when trying to break in you need to very much focus on this as your strength and your main appeal to prospective employers.

Hope this helps and good luck

Tony Restell

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#3 RE: Some advice on a career change into consultancy
23/09/2011 09:19

cherryzelle to Tony Restell ( (#2)

Thanks for you help. I had also done some more research and was thinking that niche firms focussing on biotech/life science (or maybe pharma) is probably my best option. Its good to have that confirmed from someone who knows.

I do like the biotech industry so have no problem spending some more time there.

Thanks again.

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#4 RE: Some advice on a career change into consultancy
06/10/2011 13:31

lupinwhite1 to cherryzelle (#1)

This was me a few years ago:

You have more specialist experience than I did but, like me, you're willing to start at the bottom. I started on a grad scheme and, as a result of meeting some influential people on projects (who recognised my maturity and the benefits of that) was able to move out of the graduate scheme and into a business unit within a year.

Following that move, I 'trained' as a BA and now, 4 years after joining, I'm ready to move on. I have some job interviews with Deloitte and IBM coming up, and I'm also considering Accenture and some others. In addition to that, my phone is ringing like mad at the moment, now I have my CV on the web. Sure, I've made sacrifices in terms of salary (initially) but I was promoted quickly and now have opportunities that simply wouldn't have been possible several years ago.

So, from my biased viewpoint, a grad scheme isn't as bad as you may think (providing you're willing to make relatively short-term sacrifices for long-term gain).

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