I'm reposting this. The first thread got caught in a spate of spam posts and the forum admins deleted it by mistake. All's forgiven.
I've been following this forum for a few months as a guest because I usually find the advice given by the regulars (BEP et al) very useful as a prospective consultant. I'm afraid I need some TLC and advice myself now.
I'm an IT implementation consultant with 2-3 years of experience as a contractor on a large project outside the UK by one of the international tech giants (top-tier MCs will beg to differ about their standing, but the brand name still dazzles the uninitiated). The project was in a sector which is booming and I know for a fact that there is / will continue to be demand for someone with my experience for the next 5 years in the UK. So a move to the UK made perfect sense at the time. (I do not require a visa or a work permit in the UK.)
The main reason for the move was that my project had nearly run its course and when the time came to renew my contract, frustration peaked and I was not keen on being dragged into the maintenance phase for a couple of years when I knew that better opportunities (i.e. the exciting project scoping, transformation and implementation phases) existed elsewhere. The economic crisis meant that there were limited opportunities in the region where the firm I contracted for operates, but things were slightly better in the UK at the time. In hindsight I realise it would have been better to stick around for another year or two, no matter how mundane the tasks, simply because it would have added to my industry experience and made me look more credible to UK recruiters.
But leave I did. To ease the transition, I foolishly decided it was time to pursue a Master's degree first (not an MBA; it's too early for that, even if I wanted to) at a top UK business school. The degree was not entirely useless, unlike 80% of business degrees. It's a quantitative subject I enjoyed and which can come in really handy in certain areas of MC. I thought the UK institution would lend some much-needed oomph to my CV as my first degree is not from a UK university and I know just how picky top firms are here. That's proven to be true in a few cases with some recruiters cold calling me via LinkedIn, but so far, none of those opportunities led to anything else.
I'm mostly interested in IT advisory, delivery, and/or transformation. I'm not really keen on strategy consulting or the typical areas of MC. I'm not looking into applying at MBB. For the record, I have excellent academic results, but I'm not in the least bit interested in strategy for the time being. The fact that I have some work experience would also be a disadvantage for MBB anyway.
My main problem is that my career profile is wedged in that grey area between graduate level and the lower end of experienced hires.
On the one hand, I don't really want to go through a graduate scheme and start from scratch as if I had zero experience. The fact that I'm 25 is also a bit problematic. Some of my (younger) grad school friends went on to join graduate schemes, but I don't really fancy myself hanging around with 21 year olds with far too much time (and alcoholic beverages) on their hands, especially during the first few months.
But then I'm not sure what level of experience firms expect of their 'experienced hires'. Recruiters have not been too helpful. As it turned out, in my project I unexpectedly got to carry a lot more responsibility for my role at a very critical stage of the project. My performance far exceeded the expectations (the engagement manager's words, not mine) and the project was a huge learning experience which, from what I'm told, you're very unlikely to come by during a typical graduate scheme. And yet it's still just 2-3 years of experience in the eyes of a recruiter.
My four questions are:
1) What sort of general training do entry-level analysts typically receive in a graduate scheme?
I'm not referring to domain-specific knowledge which you learn as you go along. I'm more after the induction training and personal development stuff. I also understand that networking opportunities at this stage are very valuable, but experienced hires joining from the industry at a much later stage often overcome this hurdle without too much difficulty.
2) Are there any realistic opportunities for someone coming from outside the firm with more than 2 years but less than 5 years of experience?
After the 2-year graduate programme, it's up or out for the analysts, whereas experienced hires start coming in with around 5 years of experience. I sit in the middle. I have 2-3 years experience outside the UK but I wasn't directly employed by this international consultancy firm (although I reported to their Team Leaders and PMs).
Without joining a graduate scheme, how can I gain the same experience that analysts-turned-consultants get when they're going from 2 years to 5 years of experience in a consulting firm?
3) What about the widening gap in my CV while I'm still looking for a job?
I'm now starting to worry about the gap in my CV. It's been 4 months already since I finished my Master's and I'm still looking for the right job to come along.
Granted, I may not have been making the most efficient use of my time and my job hunting strategy is probably not the best it could be (and it was dented by some external factors I will not go into here).
I should also mention that I turned down a job offer from a London start-up because I felt the role sold to me by a persistent recruiter was way below my skill set and I felt it wouldn't contribute anything to my chances of joining a big consultancy firm a few months down the line. I don't think a Big4 recruiter would have seen that stint with the start-up as a natural progression from where I left off before my Master's, i.e. no value added, other than showing that I can function in a UK company perhaps (yay?). The basic salary was also lower than I could earn in my home country (where cost of living is nowhere near London's), and the benefits package was, well, inexistent.
4) Whom to turn to for this sort of career advice?
There's only so much information I can divulge here, although I'm very looking forward to your take on the matter.
I found the university's career advisers to be too focussed on graduate schemes. They would go blank whenever I asked about positions for experienced hires.
I'm also a bit wary of turning to independent recruitment agencies for this sort of advice. If I'm not too sure of where I stand, how will they be confident that they won't be wasting their time with me? I'm scared that my somewhat atypical (I think?) case would become too much of a risky hot potato for them and they'd drop me right away.
And finally, my long-term friends and peers back home are not familiar at all with the peculiarities of this industry and the UK job market in general, so they can't be of much help either. They're too busy throwing house warming parties, getting married and having kids anyway.
Sorry if I may have come across as being a bit whiny – I certainly didn't mean to :-)