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From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team

#1 From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team
29/09/2013 23:41


Hi everyone!

Having recently been approached by several team leads, I thought I'd put it up for discussion: What were the thoughts and considerations you had when you chose which capability or market to align yourself with?

For some context: After having joined the consulting arm of a big 4 straight out of uni a while ago, several senior team members have more or less overtly expressed their interest in me joining their teams rather than being more or less up for grabs for any jobs. Each one of the options has its pros and cons, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on how much this sort of decision would be direction setting in a young career for example. Any sharing of experiences would be much appreciated!

Concretely, there are 2+1 option on the table:

Option 1 would be a growing team, with an established pipeline in a high growth market. The team is currently hiring people who are more qualified than I am from a technical perspective and used to fill a vacuum that exists between my grade and the higher ups 2-3 steps up in the ranks. The people leading the team sell well. There is a lot of work, hence high util with lots of hours, however in predominantly good locations.

Pros for this option are:

+Long term pipeline / good reputation of the firm in the area

+Complex market/capability combination ie. skills acquired here are very specialised


-Space upwards probably filled by higher-qualified staff soon

-Low probability of being able to have any input in team strategy going forward

Option 2: A team that is more or less still in its infancy to the extent that it is being formed as I write this, no pipeline as such but similar groups in competitor firms perform well. Apart from for the partner/director types, there are no established roles yet, and lower level staff have been invited to participate in agenda setting. There is support for expansion, potentially through acquisition, but I reckon I can acquire the knowledge to perform equally well more easily in comparison to option 1.


+ 'Freedom of expression' and the ability to shape a new part of a massive firm

+ Less likely to be outpaced by higher qualified staff (let's say this option is...slightly fluffier)


- Uncertainty about whether this new part is able to establish a strong pipeline / I don't know if the higher ups can sell

- Less complex market/capability combination (ie. fluffier stuff) hence easier replaced by other market entrants

Option 3: Do nothing, because I technically haven't got to make a choice yet.

It would be good to hear about how you guys would approach this situation, how you have dealt with this question yourselves, and what other considerations come to your minds!

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#2 RE: From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team
30/09/2013 09:46

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to throaway235 (#1)

Hmm, tricky.

Being in a team is better than being all adrift. However, I'm always wary of "rapidly expanding teams" because, after a few years, they often "rapidly shrink" again. Plus in the meantime you end up slaving away for some middle manager who is prepared to kill the team in order to make partner.

On balance I think I would be inclined to remain as a drifter for a while. You can always go and join one of those teams if you choose to at a later date, after seeing them settle down into a more stable arrangement.

Remember, however exciting a "very rapidly growing team" with "lots of work on and hence high utilisation with high hours" and " a strong sales focus" might be to the middle and senior management, for the grunts on the ground it's often pretty grim. After all, it's the big shots that get all the money and the young ones that get chewed up and spat out.

I might be too cynical here, but I say keep your options open and don't commit yet.

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#3 RE: From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team
30/09/2013 13:16

Arby the Manager to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

Hi there;

On balance I think it depends upon your personality / boldness / propensity for "risk" and above all, perceived seniority. Personally I would relish to be starting in a small "start-up" style department, where you can make a big impact (big fish, small pond etc). However I would fully support BEP's point that you really want to be part of the future of this team and not just the dogsbody. If you do chose Option 2 then you should potentially look at creating a growth plan / development plan with the Partners / Directors involved. Without being too unrealistic you should be very clear about your expectations from joining this team and make sure you constantly revise these. My experience is that if the Partners and Directors have attracted the scent - then there is something in this opportunity. They simply would not spend their time unless the potential was there. Putting in the effort early can really be your chance to position yourself as part of the strong future growth of the team.


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#4 RE: From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team
30/09/2013 15:11

Mr Cool to Arby the Manager (#3)

I'd recommend being a generalist for first 12-24 months in order to get rounded experience and then moving to a specialisation.

It's hard to progress as a generalist, you need to become an expert in something to justify higher day rates and to lead other consultants.

I'd recommend the first option. Realistically you are not experienced enough to be driving a practice area - best to learn how to do that in a high Growth area. All boats rise on a tide...

The only thing to avoid is becoming a specialist in a dying cash-cow area of the business...

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#5 RE: From 'being a resource up for grabs' to choosing a team
03/10/2013 22:20

throaway235 to Mr Cool (#4)

Thanks everyone for your answers...weighing up the options, it seems that the more complex market/capability option 1 offers quicker progression with more certainty around being able to keep util up (still relevant at my grade).

I've also come to realise that option 2 might become more attractive at a later point in the career- and I'm talking years here - mostly due to the subject being relatively 'mundane' and accessible, meaning clout and credibility are only gained through having been through lots and lots of projects (rather than becoming an expert through acquiring knowledge).

This has been very helpful, thanks a lot for all your input.

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