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An alternative to get into consulting

 
#1 An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 15:18

Jack Black

Have been a long time reader of the forums (although not contributed until now), and the topic which comes up over and over is how to break into consulting. I'm going to offer an alternative suggestion, nothing totally left field, which has worked for me... To give a little background...

Left school at 16, reasonable set of GCSE, messed around in a couple of jobs until 18, then managed to secure a role at a large retail bank in a Finance/IT function... primarily focussed on IT delivery of high volume payment systems - this was a junior role...

3 years later I moved roles to a large social landlord, where I managed the internal finance system for 2 years, before moving to Atos as a BA/SA for 20 months. Hit the contract market for 9 months, earned some good money (enough for a large house deposit... in Newcastle!) before wondering where exactly my career was going. I had previously applied to consultancies in the past, but as you'll see from my profile, I'm not your typical fit so fell at the first hurdle...

Then came my opportunity. Accenture were recruiting a BA in their services business, less money, decent job but more importantly I looked at this as an opportunity for a foot in the door. I got in, worked my socks off, networked very hard (and well) and most importantly got some rave reviews from the client. Have recently been accepted into consulting (C2 level within ACCN - Financial services work) so it looks as though my gamble has paid off.

So, take from this what you will, but for all those struggling to open the doors in consulting, have you considered this alternate path?

Questions/comments/general chatter all welcome - happy to help as I can (god knows I've had plenty of it from you guys on here)

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#2 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 15:27

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Jack Black (#1)

# No you're not hardcore! Unless you live hardcore! And the legend of the rent was way hardcore!

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#3 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 15:28

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

And your approach is definitely what I would call "sticking it to the man!"

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#4 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 16:42

Happy to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#3)

It's nice to hear stories such as this one from Jack Black. But it reminds me a little bit of when you read a newspaper article all about how you don't need qualifications to be successful - and then the paper cites Richard Branson and Bill Gates as if they are every day normal examples

Someone beating the odds, exceptions to the rule etc are nice to read about, and there are many many exceptions in all walks of life

The takeway for me is that:

1) The cream, like Jack Black here, will always find a way to rise to the top, whereas

2) You can't polish a turd, even an exceptional one

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#5 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 16:58

Jack Black to Happy (#4)

Agree - and being totally honest my experience, whilst driven by my own ambitions, did have an element of the stars aligning. I was assigned to a very demanding client, on a hugely high profile piece of work with some very ambitious deadlines. Managing to somehow hit all these with the help of the clients team (they were also very good) did my cause no harm. That, and I get on very well with a couple of my MD's and SM's, who again, are all really good people.

You make you own luck, but you do need little bits of fortune along the way.

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#6 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 17:01

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Happy (#4)

Yeah, I can't stand reading autobiographies of people who probably couldn't repeat their success.

Take Richard Branson - I'd bet that, if you took away all his money and removed his famous identity and his powerful contacts (so as to be on a level playing field with the rest of us plebs), and if you also removed the business skills that he has presumably acquired as a result of being surrounded now by other business leaders, there's no way he would become a billionaire again. A nice guy I'm sure, but somehow I don't think his journey to riches was purely the result of a carefully executed, deliberate career plan that he devised after leaving school. It would be like Daly Thompson giving me advice about how to be an Olympic athlete - no matter how great his advice might be, and no matter how diligently I might follow that advice, there's no way I'm gonna get a gold medal in the 100m sprint at the next Olympics.

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#7 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 17:09

presidentbartlet to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

The Accenture services to consulting (or whatever they are called now) is a well trodden route, I know at least 3 people who have done the exact same thing as you.

Much easier to get into services then you can show what youre made of, get some good feedback and get the role in consulting.

I wonder, for the benefit of others reading this, if there are any other consulting organisations that have divisions which are easier to get into but you can make the leap from?

I assume you were working in the Newcastle Delivery Centre?

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#8 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 17:21

Jack Black to presidentbartlet (#7)

Yes, Newcastle DC is my base (and will continue after my transfer too).

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#9 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 18:01

presidentbartlet to Jack Black (#8)

Yes, Newcastle DC is my base (and will continue after my transfer too).

Good luck - top tip, try not to get a role in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Swindon or anywhere else that's virtually impossible to get to from the North East!

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#10 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 18:40

Jack Black to presidentbartlet (#9)

Yes, Newcastle DC is my base (and will continue after my transfer too).

Good luck - top tip, try not to get a role in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Swindon or anywhere else that's virtually impossible to get to from the North East!

Are you Accenture too?

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#11 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 19:32

Phil to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

You should give a try to 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell - it sounds like you have lots in common with the guy's view

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#12 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
05/06/2015 20:25

presidentbartlet to Jack Black (#10)

Yes, Newcastle DC is my base (and will continue after my transfer too).

Good luck - top tip, try not to get a role in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Swindon or anywhere else that's virtually impossible to get to from the North East!

Are you Accenture too?

Until 6 months ago - couldn't hack the travel anymore!

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#13 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
10/06/2015 12:02

Mr Cool to Jack Black (#1)

Hi Jack,

A good story to share and an example of how people can get too fixated with the "standard" way of getting in. Clearly if you get a first class honours from a target uni, an internship at a Big4 and interview well, you're more likely to get a grad offer straight out of uni, but there is always an other way.

My story was similar.

2:2 from a top 50 uni,

Joined a niche subsidiary of a global back office firm and spent four years doing pre-sales to banking clients. Worked long hours (and enjoyed it) to build up my own team.

HEADHUNTED at 24 by the MD of a competitor who couldn't understand how we'd nicked all his clients

HEADHUNTED at 26 by a consultancy firm as a Sr Consultant with niche expertise

Did a year or two of consulting before breaking into sales by ignoring the protocol and selling my own £1M consultancy deals. That got me my first Manager promotion, my first £30K bonus and a company car. (LESSON: no one complains that you broke protocol when you bring in £1m at a brand new client)

HEADHUNTED at 30 to run the Banking practice at a well-funded privately owned boutique consultancy

Sold the firm a few years later, did a world tour and for the last 10 years I've worked as a contract Programme Manager-type.

I've stressed the HEADHUNTED not because of ego (oh ok, maybe just a teensy bit!), but because it was fundamental to my strategy for getting on. Along the way I was interviewed by EY, Accenture, PA, Deloitte, CAPGemini, IBM, KPMG plus a bunch of SI's and banks.

Each time, I politely explained what sort of role and package I would need to consider joining their firm

Each time they politely explained how they would do me a huge favour in offering me less than that (in £s and position), but in return allow me to add their glorious name to my CV

Each time I shook their hand, walked off and left them to it.

I interviewed and networked voraciously, and I stuck to my guns. I never moved sideways and I never sold myself short. I only moved when the firm I was going to was in the ascendency and where they were willing to pay top dollar to get me. By making sure I picked the right job, and the right culture, I was confident that I would excel. (and I did - getting top dollar to join didn't mean getting a crappy increase when appraisals came round at the end of that year). Twice I worked for firms where my situation got really boring, but I toughed it out until the right offer came up, rather than jump ship sideways.

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#14 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
10/06/2015 12:51

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Mr Cool (#13)

And, as they say, history was made.

The tiger goes from strength to strength.

;)

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#15 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
20/06/2015 19:29

DAVEBELL to Jack Black (#1)

Hi Jack,

Thanks for your post. Funnily enough I feel like I'm experiencing exactly the same situation and glad to hear there is precedent for this entry route. After graduating in 2013 I spent a period of time trying different roles only to find myself working at a rather niche consulting firm (in Northumberland) with some pretty heavy weight clients.

I would love nothing more than to apply for a position at the ACG but I'm short of the entry requirements by one A Level result.

I hope to get my foot in the door at Accenture by applying to Client Delivery and leapfrogging into ACG as soon as possible. Can you offer any advice for a would be applicant to the DC at Newcastle?

David

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#16 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
24/06/2015 22:13

MikeTC to DAVEBELL (#15)

Don't let an A-level get in your way. If you're good, make them see it :)

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#17 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
25/06/2015 08:46

Jack Black to DAVEBELL (#15)

What position are you applying for? Newcastle DC are recruiting quite heavily at the moment so plenty of opportunities. Make sure you ask where they plan to post you after you're recruited. IT can be very hard to stand out on some of the accounts they have.

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#18 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
25/06/2015 10:35

Anon MCs to Mr Cool (#13)

Coolio,

Very interesting read, makes me think of my little brother. Thanks will show it to him for inspiration (alongside Jack Black story).

Nonetheless, I am surprised! You basically gave your CV history here? I faintly remember you / BEP / me having a joke a while back in relation to you starting Uni when you were 16...? Was that a little porky pie?

Anyway - I was hoping BEP might do the same re career overview but no such luck. Mine unfortunately is a bit international hence would very quickly give away who I am, so won't be doing quite the same here sorry.

Its not as impressive, but not too bad considering I didn't speak a word of English a couple of decades ago and now people are surprised when I tell them that actually, I'm from xxx.

Career wise, I'm afraid I did the usual Degree / Masters / Graduate Scheme in a bank / Fairly Quick Rise through the ranks in international projects and programmes / then moved to MCs / then similar to you I moved into contracting a few years ago and haven't looked back. It was the best career move I ever made and funnily enough, right now I have the most responsibility than ever previously (contrary to the usual "contracting is not a career" bullpoop).

As you showed, deliver high quality and things in general will go well (and as Jack Black said, lady fortune always helps). In my case, fortune was having an excellent SM on my current contract who cares about delivery and hates brown nosers. I do get asked to apply for other roles offering higher rates (~25-40% more) but it is difficult to leave something that you are enjoying while working with people that you like and respect and the current rate is already high enabling you to do what you already want in life...

Give me another year and I might take one of the offers, but I am old enough to realise that enjoying life and work actually counts for a lot more than being able to get an even newer version of my BMW or staying at a 5* rather than a 4*...

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#19 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
25/06/2015 15:03

Frio to Anon MCs (#18)

18 years old - messed up A-Levels

21 years old - graduated from a top 15 uni with a 2:1

23 years old - started a graduate scheme at a defence contractor. I was rejected from most schemes because of my A-Level results. I got into an assessment centre by finding out who the recruiter was and basically persuaded him to give me a chance.

30 years old - left industry after several promotions to join Accenture

33 years old - left Accenture to join a big 4 consultancy

Who knows what's next, there are pros and cons to working where I work. On the whole I work with good people on some interesting stuff. What's interesting though is the same company who wouldn't have looked at me at 21 because of my A-level results is now actively talking to me to map my route to partner over the next 5 years.

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#20 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
25/06/2015 16:59

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#18)

Anon,

Good memory - no porky. Uni at 16, graduated at 20, four years at first company then headhunter away.

Completely agree about luck and mentors, though I believe you make your own luck, as gary player said "the more I practice the luckier I get..."

I also believe mentors are attracted to mentoring hard workers who listen....

Frio - good to hear you turning the tables on those recruitment snobs - great place to be. Generally if I feel someone feels they at doing me a favour, I politely decline. It's not long before its clear that I'm doing them a favour.

Just last week I had an MBB partner asking if I'd be interested in joining them. They can't afford me. He actually blushed when he found out how much he'd need to pay me...

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#21 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
06/07/2015 10:46

Anon MCs to Mr Cool (#20)

Mars, BEP & co

Coolio and I are still waiting for your stories / background...

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#22 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
06/07/2015 15:32

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Anon MCs (#21)

Hi guys, apologies for the absence, I'm still here but just a bit swamped at the moment. Interesting highlight of mine however is that I joined a top-tier strategy MC with a Dame Thora Hurd having messed up my finals (I still don't see the relevance of remembering the citations, names and dates when various academics published various articles, I'm more interested in WHAT was written and whether the idea itself was any good rather than WHO wrote it and WHEN). They either never noticed or didn't care and I sat it out there for 3 years before being made redundant along with a whole bunch of others, which was probably a good thing as the hours were nuts, literally nuts. That was a long time ago though, back in the days before people thought that a First in Film Studies was better than a third in engineering from cambridge.

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#23 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
07/07/2015 19:04

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#22)

Come onnnnn BEP, that is nowhere near enough!

What happened after that? How did you end up where you are! Obviously don't say anything that lets people know who you are, but the basics-keep it general will do

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#24 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
14/07/2015 17:47

Anon MCs to Anon MCs (#23)

Come on BEP, remember tenacity is a key MC skillset hence my chase... ;p

While we are here I also just thought - Tony who started this site, do you want to do a similar CV rundown as well?

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#25 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
14/07/2015 18:02

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Anon MCs (#24)

Well, I stayed with this top-tier MC firm for a few years then got the shove via a round of redundancies that was disguised as "up or out". When half the firm gets the shove in 6 months and the bench list has never been fuller, that's not "up or out", it's redundancies.

But, I was relieved. I couldn't bear the boredom of that place. Surrounded by people making a meal out of every tiny little thing. It was doing my head in.

So, I joined a small company. I liked the people there and although the pay was 20% less, I got home at 6pm every night. I felt like a slave that had been liberated. I cannot even start to describe the extreme feeling of freedom and happiness that I felt, compared to being locked in cubible land with the most boring people I had ever met in my life and being subjected to "appraisals" every 3 months. I loved it there, and the people were great. They stuck up for me when the going got tough and they helped me during difficult periods in my personal life. They actually cared about me - in start contrast to the back-stabbers I had been working with previously. And this was the result of the firm's culture, not the people themselves. I'm sure that the other people, had they instead been in this small firm, would have been a joy to work with. So, I stuck it out. I worked hard for them and I did my best. I didn't play politics and I was honest and kind to people. I helped other people out when I could, and they always helped me out too. I loved it there... and I stuck it out... and then we all got made redundant... and then we all joined another very similar small firm... and it grew... and it merged... and we got busier... and I got more senior... and I stayed there. And here I am. And I will do virtually anything to make sure that the young ones that join this firm experience the same level of support and compassion that I did when I joined.

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#26 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
15/07/2015 08:44

Frio to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#25)

Good to hear BEP and I have worked with some people who have the same values as you do.

Do you think if you joined one of the Big 4 now, let's say as a partner, you could manage your projects and teams in the same way?

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#27 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
15/07/2015 09:09

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#25)

BEP

definitely a +1

Great story. Now I understand why you have strong views re work-life balance.

Nice to see we all have such diverse backgrounds.

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#28 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
15/07/2015 09:12

Anon MCs to Anon MCs (#27)

PS Where is Camster?

I reckon his one will be rather interesting...

"I started at a top 3 Uni (ie PyTech Schmolytech) and spent my first 2 years work in a graduate scheme travelling the world (ie backpacking in Asia)..." and so on

;p

Hopefully that one will get him over here!

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#29 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
17/07/2015 15:39

Anon MCs to Anon MCs (#28)

Still waiting...

BEP came in and did his, Cams? Mars?

As Mars is a recruitment consultant, is there a chance that his background is an Estate Agent...?

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#30 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
20/07/2015 08:10

marsday to Anon MCs (#29)

Nope never been an estate agent. I went into retained search and selection as a graduate many years ago and have been looking back ever since.

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#31 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
20/07/2015 09:13

Anon MCs to marsday (#30)

Mars!

"Retained search and selection"? In English?

(and as always, becareful to ensure anonymity but I always enjoy understanding people and what they have done in the past)

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#32 RE: An alternative to get into consulting
20/07/2015 11:42

marsday to Anon MCs (#31)

It means my clients pay me a proportion of my fee before I start a recruitment project, part when I present a short list and the balance when the person starts the role.

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