Is Management Consulting a Career?

Recruiters and careers advisors often talk about the consulting career, but I realised that actually most of those I knew heading into consulting had any intention at all of staying more than five years, let alone trying to become Partner.

Prompted by a chat with William Johnson, MD of Openside Group, I ran a quick poll of consultants on r/consulting asking them why they joined the profession. Three hours later, I had nearly 250 responses:

As suspected, the majority want to beef up their skills, get the brand on their CV and leave (probably to do something less stressful and more rewarding).

My suspicions are that those who want to work up to Partner have become fewer over the years as salaries have stalled, training has declined and utilisation rates have gone up. This is perhaps the reason that the average graduate now stays only 7 years in consulting (though if in MBB, you’re likely to get parachuted out within this period anyway.

Regardless, it reminds me of this figure where they asked recent Harvard graduates what they are doing now vs. where they hope to be in ten years!

As ever, I’d say keep your eyes open for opportunities that excite you. There’s nothing at all wrong with those 85 responses who simply said they joined consultancy because they just wanted to see how it would go. It’s a great career for opening doors and developing great skills.

What really interests me, are those 12% of responses who wanted to become Partner. The effort-reward ratio to achieve this has changed over the last ten years, and not for the good. Someone once told me that only mediocre consultants made it to Partner – the best left, and the worst were sacked. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it did make me giggle.

As ever, if you’d like one-to-one coaching beyond the resources available at Consulting Mastered, drop me a line at joe@consultingmastered.com.

Published by Prof. Joe O'Mahoney PhD.

CEO & Founder, Consulting Mastered Ltd. Professor of Management Consulting at Cardiff University CEO & Founder, Repair Cafe Wales C.I.C. CIO & Founder, StayMobile Technology Ltd.

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