At any one time, more than 15% of the CEOs of the top 500 global corporations are alumni of McKinsey, BCG or Bain. These firms have often been dubbed “CEO factories” and are taking over top MBAs in training the next generation of business leaders.
A few years in a top-tier consultancy open doors to you that would not have been available otherwise.
In this article, we cover what exit opportunities look like after consulting and how top-tier consulting alumni often end up in senior roles.
Impressive exit opportunities
Consulting is a strong springboard to many other careers, so often consultants are able to land a number of exciting roles post-consulting.
As a top-tier consultant, you gain experience working across lots of different sectors and functions and this variety means you often have relevant and transferable skills for many different types of industries and roles.
On average, around 25% of consultants enter investment management, such as Private Equity and Venture Capital, 25% go into entrepreneurship by joining startups or founding their own, 25% join a strategy team within a large corporation and 25% go into non-commercial roles such as academia, non-profits, the civil service, teaching, or simply retire.
At the time of writing this article, 12 companies founded by McKinsey alumni have reached unicorn status (i.e., private companies valued more than $1B), Israel is led by a BCG alumnus (Benjamin Netanyahu), a McKinsey alumnus is top contender to run for President in the US (Pete Buttigieg), and some of the hottest companies are led by former consultants (e.g., Facebook, Google, Morgan Stanley).
Of course, the level at which you enter these industries depends on what role you had when you left consulting; however, you can expect to leapfrog your peers after a couple of years in consulting.
Probably the hardest thing is choosing the industry and role you want to take next!
Why consultants often end up in top executive roles
Many consultants end up in top executive roles largely due to three reasons: the skillset they’ve developed, the credibility from working at a top firm, and the relationships they’ve created.
From a CEO’s point of view, when you’re hiring into your top team, you’re looking for someone who’s proven to be smart, driven, experienced in operating effectively in complexity, and able to solve challenging problems while communicating clearly.
As a consultant, you’ve gained a track record of working in an environment like this and have developed the skills to thrive, which is exactly what CEOs look for when hiring their top talent.
In addition to a compelling list of experiences, having the seal of approval from McKinsey, BCG or Bain gives consultants an edge over others with similar backgrounds but without consulting experience.
A strong brand name shows you’re a high calibre candidate because you’ve previously made it through a very rigorous selection process. It also means you’re likely one of a very small pool of candidates who have a highly differentiated combination of skills.
Last, while working on a client project, a consultant will spend a large amount of their time interacting with executives at top companies, so it’s easy to build trust and rapport with people who might be looking for someone to join their team in the near future.
Additionally, the alumni lists of the top tier consulting firms are full of people now working as senior executives at large companies, and it’s possible to reach out and connect with these people when looking for a new job post-consulting. The top-3 firms all have exclusive job boards where alumni publicize job openings for other alumni. The majority of consultants leaving McKinsey find their next job through the McKinsey job board!
Finally, consider the multiplier effect where the above also applies to all of a consultant’s colleagues and that through them he or she can reach many more of the right people.
So it’s easy to see why being a consultant—even just for a short amount of time—can have a significant impact on the trajectory of your career.
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