There are many good reasons to become a management consultant and as a result, the top consulting firms receive hundreds of applications per place.
However, despite this most consultants only stay in the industry for a few years. The average tenure at McKinsey is well known to be only around 2.5 years.
Why is this?
One reason is that most consulting firms are very good at 'managing out' (i.e., encouraging to leave) consultants who aren't perceived as having a future in their firm. This includes poor performers but also those who may be doing well in their current role but lack the skills needed to progress further. This policy is referred to as 'up or out'- consulting firms will only keep employees who are continuing to develop. Overall, around 30% to 40% of consultants who leave the industry do so because they are made to.
However, this still means that the majority of consultants (60% to 70%) choose to leave of their own volition. Each person obviously has their own reasons for doing so and in my case the reasons were:
Whilst these reasons were obviously specific to my particular situation, many consultants will have a similar story. Firms recognise that consulting is not a permanent career for everyone and most are very supportive in finding their staff or alumni new roles (it's in their interests to do so because ex-consultants who become senior industry figures are a great source of future business).
Consulting is a great job to do for a few years but it is not a permanent career for most people. I never wanted to be a career consultant and left the industry after 3 to 4 years but I am extremely grateful for my time in it and the opportunities that it opened up for me.
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm