One question that readers have asked me a few times is ‘how can I make a transition to MBB from a ‘Tier 2’ consulting firm?’
I wish there was an easy answer to this. Unfortunately, there’s not. It is (obviously) possible to move laterally from another consulting firm to MBB- I can think of several of my ex-colleagues at McKinsey who did this, one of whom is now a Partner- but it’s difficult.
From looking at the background of these people, I can see a few trends. They all either:
If you’re thinking about making this transition and have been in consulting for a few years already, the first two of these probably aren't options for you- if you've already reached senior associate or project manager level, the level you'd exit to in industry should be 'director' level. However, once you've worked as a director for a couple of years, you're unlikely to want to return to being an Associate at a consulting firm. You're also probably too senior to want to return to education (and anyway that direct costs and opportunity costs of doing this would be high).
If I were in your shoes, I'd first really make sure that this is a transition that I wanted to make. For me, the risks would outweigh the potential benefits. You've done incredibly well to get to where you are- getting into a good consulting firm is very tough. The fact that you've probably been there for a while suggests that you're doing well and that if you wanted to make a career of being a consultant, you'd have a good chance of becoming a partner at your current firm. If you don't want to be a career consultant, you'd be able to find some pretty great exit opportunities already- consultants from good firms are in high demand and I have many friends who've gone from Monitor, Roland Berger, Accenture etc. to do great things.
To my mind, transitioning to MBB once you’ve been at another good firm for a few years wouldn't really have any upside. In the short-term the application process would suck up a lot of your time. If you were given an offer, you'd pretty much be doing the same work but likely at a lower level because most firms wouldn't immediately let you manage teams. You'd also have all the stress of proving yourself at a new job and building a new network with no guarantee that you'd be as successful at the new firm as your current firm. In the longer term, moving to MBB wouldn't really dramatically change your available options. A partner at a Tier 2 firm does pretty much the same job as one at MBB and if you didn't want to stay in consulting long-term, your exit options won't be markedly different.
If you did decide that you still want to make the transition, I'd make every effort to find a partner or junior partner in the specific office of the firm I wanted to work for (e.g., LinkedIn, current firm’s alumni database, college friends of friends) and ask them what kind of skills are in greatest demand in that particular office. If possible, I’d then try to do a couple of projects at my current firm that would allow me to develop and demonstrate these skills. I’d keep my contacts at the firm I was looking to join informed of what I was doing. After this, I’d ask them to refer me to their recruiters, which should at least help me to get an interview at their firm.
There’s no guarantee that this would work but I think it would help your chances of winning a place.
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm