The management consulting industry isn’t for everyone; some consultants move on to another profession or launch a successful business. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t good at what they did; they may have discovered new opportunities for attaining their life goals.
Needless to say, management consulting is a great stepping-stone for other careers or business endeavors. Individuals who have worked in a top consulting firm know what it takes to be successful in the business world due to their experience working in highly competitive markets. They have knowledge in business areas such as applying for permits, drafting contracts, forecasting, and creating organizational charts. Even a basic understanding of these concepts will help ex-consultants with their entrepreneurial activities.
Benefits of a Management Consulting Foundation
As mentioned above, some consultants use the industry as a stepping-stone for startups. Because of the stability of the industry, professionals who perform well use it as a fallback or safety net if their startup doesn’t work out or unforeseen circumstances threaten its feasibility.
In addition, experience working at a top-tier management consulting firm builds credibility. Well-known firms that have a reputation founded on integrity and trust impose the same qualities on their employees. An individual with superior management consulting credentials can use the popularity of the firm for personal gain without exploiting the firm’s status.
Starting a business can be costly—many individuals can’t afford to pursue their dream of owning their own company. Finding investors for a startup requires a strong network—but not just any network. One needs contacts who have the extra cash to invest in a business, and because companies that hire management consultants have a large budget, working in the industry provides more opportunities for locating partners and pooling capital.
It’s not unusual for consultants to gravitate towards entrepreneurship after leaving the industry. Professionals who have experience in day-to-day business operations may find the transition to be smoother than those who specialize in hedge funds and mergers. However, most consultants make great business owners because they have the competitive drive and motivation to run a business. Long hours and busy schedules are not new to management consultants. Adjusting to a “big-picture” mindset is fairly simple due to prior experience in forecasting and applying consulting frameworks. It’s just a matter of knowing the right information and finding the right niche.
Running a successful business includes managing the requests and needs of clients, which is also a key role of consultants. These are skills that usually take years to develop and will give consultants an edge over their competition.
Another option that consultants have when leaving the industry is graduate school. An MBA can serve as a reliable fallback when shifting careers. Some firms offer to pay their employees’ tuition if they agree to stay with the company for a specified period. Professionals may choose this option as a way to get away from the hectic consulting lifestyle for awhile. Alternatively, a consulting background can also help individuals get into top universities, which can then serve to advance their consulting career. And some alternative professions hire ex-consultants who have a proven track record of experience and educational attainment.
Not all management consultants choose to start their own company; some begin as freelancers and eventually open their own firm. There are some advantages to this shift. First, you set your schedule, so you don’t have to be at the office at a specific time. This allows for more flexibility in meeting with clients and completing daily tasks. Second, you have the potential to earn more. However, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to maintain a steady flow of projects. If you are a highly motivated individual, you should be able to make a profit. Finally, if you’ve build a strong consulting network, it shouldn’t take long to build a client base with those who you’ve forged a professional bond with and who trust your services. Moreover, your contacts will be able to recommend you, which is invaluable considering that you need more clients to keep your practice going.
Depending on their interests, ex-consultants can take on key corporate roles in reputable organizations. Fortune 500 companies hire consultants and add them to their team of strategists. Other corporate roles include coordinators, researchers, and operation management. Consultants may choose this new career path because of the slower work pace and less stressful environment, not to mention the lighter workload.
Although not as common as the options listed above, some consultants choose to pursue a political career, usually transitioning into an advisory or a strategist role. While the work hours are generally longer and the pay is substantially lower, those who choose to go into politics feel that it’s their calling, despite the drawbacks. If properly planned, a career shift into a leading government role can solidify one’s network, which will come in handy in the future.
Making a Clean Transition
Planning an exit strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Those who plan to leave the consulting industry usually prepare years in advance. There are points to consider when preparing to switch to a different, more desirable career path. In order to maximize the consulting experience, it’s recommended to specialize in order to make the transition smoother. For example, if you want to work as a pharmaceutical strategist, then you should take on projects in the pharmaceutical industry. You will be able to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the new industry and start building a network of clients. In addition, a recruiter will able to ascertain from your resume that you’ve planned to change careers and have taken the initiative to acquire quality experience.
The Importance of a Solid Network
A reoccurring theme of this article is building a solid network. If you’re planning to exit the consulting industry, it’s vital to maintain and expand your network—it’s one of your biggest assets. Your network will provide you with business leads, partners, funding, and if it doesn’t workout, a way back into the industry. Before you leave the world of consulting, it’s essential to maintain relevant contacts and make a lasting impression on them. This may mean taking additional time in providing consulting services or going out of your way to deliver outstanding results.
In conclusion, there are plenty of exit opportunities for a management consultant. You should begin preparing for this phase as early as possible in order to decrease the risks involved with the transition. The two most important aspects of an exit strategy are maintaining a strong network and accumulating relevant experience through projects related to the next chapter of your professional career.
For more information about how to prepare for the next phase of your career, download our free consulting guide. We cover topics such as how to write an attention-grabbing cover letter and resume and maintain a strong network, which will be useful when exiting the consulting industry. Our e-books also provide tips for how to make the most out of your management consulting career and give you the tools you need to break into the industry.