Reader FAQ: From Big 4 to M/B/B and Transitioning from the Military to Consulting

You ask great questions (contact us if you have one that’s burning), and we’ve quite frankly been lazy about sharing our answers with all of you.  We won’t promise that a week on the beach (the literal beach, not the consulting beach) won’t distract us for a bit, but before that happens, here are some good ones from the past few weeks:

Networking from Big 4 to M/B/B

Q: Here’s my dilemma – I’m currently employed in the consulting service line at a Big 4 in the U.S. I previously interviewed with M/B/B in recruitment and I met one of the partners who’d interviewed me at a mutual client. I think he has taken a liking to me, and after a first coffee chat he agreed to pass my CV onto the M/B/B recruiters for interview considerations in early March.  I haven’t heard back since (M/B/B HR confirmed receipt of the resume from him, but have not gotten back to me).  Do you think I’ve already been rejected given I haven’t heard back in such a long time?

In other news, after a few months of working on another engagement, I’ve come back to the same client, and we have scheduled another coffee. I asked for the catch-up mainly because I didn’t want to lose contact but I’m not sure what to speak to him about. Do you have any suggestions on what I should say?

A: Great question, and an awesome problem to have – a senior consultant at a top firm interesting in spending time advising you.  Here’s my suggestion:

  1. First, focus on your success since the last time you met, and your career plans overall.  You want to remind him that you’ve made progress since you last interviewed with the firm.  Keep it upbeat and interesting – you’re doing a soft sell of yourself, and if you’re a happy employee where you are (read:  you’re valuable and valued by your current workplace), you’re the number one draft pick to head upstream to an M/B/B.
  2. Second, ask him for an update on his work – which clients is he working with, what types of engagements, etc.  Gain what insights you can about him, and learn as much as possible about the work he’s doing.  Focus specifically on lingo he uses and the way he communicates.  This will be invaluable as you prepare to have relevant conversations with other members of the firm – you can relate like an insider.
  3. Third, and only after you’ve done the above, make sure to thank him for passing along your resume to the recruiter.   Let him know that you understand that timing is everything, and ask when he would recommend following up with the firm. Nothing more, nothing less.This candid but confident approach will notify him of the fact that you haven’t heard anything, but you’re doing it in a way that sets the expectation that they will call you (because you’re worth it) and you are patient and understanding of how busy they’ve been (even if they haven’t) and you understand how important their role is (demonstrating respect).  You’re also taking ownership over what you can do (following up with the firm) instead of asking him again what he can do (placing ownership on him).
  4. Finally, make sure you send an email recap after meeting – thanking him again for his time and everything he’s doing on your behalf.
Breaking news from reader:  Thanks for the suggestions! I spoke with the partner today and it went very well. We spent a lot of time talking about projects and also MBAs, etc.
At the end I mentioned that I haven’t heard back and he said the best way forward is for him to follow up. He also mentioned that we should do coffee more often, which is great (hopefully he wasn’t just being polite).  Throughout the past 6 months I’ve met a lot of consultants at the firm and I got along with all of them, so I really think it’s an excellent cultural fit. Hopefully I get an interview so my case prep and relationships I’ve built over the past months will actually be utilized.

 

This reader demonstrated 3 key networking basics – consistency, confidence and curiosity – which are leading to what will likely become a very strong recommendation into the firm, bypassing normal hurdles to move from Big 4 firms to M/B/B.  Nice work!

 

Q:  I’m currently Active duty military and have been for the past 11 years, I have 9 years until I can retire and I’m looking at what to do when I get out. I recently became very interested in management consulting. I will have a B.A. in Business Leadership Studies next year and will be pursuing a Masters after. What advice would you give for a Veteran coming into this career field? How should I prepare for it?A:  You’ve got a great opportunity – to utilize your time in the military to advance your education and gain valuable leadership experience.  That being said, starting a consulting career near or after 40 years of age is going to be an uphill battle, so here are some things to think about while you’re preparing for your next steps…

  1. First, get the best Masters you can – an MBA is highly preferable for consulting.  A Masters in Economics or Organizational Development or something along that line is a distant second, and most other Masters are pretty futile in terms of preparation and ultimate appeal.  Also – go to the best name-brand school you possibly can – not all MBAs are created equal.
  2. Second, take on as much “business-style” leadership as possible…ask for projects where you lead longer-term implementation projects, have oversight over budgets, and can demonstrate goals.  In the military, internal roles can provide excellent opportunities for these types of experiences.
  3. Finally, when you are getting closer to your career change, consider leveraging networks of former military officers that have successfully entered the firms.  You can do this through your own means – via LinkedIn and references – or go directly to some groups inside the firms that have been set up specifically to recruit ex-military personnel (check out http://www.joinbain.com/life-at-bain/diversity/veterans-at-bain.asp, for example).
Do you have a question about management consulting, resumes or cover letters, networking or anything else related to the site? Contact me and I’ll give you a personal response, plus feature your question here with an in-depth generic response cleaned for any identifying information. Anonymity guaranteed.