Consulting vs Internal Strategy

Consulting vs Internal Strategy has some distinctive differences. In your consulting career, do you want to be home with family more, or be jet-setting all the time? How much variety do you prefer? What kind of training and professional development do you want? The answer to these questions could be significant to your career path, and the satisfaction you feel in your work. Listen to Jenny Rae, ex-Bain consultant, as she gives insights on the differences between consulting vs internal strategy groups.

Consulting vs Internal Strategy Graphic

Consulting vs Internal Strategy YouTube Transcription

Consulting versus other careers. Specifically, consulting vs internal strategy. This is a question that we get a lot, when we’re on-site training and from our clients. So we thought today we would put out a video that would explain a little bit more about how consulting firms and the projects they do, differ from what you would do in an internal strategy group.

I’m Jenny Rae the Managing Director of Management Consulted and I’m excited to walk through the differences for this. When I was thinking about consulting, I was also interested in working at an internal Strategy Group at an airline. And after I had all of my offers on the table, I decided that looking through them, it was really hard to tell what some of the differences are. So today I want to, from the other side of the veil, explain what the differences are between consulting and between internal strategy.


First of all, in consulting, you are trained to have flexibility across multiple projects. You need to be able to cover different kinds of industries and different kinds of problems. This is because the firm never knows where they’re going to possibly need you and staff you. You’re usually a part of a large, (at least local) if not regional, if not global staffing pool. And so your flexibility your ability to be skilled more widely is incredibly important inside the consulting firm.

In my experience of advising people going into consulting versus internal strategy, I would say that internal strategy trained a lot less. Probably at only about one-third the level that a consulting firm does. They spend less time on training. They spend fewer resources. And they generally draw people out of industries where they have already received significant training. The firms rely on that previous training when they’re applying your skills to solve internal problems.

Consultant Travel

The second thing that’s very different about internal strategy versus consulting as an external consultant, is travel. For internal strategy, usually you are co-located with many of the key decision-makers. And so if your office is in Stamford Connecticut, and most of the other people in your organization are in Stamford Connecticut, you don’t need to travel. Let’s say you’re working for a consulting firm that’s serving that same client in Samford Connecticut. But maybe they’re coming from Chicago or San Francisco or somewhere else. And in order to even get to the client, they themselves need to travel.

So there is a huge difference in the volume of travel that’s required between external consultants and internal consultants. Therefore you’ll see a lot of people who are interested in having more evenings at home during the week and a different kind of work-life balance, moving toward internal strategy groups.

Industry Exposure

The third thing that’s different, is your industry exposure. Now for many boutique firms, there are singular industries that they’ll work in. They’ll become really good at pharma, or they’ll work only in transport. But for most generalist firms, a lot of the larger firms, like the Big Four advisory practices, or like MBB firms, you’ll find that their focus is to keep you as a generalist. Again, referring back to the flexibility of staffing. They want to be able to pull you off of a health care project and pop you on to a transport project. They want to pull you off that transport project and put you on a consumer packaged goods project. So once you put all of that together, you do get more variety in the external consulting process.

Consulting Project Duration

When you’re thinking about everything that you need to do inside external versus internal consulting, the final thing that really differentiates the two is the duration of the projects. Inside internal consulting you will often have both strategy as well as implementation projects, with the same teams and you’re incentivized to really follow through and do an excellent job. Because your likelihood of working with that same organization or other organizations inside the larger company, will be really different based on the results that you deliver.

Now external consulting firms are constantly having to sell. They’re also having to staff and that turnover in the back curtain can create a different kind of certainty in longevity, where the firm is really important, but then the individual people don’t work as long on specific projects. So again if you think that you would like to have more of a handle on how strategy and implementation go together, it’s more likely that you will get that in an internal strategy group.

Consulting vs Internal Strategy Summary

There are so many things that are different between external consulting and internal strategy groups. We have an amazing list of some of the world’s most popular internal strategy groups. And we do highly recommend them. But you just have to remember: your training is going to be different, your industry exposure is going to be different, your travel is going to be different. And finally, the length of your projects will be different between external consulting and internal strategy. If you want some personal advice based on where you are and where you’d like to go in your career, reach out to us at or on social.

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Filed Under: Consulting Firms