The email below is from an MBA graduate who wants to transition into Consulting and eventually Venture Capital. He’s got a great educational background to start, so I think he’s in good shape. Unfortunately, he is asking for specific advice about getting into my employer and, as I’ve stated on here before, that’s a line I can’t cross. I’ve tried to give him some general advice though and I hope he finds it helpful.
I have been reading your blog and it is fantastic. Your career growth is tremendous and I sincerely wish you all the best in future growth. Your advice is very helpful.
Can you please give me advice on my career growth. Here is a summary of my education and work profile:
- Graduated with MS ECE from [a top engineering program] in 99
- Graduated with MBA from [a top-25 MBA program] in 05
- Have been working for a semiconductor company for the last 8 years (Since my MS) – primarily in the embedded software field
- Initially was a software engineer, grew up in the company and now manager of a global team for the last 3 years
I would like to eventually start up my own company and also get into the VC field. I read profiles of some the most successful entrepreneurs and VC partners. They either have a consulting background from Mckinsey or other big 5 consulting companies. Or they do their Phds. Or jump into start-ups and grow their expertise.
I would like to further my career in one of these pathes. I would like to utilize my MBA to the maximum and not just be in general engineering management (which I am now doing). Can you give me your expert opinion please?
I am starting to try to get into [your employer] and have recently applied. Can you also give me some tips and guidance on getting into [your employer]?
Thanks for your help and look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks and Regards,
Thanks for checking out my blog and thinking of me as a resource for your questions. I usually would go all out to respond to a reader email, but your treads into an area that I am very sensitive about, namely getting into my employer. I don’t mind giving advice on helping people get into Bschool or even into Consulting, but I’ve put a boundary up as it pertains to giving advice specifically directed at my employer. I hope you understand where I’m coming from, but I’m not trying to do anything to put myself into a bad position. With that in mind, I’ll give you some general advice, but that’s about all I can do. Cool? Good…
This first piece of advice is something that you might have already done, but I want to call it out anyway. You should start by putting some serious thought into which consulting firms you will be applying to. In your email, you said that you want to get into a “big 5 consulting firm”, which I assume means that you’re looking at the big strategy consulting firms. That’s a great aspiration, but don’t rule out other strategy consulting firms that might be smaller or perhaps might focus on a particular niche because you could get the same sort of learning and professional experience at those. Also, because of your extensive technical background, you sound like a fantastic candidate for IT consulting, which would allow you to leverage your tech knowledge to help client reach their business goals. Figuring all of this out would likely require you to do some research on the other firms and specialties within the consulting industry, but it could help you widen the scope of firms that you’re targeting. If you’ve already done this, then you can disregard this paragraph.
Once you’ve figured out where you’ll be applying, you’ll have to start preparing for the interviews. I’ve already posted a case interview prep guide that I wrote back in business school on this blog, so that might be a good place for you to start in wrapping your mind around how to approach the process. I’d also recommend ordering a good case preparation guide off of Amazon.com…there are tons of them out there and you can learn a lot just by taking a few hours and reading one. It might also be worth it to reach out to the Consulting club at your business school and see if they have some case prep materials that they can pass along to you. One you’ve got all of these materials compiled and reviews, you’ll have to find people to help you practice going through cases. If you’re able to set up interviews with consulting firms, you might be able to get some of them to provide you with a case coach to walk you through at least one mock interview. Your business school’s Consulting club might also be a good source for case practice partners. Finally, you should start thinking about how to approach the fit questions you’ll be asked throughout the process…I’ve been told that a quick Google search will result in a ton of sites listing potential fit questions asked by consulting firms.
Honestly, one option for you is to do nothing and stay in your current role for a little while. As you know the economy is sort of going haywire right now and the safest place is at a job that you know is secured. That might not be the most attractive thing in the world right now, but it could make the most sense. Many employers are cutting back on their recruiting activities, which could make it difficult to find something new, and, if you do, your place at the new company may be dependent on how long the economy stays sour. Having been laid off back during the dot-com days, I’m particularly conscious of job security and it sounds like you’re pretty straight with what you’ve got going right now. It doesn’t sound like you’re excited to go to work each day, but at least you’ve got a job to go to…know what I mean? I’m not telling you to stop applying to consulting firms, but, if something new doesn’t come along immediately, you might want to be happy that you’re not in a situation where you NEED a new job (as opposed to WANTING a new job).
Take care and good luck on redirecting your career. You’ve started off on the right track educationally and professionally, so I’m confident that you’ll be able to reach your career goals.