A well-known, self-deprecating jab consultants will often make when describing their exploration of opportunities post-consulting is that it’s the first time they have really had to “decide” on anything specific in their career. Like a liberal arts college experience, it has been easy to take classes in different industries or functions without necessarily committing to one subject in particular. So, upon graduation, how do you choose?
More so than any other industry, having a base in strategy consulting gives you the option to go in many, vastly different directions.
Below, we’ve compiled three considerations for consultants to identify a career end goal, and a path to achieve their post-consulting goals.
1) Career decisions: What, at your core, excites you?
Apart from the shared consulting skill set, people want, and are better fit for, different opportunities and tracks.
Want to be a CEO? As Michelle Kluz, BCG alum and current CEO of a multinational retailer, pointed out in our recent interview, you have to really like being a leader to be in the top job. She also outlined six key CEO characteristics beyond those typical of consultants you’ll want to have for success.
How about a private equity executive, where you can retire early with all the money you’ll make? In our interview with Maggie, ex-AlixPartners and Business Unit President of a PE portfolio company, she points out: “If you love the idea of being an owner, the money will come, but if you can’t wake up every morning and feel like it’s your money on the line, then it won’t. I’ve seen a lot of people go into private equity and not make any money. You have to start with the right DNA and set of skills to make it successful.”
When thinking of a direction for your career, think about your strengths and what you find most exciting. Zooming out and considering the larger picture, what kinds of opportunities really match up with those traits and interests? If you can identify where you want to end up, and where you think you’ll be happiest, plotting a plan becomes that much easier.
2) You know where you want to go – be prepared to do what it takes to get there.
So, after some soul searching, you’ve decided you want to become a CEO. Or a top marketing executive. Or a fisherman living off your own catch on the coastal waters of Hawaii. As Kaihan Krippendorff (ex-McKinsey) outlines in his most recent article for Fast Company, the most productive way to approach this desired end goal may be to write your story backwards, allowing you to define the building blocks you need in order to get there.
And we agree – building blocks are a great way to strategically group skills or experiences you’ll need under your belt to get from point A to your desired B, C, or D. Just remember, building blocks are not meant to be as glamorous as the end result.
If you want to be in an awesome CEO or general management role (note: the quality of GM / CEO roles varies widely – think CEO of a billion dollar plus company versus CEO of a doomed startup), chances are you need some additional experiences (like a marketing or operational role leading a team in industry) before you are qualified for that type of position. Be practical in setting your expectations, and value your learning experiences along the way.
3) Avoid tunnel vision
You have a goal…and a plan! You’re all set to conquer your building blocks and quickly catapult yourself to your ultimate dream job.
An important thing to keep in mind as you charge ahead: Study that odd looking tree that might not even logically belong in the forest every once in a while. Being focused is great, and you’ve put all that work into thinking about what you actually want to do. But it is also important to be open enough to take advantage of the opportunities on the side of the road that you didn’t necessarily have in mind. As we pointed out when discussing Big Data and your next opportunity, it doesn’t hurt to consider your options, and it might just lead you down a better, more successful path than you had initially imagined.