Top 5 reasons to join a strategy consulting firm

Strategy consulting is a sector that attracts the best students from the most prestigious engineering and business schools every year. Every year, more and more candidates try their luck.

Nov. 25, 2021 Carrière

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Top 5 des raisons d'intégrer un cabinet de conseil en stratégie - Couverture

1. Working on a wide variety of assignments

Short, varied assignments for different types of customer

One of the attractions of strategy consulting is the opportunity to work in a variety of fields on a wide range of assignments. By their very nature, strategy consultants work with clients on short assignments ranging from a few weeks to a few months maximum, with the exception of a few assignments on large-scale deployment projects. Some firms even operate on a multi-mission basis, which means that the consultant is not staffed full-time on a single assignment, but works on several assignments with several customers at the same time. The succession of short-term assignments is an opportunity for consultants to be regularly immersed in new teams, tackling new challenges, within structures that can vary widely: large groups and SMEs, the public sector and the private sector. Diversity also applies to business sectors: from financial services to industry, via media, TMT and luxury goods. Generalist strategy consulting firms, from MBB to Top 6, operate in more than a dozen different sectors. Finally, the diversity of assignments also applies to the types of missions carried out: strategic missions, M&A/Private Equity missions and, to a lesser extent, organization and IT missions. The matrix organization of strategy consulting firms, with sector expertise on the one hand and functional expertise on the other, guarantees that all consultants can work on as many different subjects as they wish.

Read also: Everything you need to know about strategy consultants: assignments, careers, salaries

Upgrade skills before specializing in a particular field of activity

This diversity of fields is all the more important at the start of a career in strategy consulting, as junior consultants are not yet specialized. They will therefore be involved in all possible types of assignment. Initially, the challenge is to validate the fundamentals of production as an analyst, before taking on the role of senior consultant, able to make recommendations to clients. No other job allows you to cover so many sectors and types of assignment in such a short space of time and in such depth. Unlike an investment bank or management consultancy, strategy consultants immerse themselves body and soul in the analysis and understanding of the issues at stake in their assignments. This enables junior consultants to build up their business culture skills, discover a wide variety of industries and types of assignment, and make the best choice of specialization a few years down the line.

2. Solve problems at COMEX level and grow intellectually

Exposure to decision-makers in the world's leading organizations

Strategy consulting provides a stimulating working environment in which to solve crucial strategic issues. The strategy consultant is a Swiss Army knife who works closely with decision-makers, whatever the client. This may well be to support the COMEX of major groups, the management committees of international NGOs or to work on the organization of COP28, as McKinsey did. Involvement in this type of high-stakes subject gives us the opportunity to work directly with the top management of our clients' organizations, in contact with decision-makers with inspiring backgrounds. The recommendations resulting from the assignment will also have a decisive observable impact on the company being supported. Depending on the type of consultancy, assignments can lead to the activation of strategic action plans for the company (merger-acquisition, investment decision, launch on new markets, organizational transformation), positioning the consultant in a key role for the future of the structure, highly rewarding in view of the magnitude of the associated stakes. Strategy consulting is thus one of the few fields, if not the only one, that offers young graduates the opportunity to be exposed at such an early age to highly sensitive issues involving the Executive Boards of major corporations. Even as a junior, you'll often have the opportunity to work with the senior management team of a client company.

At the heart of business, innovation and society

The profession of Strategy Consultant is a source of intellectual fulfillment. On a day-to-day basis, the consultant is at the heart of business decisions and the economic and financial news of an industry, profession or country. Strategy consulting enables us to work on the latest economic and social issues. As 2023 draws to a close, the recurring themes are artificial intelligence and the environment. Artificial intelligence first of all, since it's the most recent, with companies, particularly large corporations, and governments, needing to be at the cutting edge of the latest technological innovations. Strategy consultants are going to be at the heart of the use of artificial intelligence for their work and in the deployment of AI with customers. Then there's the environment, a subject that has been around for a few years now, but which is becoming increasingly important. As with AI, consultants are at the heart of the environmental issues facing private and public organizations. What's more, many consultants have launched CSR and ESG initiatives within their firms, with McKinsey, for example, developing in-house Green Teams in each office to launch change and transition initiatives linked to the environment.

See also: Strategy consulting: what is it?

3. Take a 3rd training cycle and build your own career path

A constant evolution marked by each grade change

The profession of strategy consultant is regularly compared to a 3rd cycle of training. Particularly true at the start of a career, strategy consulting trains consultants in a wide variety of skills acquired through assignments and developed with each passing grade. In strategy consulting, the typical structure comprises 6 grades: junior consultant (in some firms, this is referred to as analyst), consultant (or associate), senior consultant, manager, principal and finally associate (or partner). Progression is continuous, with an "up or out" logic that gives the possibility of changing grade every 2 years on average up to manager grade for committed, high-performance profiles, and cycles of around 3/4 years beyond that. Each grade offers more autonomy in carrying out the assignment, then in supervising more junior profiles, right up to fully autonomous management of a customer project when the manager grade is reached. It is often at this level that the consultant is given sales objectives.

International opportunities worldwide

In addition to these grades, there are many career opportunities throughout the consultant's career, including international mobility. All major strategy consulting firms have offices in several countries around the world. Firms generally offer three types of international mobility:

  • Short-term assignments abroad, where the consultant is required to travel internationally as part of his assignment or to complete the team of a foreign office.
  • A temporary exchange lasting an average of 6 months, the consultant joins a fully-fledged foreign office where he or she will be staffed on assignments carried out by the international office.
  • Permanent exchange, where the consultant joins a foreign office on a permanent basis, generally as part of a life project.

Develop your skills through assignments and your own practice

Other opportunities are offered to strategy consultants, such as a 1-year work placement with one of the firm's clients, or an MBA at a prestigious university. All these advantages, in addition to the diversity of assignments mentioned above, enable consultants to rapidly build up their skills in a number of areas. Particularly true at the start of a career, strategy consulting is a veritable 3rd cycle of training for a school-leaver. Throughout their career, consultants develop the versatility to adapt to the variety of projects, customers, issues, assignments and sectors in which they work. Not content with merely studying each field on the surface, the consultant will also need to quickly build up a thorough understanding of the subtleties of each industry in which he or she carries out an assignment. Strategy consulting is seen as the most generalist path and an excellent complement to training, the one that allows juniors to discover the greatest number of sectors in a short space of time before specializing in the one they prefer, and the one that allows them to build their own career path at any time, throughout their career development.

4. Keep all doors open for your future career

For a young consultant, strategy consulting is a highly motivating field, offering a wide range of career prospects. What's more, the level of excellence is such that few companies or training courses can prepare young professionals for so many aspects. After a few years in consulting, a consultant will be ready to join any company or start his own.

Joining strategic or general management teams

Career advancement is also a key factor when ex-strategy consultants leave the company, enabling them to move into exposed positions in terms of management or direct access to General Management. Employers recognize that former consultants have acquired certain working methods and a flair for customer relations, enabling them to manage heavy workloads and pressure to meet tight deadlines. Strategy consultants can work in a wide range of professions, in the sectors they are most familiar with and those in which they are most likely to have worked on assignment. Consultants are often poached by large groups to join Strategy Departments, which offer them a cross-functional role across all the group's activities or a particular business unit, before eventually joining the company's Executive Committee. Large groups are the biggest consumers of strategy consultants, but there are also many who join small and medium-sized companies.

Integrating the world of start-ups into the nuggets of tomorrow

Another outlet for consultants is start-ups, especially those in the tech sector in recent years. In fact, strategy consultants develop both technical and managerial skills, giving them the keys to succeeding and developing start-ups. What's more, moving from the world of strategy consulting to that of start-ups can be highly motivating for several reasons. Firstly, taking part in the development of a start-up is very stimulating and challenging, with even greater obligations in terms of results than for a consulting assignment. Secondly, in a start-up, there's more agility and operational issues. Developing an innovative idea means implementing, testing, modifying, adjusting and moving forward step by step on a daily basis, unlike consulting assignments which sometimes lack concreteness. Finally, what motivates consultants to join this world is a more relaxed, less corporate working environment.

Taking the plunge and developing your own entrepreneurial project

The last common exit after strategy consulting is to set up your own business! It's a bit like joining a start-up, except that in this case, the former strategy consultant is the one who initiates the project, which provides extra excitement and pressure. As the head of your own project, you'll be able to combine strategy and operations to develop what may well be a lifelong project. Experience in a strategy consultancy gives you an advantage in terms of legitimacy, knowledge networks and the skills you need to succeed. But that's not all, because entrepreneurship is very difficult and, above all, very different from strategy consulting.

5. Compensation and social prestige

1% of candidates will have an offer from a strategy consulting firm

The consulting profession also fosters a certain social prestige, for a number of reasons. Strategy consulting firms are recognized as prestigious recruiters who are highly selective in their recruitment processes. This is more specifically the case for strategy consultants, who conduct several rounds of interviews, with several case studies to be solved each time, all of which require intensive and rigorous training beforehand. Recruitment is extremely selective, with only 10 profiles selected for an average of 1,000 applications (1%), even though the profiles already come from the most prestigious schools: HEC, ESSEC, ESCP, EM Lyon, EDHEC, Polytechnique, Les Ponts, Les Mines, Centrale Paris, Sciences Po Paris, Dauphine. In addition to these schools, the candidates have a wealth of equally prestigious prior experience: major groups, French unicorns, M&A and private equity.

A high level of remuneration starting at an average of €60K/year on entry

Furthermore, it is well known that the consulting profession offers high levels of remuneration, compared to other sectors, but in return for a sustained work pace in often high-stakes contexts. On average, strategy consultants receive a salary increase of around 10% per year, with a larger increase for each grade progression. Bonuses, linked to individual and firm performance, make up a significant variable part of remuneration, ranging from 5% to 20%. On entry, a junior consultant at the top firms, from MBB to Roland Berger, Oliver Wyman, Kearney, EY-Parthenon, Monitor Deloitte, can earn between €60K and €70K a year, including bonuses. After an average of 4 years, the package is well over €100K/year. So, even if the job is very demanding in terms of hourly investment, pressure and stress, the remuneration is calculated accordingly. As a strategy consultant, you're sure to find yourself in the upper echelons of the average salary scale.

It's this whole work equation that maintains a form of prestige for profiles who quickly learn that a consultant's first key resource remains the variable of time.

Read also : All you need to know about strategy consulting salaries

5 reasons and more to join a strategy consulting firm

Top 5 des raisons d'intégrer un cabinet de conseil en stratégie - Et plus encore

As you can see, there are many reasons why joining a consulting firm is attractive, not least the opportunity to work on a wide variety of assignments in different sectors, as well as the possibility of rapid career development with opportunities for positions of high responsibility on leaving, in return for demanding entry conditions and the absorption of a significant workload. At the end of the day, you need to find the reasons why you're interested and develop them in relation to your career path and career plan. Not only will this ensure that you're sure you want to be a strategy consultant, but it will also give you an idea of which firm you want to apply to. Finally, you'll be able to use your own reasons and motivations when you're asked why you chose strategy consulting and this particular firm.

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