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Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?

 
#1 Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 15:51

Impatient Hire

I'm reposting this. The first thread got caught in a spate of spam posts and the forum admins deleted it by mistake. All's forgiven.

--

Hello,

I've been following this forum for a few months as a guest because I usually find the advice given by the regulars (BEP et al) very useful as a prospective consultant. I'm afraid I need some TLC and advice myself now.

I'm an IT implementation consultant with 2-3 years of experience as a contractor on a large project outside the UK by one of the international tech giants (top-tier MCs will beg to differ about their standing, but the brand name still dazzles the uninitiated). The project was in a sector which is booming and I know for a fact that there is / will continue to be demand for someone with my experience for the next 5 years in the UK. So a move to the UK made perfect sense at the time. (I do not require a visa or a work permit in the UK.)

The main reason for the move was that my project had nearly run its course and when the time came to renew my contract, frustration peaked and I was not keen on being dragged into the maintenance phase for a couple of years when I knew that better opportunities (i.e. the exciting project scoping, transformation and implementation phases) existed elsewhere. The economic crisis meant that there were limited opportunities in the region where the firm I contracted for operates, but things were slightly better in the UK at the time. In hindsight I realise it would have been better to stick around for another year or two, no matter how mundane the tasks, simply because it would have added to my industry experience and made me look more credible to UK recruiters.

But leave I did. To ease the transition, I foolishly decided it was time to pursue a Master's degree first (not an MBA; it's too early for that, even if I wanted to) at a top UK business school. The degree was not entirely useless, unlike 80% of business degrees. It's a quantitative subject I enjoyed and which can come in really handy in certain areas of MC. I thought the UK institution would lend some much-needed oomph to my CV as my first degree is not from a UK university and I know just how picky top firms are here. That's proven to be true in a few cases with some recruiters cold calling me via LinkedIn, but so far, none of those opportunities led to anything else.

I'm mostly interested in IT advisory, delivery, and/or transformation. I'm not really keen on strategy consulting or the typical areas of MC. I'm not looking into applying at MBB. For the record, I have excellent academic results, but I'm not in the least bit interested in strategy for the time being. The fact that I have some work experience would also be a disadvantage for MBB anyway.

My main problem is that my career profile is wedged in that grey area between graduate level and the lower end of experienced hires.

On the one hand, I don't really want to go through a graduate scheme and start from scratch as if I had zero experience. The fact that I'm 25 is also a bit problematic. Some of my (younger) grad school friends went on to join graduate schemes, but I don't really fancy myself hanging around with 21 year olds with far too much time (and alcoholic beverages) on their hands, especially during the first few months.

But then I'm not sure what level of experience firms expect of their 'experienced hires'. Recruiters have not been too helpful. As it turned out, in my project I unexpectedly got to carry a lot more responsibility for my role at a very critical stage of the project. My performance far exceeded the expectations (the engagement manager's words, not mine) and the project was a huge learning experience which, from what I'm told, you're very unlikely to come by during a typical graduate scheme. And yet it's still just 2-3 years of experience in the eyes of a recruiter.

My four questions are:

1) What sort of general training do entry-level analysts typically receive in a graduate scheme?

I'm not referring to domain-specific knowledge which you learn as you go along. I'm more after the induction training and personal development stuff. I also understand that networking opportunities at this stage are very valuable, but experienced hires joining from the industry at a much later stage often overcome this hurdle without too much difficulty.

2) Are there any realistic opportunities for someone coming from outside the firm with more than 2 years but less than 5 years of experience?

After the 2-year graduate programme, it's up or out for the analysts, whereas experienced hires start coming in with around 5 years of experience. I sit in the middle. I have 2-3 years experience outside the UK but I wasn't directly employed by this international consultancy firm (although I reported to their Team Leaders and PMs).

Without joining a graduate scheme, how can I gain the same experience that analysts-turned-consultants get when they're going from 2 years to 5 years of experience in a consulting firm?

3) What about the widening gap in my CV while I'm still looking for a job?

I'm now starting to worry about the gap in my CV. It's been 4 months already since I finished my Master's and I'm still looking for the right job to come along.

Granted, I may not have been making the most efficient use of my time and my job hunting strategy is probably not the best it could be (and it was dented by some external factors I will not go into here).

I should also mention that I turned down a job offer from a London start-up because I felt the role sold to me by a persistent recruiter was way below my skill set and I felt it wouldn't contribute anything to my chances of joining a big consultancy firm a few months down the line. I don't think a Big4 recruiter would have seen that stint with the start-up as a natural progression from where I left off before my Master's, i.e. no value added, other than showing that I can function in a UK company perhaps (yay?). The basic salary was also lower than I could earn in my home country (where cost of living is nowhere near London's), and the benefits package was, well, inexistent.

4) Whom to turn to for this sort of career advice?

There's only so much information I can divulge here, although I'm very looking forward to your take on the matter.

I found the university's career advisers to be too focussed on graduate schemes. They would go blank whenever I asked about positions for experienced hires.

I'm also a bit wary of turning to independent recruitment agencies for this sort of advice. If I'm not too sure of where I stand, how will they be confident that they won't be wasting their time with me? I'm scared that my somewhat atypical (I think?) case would become too much of a risky hot potato for them and they'd drop me right away.

And finally, my long-term friends and peers back home are not familiar at all with the peculiarities of this industry and the UK job market in general, so they can't be of much help either. They're too busy throwing house warming parties, getting married and having kids anyway.

Sorry if I may have come across as being a bit whiny – I certainly didn't mean to :-)

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#2 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 17:06

rodrigues to Impatient Hire (#1)

May I ask you what is the mysterious country? This might help you out esp. if it's BRIC...

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#3 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 17:21

I to Impatient Hire (#1)

I couldn't read all what you wrote. And of the bits that I did read, it seemed to be a lot of rambling.

- What have exactly you done i.e. educational qualifications, universities, the company you worked for (IBM? or similar)

- Think before you write: you say "Some of my (younger) grad school friends went on to join graduate schemes, but I don't really fancy myself hanging around with 21 year olds with far too much time (and alcoholic beverages) on their hands, especially during the first few months."

Then why ask about a graduate scheme?

2-3 years experience isn't much. Job market is bad. My take is apply to as many places as you can. Even grad jobs.

The world is a difficult place. You need to make friends whom you can trust. Being a party animal doesn't mean they can't help you. Plus no point bitching about them in a forum. We here aren't God-send angels. Our views are biased and ain't perfect.

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#4 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 17:53

marsday to Impatient Hire (#1)

Let me translate all that waffle into what you are actually saying:

'I want to come on this forum and be told I am an experienced hire'.

Discuss.

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#5 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 22:56

Impatient Hire to rodrigues (#2)

Thanks for the replies and sorry for the rambling. Thought it best to provide the background info and the rationale behind some of the decisions right away. Succinctness remains a weak point ;-)

rodrigues: May I ask you what is the mysterious country? This might help you out esp. if it's BRIC...

Not BRIC. It's in Europe and it's a small enough community to blow my cover if I specified. Otherwise there's nothing intriguing about it.

I: You need to make friends whom you can trust. Being a party animal doesn't mean they can't help you. Plus no point bitching about them in a forum. We here aren't God-send angels. Our views are biased and ain't perfect.

I just realised that what I wrote could easily be misunderstood and sound offensive. I wasn't bitching about my grad school mates at all! My comment was based on the general impression I formed of the programme from talking with my mates about their experiences and from Big Brother (Facebook). Maybe I was wrong.

marsday: Let me translate all that waffle into what you are actually saying: 'I want to come on this forum and be told I am an experienced hire'.

Only in an ideal world. Seeing as the HR types I've come across so far were not particularly helpful or cooperative – that's been discussed countless times already and I accept that the situation is what it is – certain selection criteria remain a mystery for someone on the outside. I'm asking for insiders' views to help me make informed decisions this time round.

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#6 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
28/02/2013 23:19

Impatient Hire to Impatient Hire (#5)

rodrigues: May I ask you what is the mysterious country? This might help you out esp. if it's BRIC...

Not BRIC. It's in Europe and it's a small enough community to blow my cover if I specified. Otherwise there's nothing intriguing about it.

I should clarify that I was working at the client's site, not offshore.

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#7 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
01/03/2013 10:48

$0.02 to Impatient Hire (#6)

My main problem is that my career profile is wedged in that grey area between graduate level and the lower end of experienced hires.

Rule of thumb (up to about 6/7 years, after this you need a different formula), take any non consulting experience, divide by 2 and that is roughly the years of experience Consulting HR (and this is specific for the area you have suggested you're interested in) will see you with. Now given most Grad schemes will be 2+ years, the 2-3 years you have fit you squarely in grad territory. Join a grad scheme and get them to credit you with experience.

1) What sort of general training do entry-level analysts typically receive in a graduate scheme? Induction programmes are geared to teaching how said firm goes about its business, and give you an intro to what consulting services are. More importantly it is basically your chance to start building a network. Consulting in big organisations can be luck of the draw. You have to look at it a bit like a recruitment agency but not all jobs are advertised. You need to have friends in the right places.

2) Are there any realistic opportunities for someone coming from outside the firm with more than 2 years but less than 5 years of experience? At non analyst level only if you are coming in from another consulting firm.

3) What about the widening gap in my CV while I'm still looking for a job? That is in some ways a choice you make. A job is not the only thing that exists on a CV. Volunteer do some charity work, anything other than sit around gathering dust.

4) Whom to turn to for this sort of career advice? Of course university careers are focussed on graduates it’s kind of what they do.....

This may sound rude it’s not intended to be. I know you think that 25 is really mature and that grad schemes will only be full of 21 year olds, but that's not quite true, when I did my grade scheme ages ranged from your dreaded 21 to mid/late thirties. You are 25 years old with 2.5 years (taking the middle) industry experience. I know you feel because you were an IT implementation Consultant you feel you have relevant consulting experience, but you don’t. What you have is some technical experience; I would also argue that at 2-3 years in one place it won’t be enough to make you anything near an expert. If this were a poker game (Texas hold ‘em), you have a 2-7 that everyone but you can see. The cards you have and the win you want are not aligned.

Don’t discount grad schemes based on misguided beliefs and principles.

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#8 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
01/03/2013 11:34

tom1 to $0.02 (#7)

$0.02 + 1

Does that make it €1.02!?

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#9 RE: Getting into consulting with 2-3 years of non-UK experience?
01/03/2013 11:52

marsday to tom1 (#8)

discuss dammit! discuss!

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