Monday, November 19, 2012

You only get to leave McKinsey once - 6 important things to consider about your next job

This was an excellent piece of advice I received when I was contemplating my departure from the Firm.  Leaving McKinsey is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so make the most of it.

Even during the Great Recession, many consultants I know who left McKinsey had multiple offers from which to choose.  When times are good, the opportunities are even greater.  That means that it's important that you understand your priorities when evaluating post-McKinsey job opportunities.  Here are some things to consider as you weight your options:

Career switching

Joining McKinsey, like getting an MBA, is one of the few professional choices you can make that probably opens more doors than it closes.  Leaving McKinsey might be the last chance you have to make a significant industry or functional change without taking a step back in your career.  Similar to getting hired out of business school, as long as you can exhibit passion, knowledge, or experience in an industry and/or highlight some transferable skills, there will be employers in your field of choice who are willing to take a chance on you.

Title and career path

McKinsey has a steep learning curve and career trajectory, but after you leave the Firm, your rate of advancement will be relatively lower.  So, you might want to consider jobs with titles and responsibilities that are a bit of a reach, especially if you'd rather be challenged and have to grow into a job rather than risk feeling underutilized, insufficiently challenged, and advancing too slowly at your new job.  Also, unless you plan on staying at a company for a long time, beware of title deflation.  People in your organization might understand that a Manager there is equivalent to a Director at most other companies, but the next company interviewing you might not make that distinction.

Direct reports

In many organizations, getting promoted into roles that require supervision of direct reports can be challenging.  You could get caught in a Catch-22 where they want you to have experience managing people before they'll consider you for a job that requires managing people.  If you aspire to roles that require managing direct reports - even if you're leaving as an Engagement Manager (EM) or higher and have experience managing teams at McKinsey - you might want to hold out for opportunities to manage teams.

P&L (profit and loss)

One drawback of working at McKinsey is we don't get P&L responsibilities - short for ownership of a business unit's success and failures. That adds fuel to the perception that McKinsey consultants don't have experience owning anything, including their recommendation to clients.  Even outside of consulting, P&L experience can be difficult to get and is a meaningful differentiating factor, especially if you're considering a career in general management.  If eventually running a business is important to you, consider the value of early P&L experience.


Upgrading lifestyle or work/life balance is often a primary motivation when leaving the Firm.  Don't assume your next job will have better lifestyle just because it's not at McKinsey.  Do your homework and make sure you know what you're getting into in terms of hours, weekend work, stress, and travel.  I eliminated one potential employer from my search because friends who work there would be surprised I was interested and ask "don't you want a lifestyle upgrade from McKinsey?".  Useful resources include:
  • McKinsey alumni network
  • Business school alumni network
  • LinkedIn connections
  • Career websites like Glassdoor with company profiles and reviews



Leaving McKinsey does not necessarily mean you need to take a pay cut, especially if you're leaving at Engagement Manager or lower.  But, consulting compensation is higher and increases faster than most industries outside of financial services so you might have to make some trade-offs between other benefits and compensation.  Even if you have to take a pay cut, you'll still probably come out ahead in terms of hourly pay!


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