The recruiting pipeline seems to be dominated with recent MBA students. Do firms look for consultants at the mid levels? Are they interested in their leadership, or their individual contribution, or their list of contacts?
Your experience in navigating the organization you operated in will serve you well in a professional service (consulting) firm. Make sure you embrace working with the various types of employees a typical consulting firm might employ as the mix of experienced hires with different types of industry or military experience, experienced consulting professionals, and newer hires can make for powerful teams.
We are always looking for professionals to enter as mid-level consultants. MBA professionals are certainly a target population for professional services firms, but by no means is that the only set of professionals we are actively recruiting.
Leadership is certainly valuable - it is an intangible that gives you the ability to lead teams, understand overall task management, and build relationships with clients. On the other hand, experience and skills are more relevant overall We really look for professionals who have demonstrated a set of skills and experiences that can help us work with our clients to solve their problems. Essentially - this is what consulting is.
Veterans offer a tremendous diversity of what they have learned and applied over the course of their military service and in many cases that is equally or more relevant to those coming out of MBA programs. They understand complex problems and how to build plans to address solutions. A Veteran without an MBA can be on equal footing with those coming out MBA programs - the key is translating the skills and experiences gained in military service into the specifics of what a particular field, industry or firm might be hiring for. The match does not need to be perfect, but there is a fine-tuning necessary to help those firms understand a Veterans background and how that background fits their hiring needs or the area of consulting (e.g. industry, client, skill area - such as Cyber of Finance, etc).
One final thought regarding the professional network that Monica mentioned. Relationships matter at all levels, but they do become increasingly important at the higher level consulting positions.
I think at the mid-level there should be a high level of Subject Matter Expertise that can be brought to a client. Having a strong external network is always a positive. You can't put a price on leadership and the firm is always looking for them.
An MBA (recent or not) does help, even if it's a part-time program, because it demonstrates strategic thinking and an understanding of fundamental business concepts. However, other strategic-type advanced degrees are also valuable. For example, foreign policy or international relations might be valuable to a consulting firm that works with the State Department or foreign firms. National Security Policy masters may be useful for defense consultants. In my case, I entered through the MBA pipeline as I finished my active duty time while getting my MBA. However, most firms have a separate process for experienced hire candidates, and the big firms have military-officer-specific hiring tracks.
As to what the firm is looking for, yes, everything you mentioned. The firm can train you to be a good consultant, they want veterans for your ability to communicate confidently and professionally with leadership, meet deadlines and approach a problem with discipline and rigor, and get a job done no matter the resources or team available. Also never discount the value of your clearance if you're looking for a federal consulting job. Finally, at the partner-level interview, I did get asked questions about my military network--the reality of the world is that personal relationships matter.
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