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What are the best ways for a military officer to transition to a consulting role?

Veteran

William O'Donnell El Paso, TX

What is the best way to network with individuals inside of consulting firms to get an interview?

What are things I can do now to prepare myself for a consulting career?

What are the best ways to prepare for a consulting interview?

Where in the corporate structure can I expect to enter the workforce?

How will COVID-19 impact my transition to the civilian world?

22 May 2020 23 replies Military to Civilian Transition

Answers

Advisor

Matt Johnson Chicago, IL

There's a lot of good answers here already so I'll echo some of them. Some firms (& the govt) do use consultants to fill vacancies as an alternative to hiring - but many firms also outsource strategy projects, execute big M&A deals, or figure out nebulous problems with consultants. Here's some good next steps:

1. Network and interact with Veterans currently in management consulting via LinkedIn. Good firms to seek out: McKinsey, BCG, Bain, EY-Parthenon, Strategy&, Deloitte, Accenture Strategy, and Kearny. Large firms like Accenture or the Big 4 have both premium strategy consulting as well as standard project management or implementation consulting so you'll need to dig a bit to ensure you're applying to the role you want.

2. Definitely get the free Victor Cheng materials, read up about firms on Vault, and also check the free Consulting career primer on MBAmission.com to learn more about the competitive landscape, pain points, benefits, and hierarchy.

3. Echo Patrick about messaging Michael Schifferli, Accenture's JMO recruiter. They have a pre-MBA consulting role for transitioning officers that essentially makes you a Senior Analyst.

4. Deloitte CORE is a great program to sign up for though I believe it only runs in the winter. Also look into the Hire Our Heroes Fellowship program, which will provide a valuable paid internship to help you better navigate your transition. I've seen this program result in job offers at blue chip companies like Amazon but those internships also make you more attractive to consulting firms since you can leverage experience from multiple industries.

5. The majority of vets in management consulting are from the business school pipeline, so you should consider preparing an application for a Top 25 MBA program. The big name firms aren't necessarily hiring elsewhere and many of these schools have a well-trodden military-to-consulting pipeline. The level of coaching and success with consulting recruiting varies by school so you'd be best served reaching out to the vet clubs directly to learn more.

Shoot me an email at matt.johnson@chicagobooth.edu and we can discuss this further.

23 June 2020 Helpful answer

Veteran

Rick Healey Corpus Christi, TX

If you're specifically targeting management consulting (McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.), the gold standard for case interviews and consulting career prep is Victor Cheng of caseinterview.com and author of Case Interview Secrets. His free content is great, I recommend signing up for his emails.

More importantly, as someone in the military you can get about $500 worth of free stuff from his website, including a physical copy of the book mailed to you and his online prep programs, by going to: https://www.caseinterview.com/usmilitary

Also, the fantastic Beyond the Uniform podcast (beyondtheuniform.org) has several great interviews and webinars on consulting, including:
McKinsey: https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-1-blake-lindsay-active-duty-to-management-consulting-mckinsey-co?rq=consulting
BCG: https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-144-active-duty-boston-consulting-group-kristen-sproat-colley?rq=bcg
Data from veterans at the top 10 consulting firms: https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-135-data-look-veterans-top-10-consulting-firms-original-data-analysis?rq=bcg

Hope this helps!

7 June 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Mary M. Burns Chicago, IL

Good morning Captain O'Donnell,
You raise important questions about the Consulting industry.
Many of the firms like Accenture (mentioned in another response) have active Veterans groups who manage some recruiting efforts for the Consulting firms. Deloitte, Bain, ATK, Strategy& among them. If you are note familiar with Vault.com, I encourage digging into the career site. It covers the Consulting industry in a substantial way and you'll find many resources available including case prep. Mastering the case interview is an essential part of the recruiting effort and this will vary some by firm. What you can do now to prep for networking conversations: 1) learn about Consulting and WHY you want to join the industry; 2) build a target list of firms and learn about each one; scour their websites and learn more about their practice areas, their leaders and more (review the Media/News section of the company sites -- it contains a lot of valuable content that can help you learn more about the firms); 3) Review job postings from any of the firms for the Associate level Consultant; check out the key skills and competencies required -- see how your background and your skills, strengths and competencies align with the roles. Finally, if you have interesting a corporate career, many Consultants will shift to corporate/industry after a few years. This is very common and is often based on preferred industries that the professional works in during their Consulting career. If you would like to spend 30-45 minutes talking about a career in Consulting, I'm glad to be a resource. Many I have coached in the last 10-12 years have taken this path. Feel free to reach me at mary@adviseu.net.

Thank you for your five years of service and dedication. Stay well and healthy during this unusual time! -- Mary

26 May 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Jennifer Polhemus Santa Monica, CA

Consulting isn't a career as much as a service delivery mechanism. What do you see yourself consulting ABOUT? Outline the specific expertise that you have and then prepare yourself now (during "quarantine") by reading all the major thought leaders in your area. Also read up on consulting as a service mode, client retention, needs analysis, communication (especially of unpopular news), & navigating the space between advisory roles and authority. Onward!

24 May 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Galon Miller Minneapolis, MN

As a company, Accenture does a good job hiring Military Veterans to hire Military Veterans. A good friend and Army Officer was part of a cohort of 250 consultant trainees who received consulting roles at Accenture last year. If you email me at <gmiller@cics.co> I will put you in contact with him. Galon

24 May 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Noel Anderson Waltham, MA

Credentials are important, and will vary depending upon your focus in industry. Consider online education to add more to your resume, and knock out some of that stuff.

Networking is important. You should be always building your contacts on LinkedIn and in your own contact database. Manage your 'go to' list of mentors and centers of influence so that they know who you are and the position you want. It's always that 2nd or 3rd person away from you who can help you the most.

Practice video conferencing - it's harder than it looks. The platforms (Zoom, Skype for business, MS Teams, even FaceTime and Google) have their own quirks, so invest some time getting familiar, and rehearse with a friend so that you have good eye contact, mannerisms, and a fairly controlled environment. Nowadays, it can be easier to establish a personal relationship on video.

As a PCSing Captain, you're in a good spot to transition to something beyond entry level, depending upon how your translated military experience matches the position.

COVID-19 makes it weird. There are companies that are still doing well, and others that are struggling. Employees with many talents are valued; one hit wonders aren't, so tout your varied experiences in conversations and in your online presence. Gig work is OK, and volunteering for nonprofits that match your skill set helps both networking and job preparedness.

Reach out if you have questions and commentary, happy to talk. I left the Army as a captain almost 30 years ago - you're coming in with a lot more available to you now. I would wish you luck, but you don't really need it - persistence and perseverance are the key ideas.

24 May 2020 Helpful answer

Veteran

Stephen Malone Ashburn, VA

First off, what is your military background? Do you already have a masters degree? How much debt are you really willing to suck up in order to hang a diploma on the wall? Are you willing to relocate to the Metro DC area where defense consulting is still chugging along pretty well?

Let's say you are an intelligence professional. Put together a quality resume and hit the companies that specialize in that work and before you know it, you'll be on the job and generating revenue for you (and your family if you have one). Then, if you feel compelled to have a MBA, go for it. Your plan for leaving the military should include having a source of immediate income since you are not a retiree. I've worked with many outstanding Soldiers who are still paying off student loans from 18 years ago. In fact, if you don't have a locked down position with signatures, a start date and a POC in the company, don't drop your "I'm leaving the Army" papers because you could easily get punted to the side of the road at the last minute. Remember, all of these management companies mentioned here, and they are some blue chippers to be sure, want you solely for how much revenue they think you are going to generate for them, especially in your first 5 to 10 years. If you aren't generating revenue on a consistent basis, don't expect them to keep you on overhead for more than a month or two because after that, they will show you the door. The blue chip firms have deep, deep pockets and for certain they have outstanding cultures to be a part of, but at the end of the day, it's all about growing business, revenue and profit, nothing more and nothing less. I wish you all the best but unless you have financial backing from somewhere, focus on finding a position that generates revenue for you now and once you are settled in, then you can look at a Top 25 B-school because you'll be more mentally prepared to take on a mountain of debt. I know what I have written might seem a tad harsh, but I retired from the Army in 1999 and it's been an exceptionally challenging experience ever since then but the finish line for me is almost in sight. Good luck!

Veteran

Robert Kraay Roswell, GA

It's already been said but consulting as a whole is a service-based industry. It's important to understand what you want to consult on. Secondly, while there are plenty of firms out there, finding the right fit is key. Each firm has their different culture. Reach out to Brennan OBoyle or Kevin Whirity for Deloitte. Secondly, preparing for case studies can take some time. I've heard going through about 40-50 of them is low-balling it and by 80 or so, you should be able to walk in confidently, without trouble. Networking will help, but as a USAFA guy, I know plenty of folks at the big 4 that the best transition and gives you the best chance is going to B-School right out of the gate. Gives you some time to unwind, learn more people skills, and Firms actually recruit you, rather than the other way around. Heavy investment for a Top 25, but they say it pays off if you make it. Best of luck!

Veteran

Charles Rounds Miami Beach, FL

It looks like everyone has covered most of the information here but one thing I didn't see is regarding holding onto a clearance.

Cybersecurity is a massive growth industry now and if you want to consult in that industry, then any military clearance is golden. If you have it keep it - it will open many many doors to jobs that can't be filled because of a lack of candidates with clearances. Contact me directly if you are interested in Cybersecurity consulting and I can point you in the right direction.

Advisor

Gene Siciliano Los Angeles, CA

First thing is to determine what you will consult about. Companies hire consultants because they need experts in some area of their business. Once you have determined the area in which you consider yourself an expert, write several case studies of actual situations in which you were able to effectively demonstrate your expertise in that area. Now you're ready to put on your marketing hat and put that information into the hands of (1) consulting firms who say they offer that expertise, and (2) companies who by the nature of what they do should require expertise in that area. Then it's about following up and interviewing skills, aka more marketing stuff. Good luck.

Veteran

Michael Del Vecchio Killingworth, CT

Hi Bill,

I am retired, was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse management consutting - I did accountancy, advisory, and operations projects for them out of NYC.

I'll tell you a bit about how I got in, hope it helps.

I was in corporate industry for a long time, was an officer at Citi when I was hired by PW. I knew several people at PW, had a reputation as a hard worker with a focus on results. I have two engineering degrees, was able to demonstrate project management, analytical and operations management skill. I was hired in to be the "adult in the room", keeping the young troops in line and on task. I was a staff sergeant in the artillery.

I am thinking the key is in my comments - find an "in", matbe the best path is through a retained search firm or through some networking organization. There is a possibility that firms look for veterans or provide special access paths. Alos, be sure to have one or more experience areas - mine were operations, IT and insurance.

Hope this helps - feel free to contact me if you want to talk. Best of luck on transition.

Advisor

Sotir Koev Washington, DC

Deloitte has a really good program
https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/core-leadership-program.html

Advisor

Kathryn O’Brien

Hi William,
I would be happy to discuss career paths within the IT and business skills that compliment each other and to work with you formalizing your resume.

Kind regards, Kathryn

Advisor

Victoria Heck Ashburn, VA

Hi William,
I'm a Sourcer/Recruiter at Parsons Corporation. We have government contracts as well as a commercial side of the business with jobs throughout the U.S. and overseas. We have a MILVET program as well. I'd be happy to share your resume with the MILVET team and also if you see a job of interest, I can identify who the recruiter is. Please email me directly: victoria.heck@parsons.com and let if you see a job of interest, and also what locations you're considering and the type of role you're looking for. Looking forward to connecting with you.

Advisor

Storm Cunningham Arlington, VA

Whether you're looking at consulting as an employee or as an independent, one of most powerful elements of success is to write a book on the subject on which you plan to focus. That sounds daunting, I know, but it's worth it.

Of course, don't wait until it's published before you get a job: it's something best done with a steady paycheck. If you want to go with a traditional publisher---as I did for my first two books---read "How To Write A Book Proposal" by Michael Larsen. Or, you can self-publish via Amazon KDP, as I did for my most recent book.

Either way, being a published author is a magic credibility-builder. You can also publish the chapters in journals and magazines as they are written, and then compile them into a book when you've got a dozen or so. Good luck!

Advisor

Katie Tamarelli Newport, KY

Happy to review your resume and do case prep. I was at BCG and am currently at Strategy&, a division of PwC.

Please feel free to private message me.

Best,
Katie

Advisor

FRANCIS TEPEDINO, ESQ. San Diego, CA

You did not mention your education.
I founded and ran a successful management consulting and executive training firms for some 30 years. The elements that allowed me to do that:
Prior experience as a corporate Purchasing Manager; Contracts Manager; Engineering Manager; House Counsel; plus degrees in Engineering; Industrial Management; grad studies in Finance and a Juris Doctor.

Thus: My answer: Experience plus credentials.
Francis J. Tepedino

Advisor

FRANCIS TEPEDINO, ESQ. San Diego, CA

You did not mention your education.
I founded and ran a successful management consulting and executive training firms for some 30 years. The elements that allowed me to do that:
Prior experience as a corporate Purchasing Manager; Contracts Manager; Engineering Manager; House Counsel; plus degrees in Engineering; Industrial Management; grad studies in Finance and a Juris Doctor.

Thus: My answer: Experience plus credentials.
Francis J. Tepedino

Advisor

Jansen Weaver Philadelphia, PA

Hi William,

I am former active duty Marine Intelligence Officer and former consultant at Deloitte and would happy to provide some insight into this topic. Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jansenfweaver/

Best,
Jansen

Advisor

Sharon Parker Roanoke, TX

William, thank you for your service to our country!

Let’s start with an easy question so I may focus my efforts to best answer your queries – what do you like about consulting that has swayed you to choose that as your career?

I have coached several Veterans who thought they wanted to go into a specific industry (e.g. finance) or a defined profession (e.g. facilities management). After a few coaching sessions, they were better able to determine what they really wanted to do in the civilian workforce. In most instances, it did not turn out to be what they initially considered as a career!

My coaching is pro bono for Veterans and First Responders. Please feel free to reach out to me at sharon.parker@charter.net and I hope to hear from you!

Veteran

Patrick Bergstresser Frederick, MD

William,

Message Michael Schifferli on LinkedIn. Similar to you, former army officer and WP grad. Runs the JMO hiring program for Accenture. Spoke to him several times in the past but ultimate went another direction. Really nice guy and will give you the low down on what to expect as a management consultant at Accenture and will set you up with an interview.

-Pat

Advisor

Paul Tusting Salt Lake City, UT

I agree with Jennifer, consulting is simply an alternative structure to hiring employees. The answers to your questions are tied to what industry you want to work in, as well as, how you would like the role to look (which is a spectrum from you as an full time employee of a consulting firm, to you working directly with clients as a side job, and everything in-between).

A little more background may help folks help you a bit more.
Thanks, Paul

Advisor

Frank Forte Fayetteville, NC

A good resource is Flawless Consulting to levelset you on what it is and what it is not.

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