Which Consulting Firm is the Best for Your Career?

Since its founding in 1926, the company has grown to have more than 30,000 employees in more than 120 offices around the world. It's no surprise that many professionals are eager to join the top 3 strategic consulting firms McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Company (Bain), also known as MBB. But there are several other major consulting firms that can give a real boost to a professional career. While McKinsey, Bain, or BCG are likely to provide the most powerful resume boost, each of the major consulting firms has a combination of size and prestige that can take you to several places. McKinsey employees have excellent learning and networking opportunities.

However, they tend to have an intense lifestyle, with lots of traveling, face-to-face engagements, and long hours as a result. If you're interested in a career with a lot of travel, this might be a good place for you. McKinsey is widely regarded as one of the best options for developing a high-level professional career. Because of their competitive environment, there is sometimes a high turnover among young consultants.

However, those who persevere are rewarded with great opportunities. McKinsey is the definition of competitive. An academic culture focused on continuous improvement, intellectual rigor and fact-analysis skills are vital components of success, as is a positive attitude with an optimistic approach. Feedback is frequent and expected across the organization.

Entrepreneurs who don't need concrete rules and that are strictly enforced tend to thrive at McKinsey. Diversity at McKinsey is affected to some extent by the preference for candidates from target universities, such as Oxford, Harvard, Stanford or Yale. Many older candidates started at companies like Goldman Sachs or Procter & Gamble. Boston Consulting Group isn't known for its work-life balance. The middle ranks tend to struggle compared to young consultants and senior partners.

The hours are long and the culture can be demanding. This consulting firm has a bottom-up approach to customer and employee engagement, appealing to those who enjoy collaboration. The culture of this consulting firm focuses more on creative and innovative thinking than many of its main rivals. Post-merger integration, project management offices and transformation are areas of expertise.

While Boston Consulting Group has a harmonious and positive work environment, consultants have little to say in hours. Boston Consulting Group has several programs focused on diversity and inclusion, including diversity internships. It lists diversity as a core value and has established political agendas to promote women, minorities and veterans. The work-life balance is comparable to that of Boston Consulting Group or McKinsey. Schedules, while flexible, can be long and trips are a weekly reality.

The schedule and workload can be unpredictable depending on the needs of individual commitments. A deep-seated mentoring culture supports diversity across the organization. With five major affinity groups, Bain scored perfectly in the Human Rights Campaign for 12 years and was named “The Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality”.Accenture Strategy is its wing and focuses on high-level consulting. Approximately 95% of Fortune Global 100 companies use Accenture services.

It has a strong presence in the United States, India and the Philippines. Work-life balance is a challenge for Accenture. Flexible hours and remote work options are becoming increasingly popular, but they haven't yet become widespread in the culture. The opportunities vary greatly depending on individual projects.

Overtime is considered optional, unlike many other firms, but the most successful consultants generally do it on a regular basis. Employees appreciate the incredible opportunities that Accenture offers to develop key skills, especially in areas with a lot of technology. Accenture staff benefit from strengthening their brand, especially in Europe. Strong training programs and the fun social life of the company encourage hard work and long working hours, but it's “up or down” for consultants (“up or out” refers to the mentality that a consultant needs to reach a certain level in the company at a certain point or could be fired). Promotions are sometimes influenced by politics, so networking is essential. With many exciting global perspectives, Oliver Wyman continues to grow.

Work-life balance may be affected as a result of the consultant's success. Your focus on financial services can make for an intense work environment. More than 90% of employees surveyed on Glassdoor would recommend Oliver Wyman to their friends; 98% approve of the CEO. Consultants praise the “intelligent”, realistic and “genuine” workforce, leading to an atmosphere of collaboration and support. Oliver Wyman is considered to have a fun and collegial atmosphere in the lower categories, helping new staff adapt quickly to strenuous responsibilities from the start.

However, consultants must work hard to get noticed. Employees praise Oliver Wyman's diversity policies. A global staffing model allows for geographical flexibility and great exposure to other cultures that are not emphasized elsewhere. Oliver Wyman focuses growth on a performance-based model that largely evaluates past experience and current performance compared to the time spent in a given position. Mentoring and leadership functions in the workflow are available as soon as two years after graduation. An advanced degree is not required and the consultant lacks the typical “up or down” pressure. Work-life balance is relatively strong at Booz Allen Hamilton because of its focus on federal consulting; consultants don't have to travel as much as they do at other consulting firms.

However, other factors such as deadlines, billable hour targets, and demanding customers are similar to those of competitors. Employee satisfaction with Booz Allen Hamilton has varied over the years due to major strategic movements and managerial level decisions; around 75% of Glassdoor respondents recommend it but some have complained that salary is becoming less competitive and that salaries are lower at initial levels. Booz Allen Hamilton demonstrates a commitment to inclusion comparable to that of market leaders; this includes inclusive and non-traditional hiring as well as benefits provided to domestic partners and adoptive parents; frequent reporting on diversity achievement; affinity groups; etc. Deloitte's professional development includes a set of six industry standard functions which help consultants develop their skillset while working with clients from different industries. Choosing which consulting firm is best for your career depends on your goals; each firm offers different advantages depending on your preferences regarding lifestyle; travel; diversity; etc. It's important to research each firm thoroughly before making your decision so you can make sure you're making an informed choice about your future.

Dylan Nemecek
Dylan Nemecek

Typical social media ninja. Professional pop culture nerd. Unapologetic bacon advocate. Proud pop culture guru. Incurable social media nerd.

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