Too many career change aspirants think management consulting is a good career option after completing their MBA. And that’s what they write in their MBA application essays without trying to learn more about what it means to be a consultant. Not many ask themselves, “Is consulting really a good career option for me?”
Sudershan ‘Suds’ Tirumala (Regional Director, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth) lifts the veil from one of the most misunderstood (and abused) career goals in MBA essays.
Is consulting really the right career option for you?
Now, you’ve had an opportunity to evaluate the MBA plan, and figured out the business schools where you are a good fit, and more importantly, schools that are a good fit for you! Now you’re wondering about those bewildering essays that need to be written.
The thought “Why does the Admissions Committee have to make my already complicated life so difficult by asking me to come up with answers to these essays?” has likely flashed through your neurons every time you opened a new application.
Of course, being genuine is one of the most important things an applicant can do, while writing the essays. Applicants will be better served to state things as they are because if they make up stuff, they will stand exposed at the end of the process, which is definitely not going to get you where you want to go.
Even so, when Indian applicants are tackling the question on career plans in the short- and the long-term, there’s one career path that rears its head more often than not and that’s Management Consulting. As one can imagine, this is probably the most beaten-to-death career option that is bandied around by Indian applicants by far. They all talk about the same thing – get into consulting with MBB (this acronym is now as much part of business folklore as BRICS is, I guess).
Nota Bene: The following is as told by applicants. In so many words, it all can be summed up thus:
“I want to use the MBA as an opportunity to get into Management Consulting.”
“As a consultant, I will get to work on projects in various industries.”
“During my work on all these projects, I’ll learn structured thinking and frameworks.”
“By virtue of working on so many problems and in so many industries, I’ll know which industry I’ll fit in better.”
“I’ll use this insight and leverage my contacts to enter the industry that speaks to me. And then it’s all hunky dory.”
Indeed, there are those select few who actually mean what they say, and there are those fewer people who actually see themselves as consultants for the rest of their career. Still, how many of the candidates do you think actually give the above answers out of a passion for consulting? Or any other career path for that matter? Seriously. Think about it and come up with an answer in your own mind. Do you fall in that category?
For those that gave the above perfunctory response as sort of a text book answer, nothing overtly wrong with that either, since MBA, is after all, seen as a silver bullet, that shot-in-the-arm you need, to catapult you in your career.
But isn’t the point of going to a business school to actually figure out what that thing is, that interests you? The path you want to carve for yourself – the road you want to traverse that’s as unique as you – and use the two years in business school as the singular opportunity to propel you in that direction? That process of introspection had started when you were wondering about those essays that made you want to tear your hair out – those responses you so begrudgingly wrote during the application process.
For instance, candidates tend to view consulting as the fixer of all ills in companies of all shapes and sizes, the opportunity to hobnob with the executive leadership of a company, and the ticket to fly anywhere in the world for a three-day weekend after working super-hard for the first four days of the week.
How about the other side of the coin where you maybe churning out presentations without too much airtime with clients,and not getting the opportunity to spend time with family due to constant travel and thus putting an additional layer of stress on an already stressed out life?
Not just consulting. There’s always a flipside to any career path you take up. The question is have you taken the time to analyze the pros and cons and have you come to an honest conclusion about what is that career path that speaks to you the most?
For a moment, imagine you’re now an MBA grad who went to business school a couple of years back. Do you think your time in business school was well spent if you are in a situation where you’d be asking yourself the following questions today?
“I wish I had taken a lot more time during the MBA to think about things that really matter to me.”
“I would have been in a better position had I done what I’m truly passionate about, right after business school.”
“I should have talked to a lot of alumni and asked what, if anything, they would do if they had to relive their MBA experience.”
Well, my take is, applicants owe it to themselves to do a tremendous amount of introspection in any case, to write the essays. And then, not take short-cuts during the essay writing process based on your preconceived notions about any career path. Think about those inviolable aspects of your life you’re not going to compromise on. Think about what sort of work-life balance you want for yourself. Do an honest job of figuring out what it is that makes you tick.
Once you figure it out, hang on to it with dear life. That’s the “What I love” part. MBA is a degree that will enable you to get to the destination you’re seeking, so don’t worry too much about the logistics and the process of getting there – if you’re passionate about something, you’ll figure out a way to get there no matter where you are (Read Teacher turned Management Consultant-Career Change Story).
If that “something” is consulting, that’s fantastic. If that “something” is investment banking, all power to you. If that “something” is technology, you’ve thought it through. If that “something” is entrepreneurship, go full steam ahead. If that “something” is something else, figure that out now.
At least, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to think things through and commit yourself to becoming mentally ready to face for whatever it is, that any given career path is likely to throw at you. And now that you’ve made that decision, get going without further ado and make it big in that dream career you’ve identified.
Know that as you start the journey to live your dreams, your classmates, the faculty, the staff, the administrators, and the school’s alumni are rooting for you to succeed! What’s not to like about that?
Read these other articles written by Suds.