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Consulting Exit: Management Consulting and Then?

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Regular headhunter inquiries and job offers via Xing or LinkedIn are part of everyday life for you as a top consultant. After all, after a steep learning curve in consulting, you’ve developed the most important skills that are in demand in just about any company. You are self-confident, communicative, analytically strong and can solve any business problem with ease. This means that the professional world is also open to you for your next career steps.

However, with the seemingly unlimited opportunities after the consulting exit, the selection paradox quickly arises. After all, too many decision alternatives overwhelm and hinder decision-making – even in the job search. On the one hand, you don’t want to miss out on an important career opportunity. On the other hand, you have to make a decision and ask yourself the question:

“What is the perfect next career move for me?”

⇓ Directly to the exit options

Career after consulting

In theory, you have all the skills you need to successfully climb any career ladder after you get out. But reality check: The exit is not quite as easy as we thought. It depends on many factors.

The most important factors are your overall profile, your previous projects and customers. Is a customer convinced of you and now wants to poach you? Did you get an insight into many different industries? Or were you able to focus on one industry and develop specific expertise in a particular area? Especially with a focus on digital topics such as cloud, big data or analytics, you are right on trend and can support many companies in the course of digitalization.

Your previous employer also plays a role. But beware: Our many years of experience in recruiting confirm that McKinsey, BCG or Bain references in a resume are no longer a universally valid entry ticket for every desired position or company. Even though the often very good alumni networks of top consultancies can provide many advantages, not every company rolls out the red carpet for the ex-MBBer. The negative stereotype of the “aloof strategy consultant without relevant operational experience” unfortunately persists.

These exit options await you after leaving consulting

Exit options after leaving the consulting business

Which option is exactly right for you depends not only on your skills, but most importantly on your personal preferences. That’s why it’s important to be clear about exactly what you want: Do you feel like taking on more responsibility at work or investing equity? Do you dream of a better work-life balance? What are you willing to take a pay cut for?


Alternative Freelance Consulting
Change from consulting directly to industry
Consulting Exit Private Equity/Venture Capital
Finding dynamism in young start-ups
The non-profit consultant
After university is before university

➥ Table: Which consulting exit is right for you? [PDF]

Alternative Freelance Consulting

Are you one of those consultants who enjoy their work but would like more control over projects, work hours and their overall lifestyle? If you don’t attach much importance to partner titles or a permanent employment relationship, working as a freelance consultant after your consulting exit is just the right thing for you.

The urge for self-determined work has led to a kind of upheaval in the professional world in recent years. The consulting industry is not excluded from this either. While twenty years ago only the “old hands” with strong networks could get by as freelancers, today there are placement platforms like
which bring companies and freelance consultants together conveniently and efficiently. This way, even as a young consultant with suitable expertise, you will regularly manage to get suitable clients and interesting projects.

Not only will you have financial security, but you will even earn a lot more than at top consultancies. Because with the higher hourly wage and low levies for overhead costs, you’re left with a salary that’s respectable. We have already seen our freelance users increase their salary by 100%!

Change from consulting directly to industry

The royal road and dream of many consultants is to move directly into a management position in the industry. Oliver Bäte worked for McKinsey for 14 years at various levels and moved to the Allianz Board of Management at the age of 42. But companies often prefer to promote their own junior staff rather than hire externally. Therefore, as a consultant in the industry, you usually have to prove yourself first as a project manager before you can then move up to a management position. This involves less salary and requires a lot of perseverance. In medium-sized companies, however, you may be able to move directly into management with at least one year of management experience.

Especially when exiting into the industry, the earlier you start planning, the better. Even as you enter consulting, you can choose your employer with your desired exit industry in mind. Then it’s on to making contacts. Above all, regular contact with customers is important, because from them you can be poached directly into a managerial position, which may then even bring with it jumps in salary.

Consulting Exit Private Equity/Venture Capital

In venture capital, you change industries but remain a consultant in a similar work environment. This means that you can expect an equally stressful and turbulent everyday life. Financially, however, private equity is the best exit option and for this reason is highly sought after among consultants. You earn better than in consulting and are rewarded with even more prestige. You also get the opportunity to land big deals and even change entire industries. The perfect choice for the ambitious consultant.

But joining a PE firm is difficult without a background in investment banking. With MBB reference in your resume and the corresponding connections, you may be able to keep up with the strong IB competition. Otherwise, you need to have at least an internship at a bank or some projects with a focus on corporate finance in order to be invited to the interview. The best time to change is in a position as a senior consultant or young project manager, i.e. when you have worked as close to the industry as possible.

Finding dynamism in young start-ups

Consulting Exit into the Startup

Working independently and founding one’s own company has now become the dream par excellence among many consultants as well. With the experience knowledge and the right business idea, you as a consultant have everything you need for a successful start-up. If you are aiming for this exit in the long term, you can already put aside the necessary cash cushion for financing your later business during your consulting career. You should also take the opportunity to build up connections to investors.

If you don’t have your own business idea, but want to work in a young and dynamic environment, you can also join an existing start-up. There you will mostly be considered for CEO or business development positions. However, it is important to make the switch before you get used to the increased consulting salary. Because even if young startups advertise with fun, cool teams and fun events, they often can’t offer you one thing: a high salary. But if you get shares, you will be more than rewarded if your business is successful, because they can be worth extremely much one day.

The non-profit consultant

Maybe you’re fed up after years of working entirely for profit. You enjoy your job, but yearn to use your skills to solve problems that are more important globally. Then large nonprofits that are looking for support in strategy issues and the areas of international development or project management come into question for you. But value-based work comes at a price: lower pay, long hours and sometimes even dangerous locations.

A rather unusual exit in Germany is to move into government positions – either directly or with an intermediate stop in an NPO that has contacts to the public sector. Here, too, you have to make sacrifices in terms of salary, working hours and career prospects.

After university is before university

To quench your thirst for knowledge and increase your own market value, the MBA or PhD is the ideal choice. Studying after your consulting exit gives you the opportunity to take a small educational break and some time to reorient yourself. In addition, further study increases the chances of a stellar career in another industry.

Furthermore, teaching itself represents another option of an academic nature. As a consultant, you have exceptionally good communication skills and are skilled at explaining issues in a concise and understandable manner. This makes you an ideal college professor. You are especially welcome at universities of applied sciences, where lecturers always have to have a certain amount of work experience. In this exit, timing does not matter. Some consultants fulfill a lifelong dream with a professorship, often even at an advanced age.

Table: Which consulting exit is right for you? [PDF]

Table: Which consulting exit is right for you? [PDF] consultingheads blog consultingheadlines
An overview and assessment of the various exit options according to security, responsibility, prestige, salary, work-life balance and flexibility. Also includes typical positions and the ideal time to exit.

Good prospects for consultants

Even if the situation for former consultants in some areas no longer looks quite as rosy as it did 20 years ago, there are still countless options available to you today if you decide to leave. Because your skills as a consultant remain highly valued in every type of company – from a start-up and DAX company to a non-profit organization. If you know exactly what you want and plan your exit early, you have a good chance of achieving your goals.

You are a consultant and already want to look for specific jobs that might be suitable for you after you leave the company? Then contact
free of charge and confidentially. Whether you’re looking for a full-time or freelance job, we’ll give you access to exclusive positions that are right for you!


Errors discovered or suggestions for improvement to our article? We are open to criticism and welcome your feedback – via comment or email to [email protected].

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