4 Things to Know When Making the Move from Consulting to a Startup

I was happy as a management consultant until the day that I wasn’t. For almost 6 years, I could say with conviction that I loved my job. I had figured out how to manage the travel, I enjoyed working with new clients, and each day I marveled at how much I learned from my colleagues.

But one day that changed. Suddenly, I wanted more control over the types of problems I solved and to remove the lingering threat of persistent travel from my life. I just wasn’t as excited to tackle that M&A project that didn’t leverage my marketing expertise. From that day forward, it took me almost 3 years to find a job that I love. Here’s what I learned from my long job search:

Make sure you’re sure. Looking back, I am proud that I waited six months before I even considered searching. The life of a consultant changes so drastically from the type of work you do to the clients you work with to your physical location. Sure, I was unhappy at the time, but logically, there was a good chance it would pass. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any major life decisions based on a whim.

Know that YOU are in charge of your job search this time around. Until I wanted to leave consulting, my idea of job searching was on-campus recruiting. My consulting gig was my first job out of college, I was sponsored in business school (meaning that Deloitte generously paid for my tuition in exchange for me returning to them after school), and I had never thought about looking for another role. My LinkedIn profile was poorly constructed and though I had a strong network of friends who had left the firm, I wasn’t quite sure how to broach this topic with them. The six months I took to sort out how I felt about leaving consulting helped me to figure out how to job search. For me, the most helpful resources were my client connections, LinkedIn, and friends, who tirelessly edited my cover letters and mock-interviewed me.

Cast a wide net. As I evaluated my job prospects, my list started and ended with my former clients. I was fortunate — not only did I have personal relationships with hiring managers at an enviable number of Fortune 500 companies, I had worked alongside these folks and they would vouch for me. In hindsight, I realize that there was a world of companies that never entered my consideration set: startups. Working a startup like CommonBond is all the things I loved about working at Deloitte, and none of the things I didn’t. Specifically, here are a few things about my new work environment that mirror my consulting environment:

  • Everyone I work with at CommonBond is eager to build a business and excited to pitch in however they can.
  • If you have a strong idea that folks believe in, the ideation to execution time is next to nothing.

Here are some of the things I didn’t love about consulting that I don’t grapple with at CommonBond:

  • Travel is limited. I work less than 20 blocks away from my home in Greenwich village and relish the walk home each evening.
  • There’s no more uncertainty in my role. I have a defined role, and while there is a bit of fluidity, I won’t be managing an IT cost-cutting project one day and a consumer products growth strategy project another.

Attending startup events, like our “Making the Jump — From Corporate to Startup” panel in New York City, Feb. 24, can help you find your ideal role.

Don’t settle. When you’re interviewing and evaluating offers, make sure your employer truly values your skillset. That starts with knowing your worth. Know that as a former consultant, you know how to logically structure and communicate an argument, how to manage difficult clients and team members, and how to just figure stuff out. And usually, you know how to do it all with a smile on your face and a positive attitude. Know that not everyone knows how to do those things, and that makes you extremely valuable. You’ll face some pushback along the way. While I thought it was a widely known fact that the consulting skill set is transferrable, I was surprised to learn that not every employer felt that way. Many wanted employees to have years of work experience at their company — it almost felt like I was taking a step back, not a step forward. Don’t settle for that because there are places, like my employer, CommonBond, that value the skills you have developed not just the number of years you have worked in a particular field.

Whether I knew it or not when I was looking to leave consulting, the biggest benefit of my six years at the firm is that it gave me options. I owe any success I have in my current role to the strong foundation and training I built as a consultant. Whatever you want to do after your consulting role — from joining a corporation to a startup to building your own business — your consulting skills will be the foundation for your success.

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