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Considering Alternatives to the Top Management Consulting Firms

Considering Alternatives to the Top Management Consulting FirmsLately, I've been writing a lot about how a consulting career is the ideal choice for professionals who want to put their knowledge, talents and skills to good use in the modern economy. Consulting gives people a chance to flex their professional muscles in a way that simply isn't available in most other industries. However, a closer look at consulting as a career choice reveals that there are many different ways to enter the field. For example, the top management consulting firms employ legions of individuals who are dispatched around the globe to apply their skills. At the same time, smaller firms and independent consultants are doing great work with lesser-known companies on a smaller scale, but with great rewards. This raises the question – what kind of consultant do you want to be?

For many people, the goal of becoming a consultant is to find employment with one of the leading management consulting firms. The top management consulting firms can offer excellent opportunities, and they give consultants the chance to work on big problems that require big solutions. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this goal, I believe that consultants should also consider alternatives to the top firms.

The Realities of Working for One of the Top Management Consulting Firms

Before we get into specific alternatives, I'd like to dig a little deeper into the realities of working for one of the top management consulting firms.

First, here are some of the pros of working for a larger firm:

  • The cachet of working for a well-known and respected entity

  • Clout that comes from an association with a successful firm

  • Security in the form of a steady paycheck

  • The ability to be a part of changes that have a global impact

Here are some of the cons of working for a larger consulting firm:

  • Your ideas will need to pass through several gatekeepers before they can be considered for implementation

  • You have very little say when it comes to the companies and industries you work with

  • A lack of independence – there will always be someone above you

  • Working for a larger consulting firm is not much different from working in the corporate world (which you've probably been trying to escape)

The top management consulting firms certainly have their place. They are able to work in hundreds of different locations simultaneously, and they have the bandwidth to work on large-scale, global solutions. These firms have been able to establish themselves as powers in the consulting industry because they've been through the wars and they possess proven solutions that can be applied to a variety of problems.

Think Smaller for a Greater Impact

While the appeal of working for a larger consulting firm is understandable, I think equal consideration should be paid to the possibility of working as a consultant on a smaller scale. If you want to make a difference using your specific skills, talents and knowledge capital, the experience of working for a larger firm will probably disappoint you because they tend to use proven, time-tested solutions. On the other hand, working as an independent consultant gives you the chance to truly innovate while applying your talents and knowledge quickly and directly.

Think about it this way:

Would you rather work for an organization that sends you out into the field with a handbook that shows you exactly how to handle any given situation?


Would you rather go to work every day knowing that you'll have the ability and authority to make solid decisions that make use of your ability to innovate and solve problems?

If the former scenario sounds appealing, perhaps working for one of the top management consulting firms should be your goal. If the latter scenario sounds more inviting (which is what I believe), then a career as an independent consultant is much more appropriate.

In my next blog post, I'll be digging deeper into the differences between working as an independent consultant vs working for one of the top management consulting firms, so stay tuned!


Are you considering a career as a consultant? You can learn more about what Buddy Hobart has to say about the field by downloading a copy of his free eBook, “Experience Matters.” You should also download the Ex3 Matters consulting guides, which are available right here on Ex3Matters.com.