Consulting careers – 11 insights on why people leave consulting & what they leave for

Consulting careers – 11 insights on why people leave consulting & what they leave for

Every fortnight or so I run a poll on my LinkedIn. Given my area of expertise, the polls explore consulting careers (in and after consulting) – why people start, why they leave and what they leave for. Typically 600-1,200 people join in (a pretty decent sample size) and overall, these polls have been viewed by over 500,000 people with more than 15,000 participants.

Why do I do these polls about post consulting careers?

Well, unlike many more linear careers, most consulting careers involve leaving consulting. So for a consultant, plotting a career is a bit or a minefield. And if you’re trying to hire consulting-trained professionals, how best to attract them can be equally mind-boggling. So, I find the results of these polls particularly enlightening. Why?

  • For employers (HR and hiring mangers inside and outside of consulting firms), they unlock the secret sauce in retaining or attracting consulting-trained professionals (into roles like strategy, transformation, project management, commercial development, chief of staff etc) by shining a light on how most people think about their consulting careers.
  • For consultants, they shed light on how others in the consulting industry feel and behave and accordingly, give you clear references for plotting your consulting career – either in or way from consulting itself.

In this article, I’ve collated 11 recent polls into 3 topics:

  1. Firstly: “Starting a consulting career – why?”
  2. Secondly: “Leaving consulting – why?”
  3. And finally: “Leaving consulting – what for?”

So, let’s get into the data…

Starting a consulting career – why?

Summary: simply put, the majority of people who start a consulting career…

  • Don’t regret time spent in consulting (83%);
  • Didn’t join intending for a life long consulting career (88%) / did join as a means to an end (skills, network);
  • Don’t regret leaving consulting (93%) and;
  • Would have been more likely to stay / would return if pay, progression and, especially, working hours improved (80%).

Consultants & former consultants – do you regret the time you spent / are spending in consulting?

Results: (link to data)

Do you regret the time you spent in consulting?

When you joined a consulting firm, was it as a “means to an end”, or did you envisage a whole career in a consulting firm?

Results below (link to original data)

When you joined a consulting firm was it as a means to an end?

Do you regret leaving consulting?

Results below (link to original data)
Do you regret leaving consulting?

What’s the main reason you’d consider switching consulting firms / moving back to consulting?

Results below (link to original data)
What's the main reason you'd switch consulting firms or move back to9 consulting?

Leaving consulting – why?

Summary: simply put, the majority of people leave a consulting career (i.e, leave a permanent role in a consulting firm) in order to…

  • Improve their work-life balance / working hours which has..,.
  • Deteriorated further during / thanks to covid

What’s the main reason you left / would consider leaving consulting?

Results below (link to original data)
What's the main reason you left consulting?

Leaving consulting – was work-life balance the main reason (or would it be, if you were to leave in the future)?

Results below (link to original data)
Was work-life balance the main reason you left consulting?

Consultants – how has your work-life balance changed through covid? I’m working..

Results below (link to original data)
Consultants - how has your work-life balance changed through covid?

Leaving consulting – what for?

Summary: simply put, consultants transition their careers out of consulting along the following lines…

  • Scale-ups are the most sought after company type, but the full range of organisations is appealing (the consulting skill set is extremely transferable so most options are open)
  • Most consultants want their career to end up in a P&L or operational leadership role (CEO/COO track) – the most successful companies at hiring ex-consulting talent can show a path to these (typically using strategy / transformation teams as a stepping stone / leadership talent pipeline)
  • Freelance consulting is becoming increasingly popular
  • Current & former consultants want more data when it comes to choosing post-consulting careers, especially regarding compensation and work-life balance. We’re on a mission to provide that – check it out here.

Consultants – what company type do you find most appealing (as a post consulting home)?

Results below (link to original data)
Consultants - what company type is most appealing as a post-consulting home?

Current & former consultants – what job type would you most like your career to lead to (or for more senior folk, which has it lead to)?

Results below (link to original data)
Current & former consultants - what job type would you most like your career to lead to?

Freelancing – Are you more of less likely than 12 months ago to consider doing some freelance work?

Results below (link to original data)
Freelancing - are you more of less likely than 12 months ago to consider freelance work?

Would it be helpful to know which post-consulting careers have the best pay, working hours & job satisfaction?

Results below (link to original data)
Would it be helpful to know which post consulting careers have the best pay, working hours and job satisfaction?

Popular resources

If you’re trying to assess your options for a post consulting career, here are some popular resources:

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