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Why consultants transition to industry

Anthony Allodi, head of strategy – consumer & retail practice at River Partnership 


Our recent report, The Transition to Industry, analysing the decision-making and post transition perspectives behind consultants’ career trajectories, revealed that salary is not the strongest motivating factor for professionals looking to transition from consulting to industry.


Motivations for leaving the consulting profession can be broadly divided into five categories: Remuneration, working hours, travel demands, personal circumstance and professional challenge. Individual situations and personal development arcs will often prioritise these factors differently, but from the research project we did, the base categories will most always remain the same.  


Consultants’ years of experience, coupled with changing demands in their personal life (such as growing families) greatly influence their decisions to make the shift from consulting to industry – as well as their expectations from their new employers. For example, individuals at the beginning of their consulting career are less likely to be turned off by intense travel demands, whereas more experienced consultants are generally looking for positions with leadership responsibilities (an unreasonable immediate demand in fact, as our results showed).


Interestingly, salary does not feature among the top three factors considered by consultants when transitioning to industry. Instead, out of the five categories mentioned above, it ranks fifth (behind working hours). This could be down to industry salaries remaining largely competitive – particularly in central strategy functions – and employers generally knowing what they need to offer to tempt consultants to switch sides, but also the significant benefits of joining a company and moving towards execution, which are viewed as far more important than a short-term (and often negligible) financial impact. 


In fact, the strongest motivations for leaving consulting are to be able to implement strategic initiatives, and to take ownership of a functional area, P&L or team. None of these responsibilities are easy to get in management consulting, and most individuals approaching partner are disinterested in the addition of revenue-generation to their job description. As an ex-McKinsey associate principal mentioned, “If you want to be well-paid, stay in consulting; if you want to be well-rounded, leave.” 


Strategy professionals are looking for more than just a new role when they seek to leave consulting. The transition to industry is a major consideration in their career – regardless of seniority – and the priority is to secure a clearly defined role that offers growth and the opportunity to develop new skills in a new environment. 


Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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