Military to Management Consulting

Temple17

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Jan 30, 2017
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Good evening everyone,

I am a current midshipmen and study Operations Research. I am currently most interested in SWO(N) or Navy pilot. I am open to the idea of a career in the military, however if I only stayed in for my minimum commitment I think i would enjoy management consulting.

Does anyone have any experience on transitioning from the military to a management consulting firm like McKinsey? Do these firms look fondly upon military service? How challenging is it to land a job?

Thanks for the help!
 

MidCakePa

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May 22, 2018
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I attended a top-five graduate business school where I knew several former JMOs who went into management consulting, including with McKinsey. JMOs with top-five MBAs are very attractive hires, whether by consulting firms, investment banks or consumer-goods companies.

McKinsey (and its competitors) loves highly analytical, highly quantitative candidates. So being an OR major is certainly a step in the right direction. But I knew McKinsey-ites who had majored in English, history, art and so forth. These jobs are extremely competitive, and top grades as an undergrad and grad are the norm.

To maximize your chances of joining McKinsey, look to attend at least a top-10 business school. (And as the joke goes, there are at least 15 schools that claim to be a top-10 school.) Best example I can think of — someone I worked with directly — followed this path: Finished near the top of his SA class, served five years, went to a Fortune 500 company for two years, attended a top-five B-school on that company’s dime, was hired by McKinsey following graduation (they paid off his obligation to the former company), and now runs a company he founded. Not too shabby.
 

ALF648

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Sep 10, 2019
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I was a management consultant for many years. Went to business school with a guy from USMA who was following the path laid out above.

PE firms like USMA grads. The graduates tend to have been given huge responsibility very early- whether that’s responsibility for large numbers of people or complex logistics or big budgets.

PM me if you want to know more about chance consulting.
 

VelveteenR

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DH, recently retired as a partner in a top MC firm, worked with and hired several academy grads. It is challenging to land these jobs for anyone with any background but, nowadays, business school is almost a must. Your Navy experience certainly isn't going to impair your chances if you bring the best of what you've learned in the military and apply it effectively once you're in, but know that it can be a rough road-warrior lifestyle. DH traveled 100% of the time for 17 of his 20 MC years with one nine-month engagement in Instanbul and one two-year engagement in Hartford, CT when we live in AZ. When we lived in Boston, for several years, he took the early shuttle to New York every Monday morning and returned home late Friday evening (but he lived at the Waldorf all week, and they did all his laundry, so it wasn't too bad). You are "deployed" constantly, so military service fits in well there but, also like the military, the firm will own you and will demand everything you've got, every bit of your time, every bit of your talent, and every last bit of energy. You are never "off." DH was not able to take a single vacation during those 17 years, and only twice was I able to be with him for a week or two at one of his more attractive locations. If you have a spouse and family, they will need to understand what this commitment means, and you will need to ensure they don't feel abandoned. It can be a tough balancing act. Yes, it pays well, but there is a price. Many burn out, and divorce rates are high.

As a side note, the guy who sat in front of me at Harvard Business School was from USMA (helicopter pilot). Like most of our classmates, he considered MC, but his young wife was pregnant with their first child at the time and he wanted off the road, so he took another path and made a name for himself. 26 years later, he was sitting in our living room encouraging our son during his application round to the academies and trying to talk his parents off the ledge. Good times.
 

bruno

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Forgive me for this - but this vintage UPS commercial summarizes my view ( and the view of many if not most of my peers in the manufacturing world) of consultants. From my perspective - consultants tend to be long on suggestions with very little experience in actually implementing those suggestions, and very often their suggestions are ideas that have kicked around for a long time in the company, unimplemented because of resource constraints or market realities that are only apparent with time and experience in the industry or market. So planning on staying for only your minimum commitment and then going into a consulting firm strikes me as exactly in the mold - superficial expertise with no hands on experience on how to “do”.
My suggestion- change the mold and demonstrate that you are actually a manager and leader by actually getting in the trenches somewhere - as a Navy officer and then in business, instead of planning now on becoming a professional kibitzer.
 

VelveteenR

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My suggestion- change the mold and demonstrate that you are actually a manager and leader by actually getting in the trenches somewhere - as a Navy officer and then in business, instead of planning now on becoming a professional kibitzer.
There are many types of consulting and consultants. This stereotype is insulting to those who are hired specifically for their deep expertise in an area and, like my DH, spend months and even years on a single engagement, sleeves rolled up, managing it from conception through implementation with the company's (his and the client's) reputation on the line each time. (BTW, this is where the real money is.) As with any endeavor, if you consider management consulting, choose your firm wisely; your integrity is on the line.

Though DH retired his partnership, his largest client, the Irish Health Service in Dublin, retains him for services they find invaluable. He only gives them two days a week but, every time he finishes a project, they find another. Nice work if you can get it. ;)
 
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SamAca10

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Hey OP, wanted to chime in here when I saw this.

JMO/SA Grad to Management Consulting is a common transition path that I've seen. I'm a SA alumni myself and lived in NYC for 4 years, met tons of fellow grads who went onto MBB, IB, or the Big 4.

Recommendations for Military Assignments: Pilots are looked at extremely favorably for top B schools, but you'll of course have a 10 year commitment. You're young now, and things may change where you want to get out at 5. Just something to keep in mind.

In-Service Benefits: You can get your first GRE and GMAT reimbursed by the military when you are on Active Duty, and those scores stay good for 5 years. This is about a $500 benefit you're getting from being AD. I'd recommend studying for it in between years 0-3 of AD, then taking the GMAT and GRE around year 3-4. That will give you some leeway with applying to B schools as well as another few years if you want to go into the workforce prior to B school (Recommended for reasons below).

Good Org that Helps with Mentorship is Service2School. Has a great guide on MBA: https://service2school.org/

Post 9/11 GI Bill: My Academy class received this at our 5 year mark, but most others need 8 years of service. Keep this in mind, as staying on for 8 years may be beneficial to you if you want to get school paid for for free. Most top MBAs are tuition free for veterans thanks to the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program.

Post-Service Transition for Finance: Keep in mind what you want to do post-service. For instance, one of my roommates in Manhattan was a UPenn grad who worked in Investment Banking at a Bulge Bracket, now is a Private Equity Associate out in London. She'll be attending HBS in 2022 after the pandemic (hopefully) clears up. If you have any interest in PE I'd strongly recommend trying to go work as an analyst at an IB prior to B school/after service. It's pretty much to transition to PE post-MBA unless you have any financial experience pre-MBA (most JMOs don't). IB is sell side and PE is buy side. Way better to be on the buy side. If you wanted to get into a quant role at a hedge fund very possible with an undergrad in OR and/or supplemented with a masters in statistics

Consulting Firms: For Big 4 and MBB, an MBA is most likely going to be needed for Management Consulting. Burn out can be pretty high in the consulting field. I'm at a boutique firm that partners with a multitude of Big Tech companies, and under normal circumstances I'd be spending 80% of my working time at a client site and in hotels. It's been great since I have no children, but could become challenging for one who wants to settle down.

Sky is the limit, enjoy your time in service, and always, always, always be preparing for your transition. Seems like you've got a great head on your shoulders like most Service Academy grads I've met. During my time in there were wayyy too many people who are/were scared to leave. I miss aspects of being in but really enjoy the flexibility of living where I want, actually having work skills, etc. Feel free to DM me anytime
 

cb7893

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Forgive me for this - but this vintage UPS commercial summarizes my view ( and the view of many if not most of my peers in the manufacturing world) of consultants. From my perspective - consultants tend to be long on suggestions with very little experience in actually implementing those suggestions, and very often their suggestions are ideas that have kicked around for a long time in the company, unimplemented because of resource constraints or market realities that are only apparent with time and experience in the industry or market. So planning on staying for only your minimum commitment and then going into a consulting firm strikes me as exactly in the mold - superficial expertise with no hands on experience on how to “do”.
My suggestion- change the mold and demonstrate that you are actually a manager and leader by actually getting in the trenches somewhere - as a Navy officer and then in business, instead of planning now on becoming a professional kibitzer.
The track you describe is far from rare.

Not so much a comment on the consults as the lazy C Suiters who hire them.
 
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