Career Transition

How to Pivot From the World of Consulting (and What to Expect in a New Job)

Consulting industry

Consultancy was hit hard by COVID-19, with larger firms laying off thousands and independent consultants reporting contracts reduced or cancelled. The upside is that consultants have a transferrable skill set that makes them prime candidates for positions in industry and entrepreneurship. The first steps are not unlike getting any new role; working in a corporate job, however, differs greatly from consulting and often comes as an adjustment.

Landing a New Role – Steps to Take

It’s fairly typical to leave consulting at some point in your career in search of new opportunities. It’s a bit different if you are forced to make the change unexpectedly, and not on your own timeline. To find your next role, assess your own personal goals and use the people you know to get connected.

Take Time to Reflect

An unanticipated layoff often leads to panic. That, in turn, can lead to rushing to the first opportunity that presents itself. Try to avoid this tendency by taking a moment to assess where you want to end up. It is the reality that you may not be able to return to consulting anytime soon. Travel restrictions and corporate cost-cutting have meant consultancy is a logistically challenging and expensive endeavor. It’s therefore not going to be high on the priority list for companies when things get back to normal.

Reflecting on your own personal interests and abilities is key. That way, you have a greater chance to land a job in the environment that’s right for you. After all, you may be in that role for some time.

Update Your Resume and Online Profiles

Take a once-over of your resume and identify your skills, experiences and contacts that can help you get to the next stage. Update your information on sites like LinkedIn. Have a colleague or professional associate review your resume to give feedback and take suggestions for improvement. You may want to consider investing in a professional resume rewrite, especially if your trusted contacts are all in consulting as well. Since you are not looking for another consulting role, you should structure your information to make it clear what it is you are after, and what you bring to the table.

A brief summary section on your resume or profile serves as your elevator pitch. Two to three sentences can describe your background and credentials, while one sentence can articulate your current objective for your job search.

Reach Out to Firm Alumni

Many consultancy firms keep an updated database of alumni; those are former consultants who have moved on to new roles elsewhere. Use this database, if you have access, to find people who can help connect you to a new position. Additionally, you can use your personal network to find those currently working in your chosen field. Set up meetings over Zoom, schedule a phone call, or otherwise connect with as many people as possible about potential opportunities.

Talk to Your Former Clients

It is quite common for consultants to receive job offers from the companies they have worked with. Survey your roster of past consultancy contracts and reach out. These individuals may know of an available role or can refer you to others. Getting in touch with your former consulting clients has an added bonus: they know what you’re capable of, so if there’s an opening, it should be an easier road for you to land the job.

Adjusting to Industry – What Ex-Consultants Find Challenging

Consultants have very valuable experience. But acting as a consultant is not the same as working in-house for an organization. Settling in at a new job is therefore not as smooth as it could be. Commonly, consultants have to adjust to the corporate environment before they excel in the new position. Here are some common roadblocks:

Sticking to the New Role

Consultants are trained to see things from a strategic and overarching perspective. That can mean they will spot potential deficiencies are areas of improvement all over the new company. Unlike when they were a consultant, this kind of insight is not always welcomed or valued, especially from a new hire. New hires would often do best to focus on their present job — not what their neighboring colleague or department is doing.

Building Relationships Across Pedigree

Corporate team members have taken diverse paths in terms of education and work experience to get where they are. They are colleagues of the former consultant, but may not communicate the same way. On occasion, consultants may appear to over-value their own knowledge and credential. They may lack the ability to work within a team, or to lead a team of people who do not share the same perspective.

Note here the phrase “appear to over-value.” That doesn’t mean it’s true — it may simply be a perception. Engaging others in casual conversation and practicing “mirroring” techniques — reflecting others’ points of view back to them, to ensure they are acknowledged — in formal meetings are techniques to overcome the communication barriers.

Gathering Support for Your Ideas

Analysis and data are at the heart of most consultancy work. It can come as a surprise to former consultants that simple logic does not always win the day in a corporate environment. Typically, personal relationships and human interaction are just as important as the facts and figures. Ex-consultants have to conquer this aspect as well in order to see their ideas come to fruition.

Taking the time to listen to others and getting to know them on a personal level are two ways former consultants can start to master this dynamic.

Understanding Implementation

It is common for consultants to advise boards and CEOs. They provide strategic insight and may offer plans of action. However, not all consultants stick around for the implementation stage of their ideas. As a result, they may not always see how their recommendations play out over the long term. Often, the devil is in these details, and consultants may face challenges as they execute this hands-on work.

Practice patience and know it’s ok to alter the game plan. Often, reassessing implementation strategies is an accepted part of project management work.

Potential New Opportunities for Former Consultants

Even in a time of economic uncertainty, former consultants have a wide range of potential opportunities. You can seek a position in an established company, a startup, venture capital, or indeed pursue entrepreneurship and go into business for yourself. Many people take a break from the job market and pursue education, such as an EMBA.

Ultimately, the next step is yours to take. Regardless of what comes next, you have a solid consulting resume in which you can take pride, and a wide network of people willing to help.

Need guidance as you pivot to a new industry? A Career Coach can help!

About the Author

Catherine Lovering has written on personal finance and careers for the past 10 years. She has been published on, Healthline, and Paste.