Reader FAQ: How doctors can become consultants, recruiting from a non-target MBA program, and why I twitter infrequently

It’s been a while since our previous reader FAQ. Click here for a complete list of questions asked on this site and my responses.

Working professionals

1. What’s the best way for me, a PhD in biology and a licensed physician, to break into strategy consulting? I have limited business experience beyond an internship I did whilst in college. Any advice? Any particular firms?

Business experience is not a prerequisite for a consulting job. Business interest is.

Fundamentally, anyone attempting a dramatic break from a previous career (whether that’s from law to consulting, engineering to consulting, or medicine to consulting) needs to demonstrate a few things:

-A clear interest in business, as evidenced through academic coursework, a well-written cover letter/resume, or strong performance in the first round interview
-A record of success in their previous career, as evidenced through growth in responsibilities, people-management experience, and promotions
-Evidence of basic skills required for business success, in areas such as communication and presentation, writing, analytics, and so forth
-A clear fit with the target consulting firm

There are many strong, healthcare/pharmaceutical/payer-provider-focused consulting firms. Global consulting firms such as Bain or Monitor have clients, and often dedicated practices, in those areas. A few strong boutique firms include: IMS Health, Milliman, and Putnam Associates.

2. I’ve been in the asset management business for 10+ years now. Needless to say, I’m ready for a change and the consulting world has always appealed to me, for reasons that you’ve alluded to on your site. The interesting thing is, I have very few contacts in strategy consulting. What do you think of LinkedIn as a tool for networking – will I have any success using it?

LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for those in business. While “cold-contacting” through LinkedIn is about as effective as cold-emailing (which is to say, not very), there are other ways to leverage LinkedIn to help in your quest for a consulting job. These are:

-Using LinkedIn’s company search to find nearby consulting firms and good-fit consulting firms (by industry background, skillset, etc)

-Using LinkedIn’s company profiles to identify recruiters that are open to networking and sourcing opportunities. Click here to see Bain’s LinkedIn profile.

-Using LinkedIn to broadcast your job search or networking requests to specific groups that you’re apart of (say, your university alumni group or networking groups for asset management professionals). Click here for the Groups Directory

Those are just 3 of the ways LinkedIn can help you in this process. I talk about this in the Networking Bible extensively, so stay tuned for that as well.

Undergraduate and graduate

1. Hi, I attend UC-Berkeley but am not in the business school. However, I’d like to pursue a career in management consulting. Will that hurt me? What can I do?

The short answer: yes, it will hurt.

The longer answer: it will hurt because the student recruiting pool will be much deeper. You’ll be up against students that have years of business classes under their belt, with prior internships and part-time jobs in finance, consulting, and other business areas.

To compensate, there are a few things you should do:

-Join a couple of the biggest, most prestigious business-focused clubs at your school. I know for a fact that Berkeley has many of these. This will help you build a student and professional network, and acclimate you to the recruiting process and its components (eg, resumes, interviews, etc) at an early stage.

-Start gaining internship and part-time business experience during school. Find these through on-campus recruiting, online job directories, family contacts, and any other sources you can dig-up.

2. My biggest concern is that management consulting firms don’t recruit at my school. What can I do to compensate for this fact?

I covered non-target recruiting in a previous post. The broad points are:

-Have a very strong GPA – I’d recommend at least a 3.8 if you’re to stand-out from a non-target school
-Have prior consulting experience or lots of appropriate business experience (eg, corporate development, finance, product marketing and product management). The more internships, the better
-Focus on networking with school alumni as early as you can. This is your best shot since alumni will be inclined to recruit from their alma mater. Conduct informational interviews, meet up for coffee, do whatever it takes to build that relationship

3. I’m getting my MBA right now, and unfortunately, it’s not one of the Top 10 schools. I feel like this gives me a very slim chance of working for a MckBain Group, as you call them. What can I do during school that will make me stand out?

While GPA is important, it’s somewhat less important during your MBA. The key here will be the quality and quantity of work experience that you’ve accumulated prior to your MBA and during the summer between your first and second year. Unfortunately, much of this can no longer be changed.

I’d focus on a few things:

Start a consulting club at your MBA program if one doesn’t exist already. This will help you gain practical consulting experience. Through hosting socials, speaker panels, and training sessions with area consulting firms, you’ll also build a network of consultants which will come in handy during recruiting.

-Many professors have part-time consulting gigs or prior consulting experience. I’d take their classes, perform extremely well, and build a relationship with them. They will carry a lot of sway and may plug you into their professional networks

4. As a Masters student, how much would an entry level associate position make (a range would be fine)? Also, do most consulting firms start Masters students at an associate level or something else like an analyst? If it’s an analyst, how long do you have to work for to become an associate?

Most Masters students at the top consulting firms will start out at the same position as a graduating senior. At McKinsey, this is a business analyst role (BA). You can find current consulting salary figures here.

Generally, you’re expected to work 2-3 years before being promoted to the next level, whether that is associate, senior consultant, or some other comparable title.


1. It would be great to hear your comments on working at Google and why you decided to go to McKinsey and then “back” into entrepreneurship.

Happy to share. I spent approximately 6 month at Google working in a group that focused on analytics and support for AdWords, AdSense, and Blogger. In particular, I was heavily involved in their clickspam team attempting to identify, monitor, and address clickspam issues across those products.

While Google was a great place to work – it often felt like being in college again – the role did not offer an attractive upward trajectory or a broad set of business skills. These are 2 of the biggest attractions of management consulting.

McKinsey offered both, plus the opportunity to work in NYC. That’s why I joined.

I eventually left McKinsey because I’d always been deeply passionate about consumer technology and entrepreneurship, and I’d reached a point where there were diminishing returns (at least in the short-term) to the time and effort required.

2. When will you be releasing the Recruiting Toolkit? You’ve talked about it for months!

Great question. It has been in development for some time now, and in all honesty I’ve taken my eyes off the goal in the past few weeks. While I can’t fully divulge, I’ve been working on a few projects that are taking up a considerable amount of my time.

However, I publicly promise that the Recruiting Toolkit (with a current database of contacts to 100+ consulting firms, plus a networking guide and networking materials), will be out before the end of May.

In the meantime, I’m also collaborating with the Inquisitor on related products, so stay tuned for more!

3. You don’t update your Twitter very much. Why?

It’s a great observation. I initially used Twitter heavily when I started it as a purely personal account. After several weeks, I began to lose interest and to question the distinctive value of Twitter over Facebook status updates (where I can reach a much larger, and more closely affiliated, audience).

Upon morphing @kgao into a Management Consulted-focused account, I figured it’d be a great way to share news related to consulting and recruiting. I simply haven’t put enough effort into finding valuable content. If anyone digs up consulting-related info that they think would be useful for a broader audience, please let me know! Til then, I’m still figuring out the optimal way to integrate Twitter here.

Do you have a question about management consulting, recruiting for jobs, or anything else related to the site? Contact me and I’ll feature your question here with an in-depth response. Anonymity guaranteed.

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Filed Under: management consulting