- 2014 Top of Minds Executive Search
- 2010 Recruiter, The Boston Consulting Group
Imke Peters joined Top of Minds Executive Search in 2014 and she guides management and strategy consultants in their Consulting Exit. Before this, she worked as Campus Recruiter for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
You started as Campus Recruiter at BCG.
“Yes, BCG is a very pleasant place to work. It’s professional; you’re surrounded by a lot of intelligent, young and driven people. For me, it was the perfect place to start.”
What came next?
“I’ve been working for Top of Minds since April 2014. Previously, I provided guidance for a lot of people transitioning into consulting, I did however also notice consultants leaving at some point. It was fascinating to see that at any level within consulting people made the switch to other great careers and what intrigued me was the great diversity in sectors to which they made the switch. At BCG it was of course impossible for me to pursue this any further, so I started looking elsewhere – this is how I found Top of Minds.”
How do you like it?
“After I had made my decision and told people I was joining Top of Minds, I got a lot of positive reactions. Consultants told me they went for a cup of coffee and a chat at Top of Minds, not necessarily to immediately look for a career switch, but just to see what’s possible after consulting. After hearing this, I knew I made the right decision. Top of Minds is a place consultants go to for advice, apart from the job opportunities listed on the website. The personal connection with candidates and focus on the long-term are very important to me. We help candidates formulate their career strategy.”
Have you found out why consultants make their exit?
“For consultants, their first three years come with a steep learning curve. After five or six years, you carry final responsibility for the entire project instead of just a single part of it. You maintain contact with the client concerning the project’s progress, you report to the partners and you are responsible for the development of your team. The 60-hour workweek is the rule rather than an exception and the pressure is considerable. On top of all this, you have your personal life to consider; most candidates in this phase of their career I speak with are in their late twenties or early thirties and are thinking about starting a family. I can relate to the fact you’re considering your professional development as well as the desired work/life balance at this point.”
These are mostly external factors, do they still enjoy the work?
“They do, what I hear from the consultants I speak with however, is a certain frustration they experience with their lack of impact. They want to have a more active role. They want to see how their advice is being implemented and what its effects are.”
Consultants often get their MBA, right?
“An MBA is a great personal experience, it is however not necessarily essential for your career. Especially when you also have a year of consulting under your belt. I never had a client who insisted on a candidate with an MBA on their resume. Of course it’s a great experience: a year abroad, inspiring classes, traveling and building an international network. It does however also keep you in consulting for longer, because an MBA gives you the golden handcuffs.”
What is your role in that process?
“Most consultants are happy where they are for their first three years. They want to gain as much experience as possible. After two years, the first questions start coming: what do I like, what else is out there, should I go for an MBA? Usually this is the moment we speak for the first time and afterwards we maintain regular contact. We are involved early on and this is a good thing. I know a few consultants who even take a moment of reflection once or twice a year; where am I now, do I still enjoy it, have I gained enough experience? Oftentimes we meet for coffee or speak over the phone. This allows me to stay up to date with all their developments and know exactly when and how I can help them best.”
And you do this together with Roland Vetten.
“Correct. We make a good team. I mainly work with the consultants who have anywhere between one and six years of experience and he handles the more senior positions we have on file. We serve the market up till partner-level and we maintain excellent relationships with consultants at BCG, McKinsey & Company, Roland Berger, Bain & Company, Strategy&, OC&C, Accenture, Deloitte and KPMG.”
What is the best course of action for a consulting exit?
“I would always advise companies who want to hire a consultant to do so in a position known as a bridging role or a ‘landing spot’. This is a function comparable to what consultants are used to. Examples would be in Business Development or Corporate Strategy; a department with a large data component, while they build a network within the organization. This is how you allow someone in that role to make a difference.”
Are there any downsides?
“Definitely. It’s a completely different environment, and it takes some time to get used to. Listen, you won’t find more intelligent people teamed together anywhere as you will in consulting. Consultants are used to working in a fast-paced, high level of quality environment. In many places this is different, so this takes time to get used to.”
If I wasn’t sure whether or not to make an Exit, what would you advise me?
“Speak with as many people as possible. For example, after having met with a consultant I usually send some interviews form our Exit Guide or old profiles for vacancies. This allows them to read up on what all is possible. This usually helps them in their orientation process but it also stays in the back of their minds. The moment when you actually consider a serious step, I would advise you to speak to people who’ve gone through a consulting Exit before. This is something we can help you with as well.”