As the countdown to graduation becomes a savory pastime, the inevitable questions flow from loved ones and peers: “where are you going to land when you graduate?” The question of what field to enter wasn’t nearly as difficult for me to answer as it was for others, and little did those asking the question realize I’d be flying on regional jets most Monday mornings. By working as an intern for four semesters in the field, I knew I wanted to work in consulting.
Many industrial engineers have job offers on the table months before graduation, with starting salary and location being two compelling considerations for those being pursued. A consultant’s mind, though, has an innate ability to sort through all of the information at hand to determine the best course of action. Sure, I was concerned with location and whether or not I would be able to provide for myself in the way in which I wanted. However, other factors were even more important. Would I be challenged to do my best work? Was there potential to grow at the firm? What risks come with that growth? Finally, as we all worry, what will my work-life balance look like?
I decided to look at the puzzle even further, breaking down each of these categories by the size of the consulting firms I was considering. My professional experience in school was with a smaller, niche firm and I was undoubtedly aware of the advantages of working there. Being employed with a smaller company allows one to work on engagements that may otherwise not be available at a large firm until gathering many years of experience. If I had a question or concern, I was on the phone with a director or co-worker who readily took my call to assist. On the other hand, I felt the chances of getting exposure to a balanced range of client engagements may be more limited at a boutique firm. This can be seen as a positive or negative, as many recent graduates are unsure of their interests, while others have their career mapped out before turning the tassels.
The differences continue, though. Large consulting firms are globally known for an ability to train their talent thoroughly and repeatedly, while some smaller firms struggle to make the same investment in their workforce. This can be offset by smaller firms compensating with more on-site training.
Finally, the all-important question of work-life balance surfaces. Many consultants lie at different ends of the spectrum on this issue. In consulting, clients trust a firm’s ability to serve their needs in a time sensitive manner; otherwise, the company would attempt to deal with the issue internally. Employees have different obligations outside of work, making it nearly impossible for some to serve their professional and personal needs simultaneously. With that in mind, being employed as a consultant is not for everyone. Regardless of the size of firm, employees must consider their personal circumstances to decide where they will be happiest.
As evidenced above, there are advantages and disadvantages to working for either type of firm. I am a true believer that West Monroe provides the best opportunity for me while minimizing any preconceived downfall of consulting. Employees are consistently leading Knowledge Transfer Sessions where peers can gain insight into topics that interest them. Moreover, it was immediately evident that we consider our co-workers family. Whether working together into the early morning for a project deadline or enjoying each other’s company at a 4 o’clock Rocks, there is rarely a dull moment. Our compelling culture is further displayed through our 1+1+1 program where we demonstrate a responsibility to give back to the community and our Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which is annually lauded as a reason employees feel in tuned with the firm’s values and goals.
And while these benefits and programs are terrific, West Monroe’s people-first attitude is what sets it apart for me. There is never a shortage of challenges to tackle; but being a company with a large firm’s resources, a small firm’s culture, and employees who strive to be great, our opportunities are endless.