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The softer side of career paths

by Katharine de Vaal August 25, 2011

​We try very hard here at FreshMinds Talent to help candidates think laterally about how their core skills can be applied to both different types of roles, and across a range of sectors.  But what drives this desire to look at pastures new, and what does it say about some of the different career paths for the best and brightest? I have recently been struck by the number of candidates, particularly those who have started their careers in investment banking, who are largely driven to change industries by a desire for a more collegiate culture.  Almost invariably they are looking to the world of consulting and I would have to agree that it highlights one of the key and arguably most important differences between these two career choices.

We often hear about differences in pay and even working hours, although there is little doubt that both consultants and investment bankers work incredibly long hours, but less so about the softer side.  Consultancies tend to have very collegiate atmospheres where relationships with co-workers, managers and the firm are highly valued.  On the other hand, investment banks tend to be more hierarchical in nature, arguably more competitive and with less emphasis placed on networking across the business.  It is exactly this point that has come up time and again of late in my discussions with candidates who are keen to move out of banking and into consulting. And more often than not they are very willing to compromise, sometimes quite significantly, on salary.

Investment bankers wanting to jump ship to consultancies are not alone in their desire for a corporate culture that really fits.  It is also a major driver for consultants who have been swept into graduate intakes at the Big 4 and although enjoy the idea of consulting, find being a very small wheel in a very big cog is not at all what makes them happy.  The smaller boutique and niche consultancies have a lot to offer by way of attracting these candidates.  Trained and prepared by the big guys, they are more than welcome in the smaller more intimate consultancies.

It’s never easy to know exactly what you are walking into when you join a new company but my advice would be to do as much due diligence as possible on the softer side of things.  Salary and brand are certainly important but don’t underestimate those aspects that are slightly harder to measure.

Katharine de Vaal is a consultant on the FreshMinds Talent Select Team.

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