A new series for our Consulting Skills Hub - we’re bringing you first-hand experience and advice from people who have made the move out of big consultancies.
After graduating in 2010, Nick started his career at an American financial consultancy before moving to Accenture for two years. He then made the switch away from consulting in 2013 to pursue his interests in M&A, and joined the financial advisory firm, Spayne Lindsay & Co. We chatted to Nick about his career path and how he has developed his consulting skill set along the way…
So what prompted you to make the move away from a big consulting firm to your current role?
Working in a big firm wasn’t really for me. I wanted to get away from the bureaucratic culture and benefit from the increased responsibility afforded by a smaller firm, hence the decision to make the move.
My interest in M&A banking also had a lot to do with it - Accenture do have an M&A team, but it’s a small part of the business and consulting-focused, so I felt I would be better suited specialising in a smaller, more focused firm.
In what way do you feel that you’re using the consulting skills you’ve learnt at Accenture in your role now?
A key thing for me is the experience of working in a professional environment – knowing what to say and what not to say in meetings, and knowing when to shut up! I had also developed a level of commercial awareness, giving me a better understanding of how business works.
Working at Accenture also taught me a lot about how a larger firm operates. When I started working for a smaller company I could immediately see opportunities for improvement in terms of systems and processes, so was able to use the skills and expertise I’d developed to enhance those when I started.
Is networking another important skill that you’ve carried forward?
Absolutely, and given the nature of Spayne Lindsay, networking is more important early on, so you’re expected to meet people and build relationships as soon as possible. In our sector it’s relationships as well as expertise that drives business, hence the focus upon networking.
What have been the major challenges moving into your role now?
I’d say that there’s definitely less stability in my current role, due to the size of the business. It requires a somewhat entrepreneurial mind-set, but if you work hard and are successful then the rewards are there.
Being part of a smaller firm also means there is more responsibility early on. You get thrown in at the deep end sometimes and you have to work a lot of things out yourself. You often have to think on your feet and anticipate what your clients are looking for, but that’s great because you’re constantly learning.
Do you find with working in a smaller company that you’re forging longer term relationships internally?
It was great working on different projects with Accenture and constantly refreshing the work that you do, but not having those long term relationships with people in teams is definitely something that I was missing, and so it’s great to have that now.
Is that the same with client relationships?
Our client projects are similar in length to the strategy projects I worked on at Accenture. However, the exposure in a smaller firm is greater, so I’d say that you start building them earlier on, which helps you feel more integral to the company. The nature of our business also means that there’s often more scope to work with the same clients again, so building and maintaining those relationships can be both important and rewarding.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to make the switch from consulting to finance or industry, what would it be?
Speak to people in the industry. Try to network early on, and don’t underestimate how friendly and helpful people are. If you want to know more about something, ask someone for a coffee and a chat, its more than likely they’ll say yes!
If you could go back to when you first graduated, what would you do differently in terms of your career path?
When I was graduating I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so ended up taking a role that wasn’t really for me. Now I’m doing something that I know suits me best because I’ve worked for different organisations and figured out what it is that I really want to do. There’s no rush - I hear people more experienced than me saying that people of our generation expect to start in the right role and the right career from day one. Its true in a way, but the real world isn’t like that. You have to be ready to learn and adjust in order to find the right role for you.
Are you at a career crossroads and thinking of making the switch away from consulting? Drop us a line or give us a call on 020 7692 4300 and we’ll help you navigate your future career.