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Published : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016 4:20 PM
What does it take to become an executive in the consulting industry? Newly released data from almost half a million professional networking profiles shows that, over the course of twenty years (from 1990 to 2010, based on this list), only 14% reach this milestone of career success: becoming a VP, CXO, or partner of a firm with over 200 employees.
By looking at both, “observable and inferred traits,” from LinkedIn member profiles - including educational background, gender, work experience, and career transitions – a research team for the professional networking site has produced some insights into what it might take to reach this defining milestone of executive career success.
One aspect, in particular, stood out to the researchers: The benefits of an MBA in the context of careers in consulting. This is just as well given that consulting is on the radar of 46% of MBA applicants, making it the most popular post-MBA target industry worldwide, according to a 2015 survey conducted by QS. So, what does it take to rise to the top in the consulting industry?
An overwhelming 94% of prospective MBAs surveyed by QS in 2015 were considering a career change, in light of the qualification’s renowned ability to help people switch industries. However, changing industries often increases the learning curve and can make it more difficult to move up the corporate ladder – while sticking to one industry was found to increases one’s chances of success slightly during an MBA career. Interestingly, the same is not true for switching functions within the same industry.
“For those of you who want to become an executive…work across as many job functions as possible," Guy Berger, economist at LinkedIn, explains in his summary of the findings. This is because, on average, each new job function over the course of an MBA career is worth an equivalent of three years of work experience. It appears that exposure to different workflows leads to a kind of well-rounded understanding that is useful for those who aspire to be leaders of an organization. Having worked in two functions (rather than just one) in a new industry can increase probability of such success by as much as 8 percentage points.
According to QS’s most recent jobs and salaries report, the five functional areas in which MBAs are most in demand are finance, strategic planning, marketing, general management and consulting. MBAs pining for that executive spot in the consulting industry might therefore want to consider these popularly sought-after roles for opportunities to expand their skillsets and obtain broader knowledge of business operations.
According to the QS Applicant Survey 2015, the average MBA student globally is 28 years old and often has less than four years of work experience, some way shy of what is usually required of leading executives in the consulting industry. To close this gap faster – and acquire the skills essential for these top positions more quickly – pursuing an MBA may be a big chunk of the answer for career success.
A top-ranked MBA program (such as one from big-name schools like Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and Booth, for instance) could hold as much value as 13 years of work experience, according to LinkedIn’s analysis, which refers to this particular benefit as a ‘net boost’. Even a lower-ranked MBA has valuable net boost for those holding the degree - five years’ worth of work experience, in the researchers’ estimation. Furthermore, the net boost of the MBA was the same for men and women. Even so, the researchers did identify a gender gap elsewhere: According to the data, a woman with the same profile as a man was found to need an average of three and a half more years of work experience to have the same probability of becoming an executive.
The MBA also provides more of a career boost than other non-MBA advanced degrees in this regard, which includes the master’s degree (typically in business and technology-related subject areas), according to the researchers. Despite this, they also observed that, over the years, the master’s program has been rising in popularity for consultants. (You can see a comparison in financial earnings post-graduation between the MBA and master’s degrees in QS’s inaugural MBA ROI report for North America.)
New York City in the US and, internationally, Mumbai and Singapore came out as the top MBA career destinations for chasing that dream executive position, when the LinkedIn researchers channelled their analysis on career trajectories.
Conversely, the US cities of Houston and Washington DC and international hubs, Sao Paolo and Madrid, had seemingly the most negative effects in terms of supplying a career boost. Of course, as the researchers note, “this could be in part due to the nature of the industries that are prevalent in these cities (for example, the financial services industry tends to be more hierarchical than the high-tech industry), as well as the higher concentration of company headquarters in those regions.” Indeed, regions with high forecasted growth and lower competition in strategic consulting (such as the US Midwest or emerging markets) - or firms that help service these regions – may hold more potential for those looking to rise more quickly to the top, post-MBA.
In short, one’s success and rise to become an executive in consulting is a result of a number of factors, some of which incumbents can control by way of the choices they make in their study and career plans. Among a number of factors identified by the researchers as helping increase probability of success, the MBA came out on top – and could increase probability of success by as much as 30 percentage points depending on the person’s background.
If you are considering an MBA, the QS World MBA Tour will be bring more than 40 business schools to India this November-December. Meet admissions directors to find out about the various MBA programs, attend presentations and admissions seminars that will help you make an informed decision. The tour will in India from 27th November to 8th December. Find out more information about the events on www.topmba.com/mbarendezvous
Visnja is a content specialist with a background in marketing and communications. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia and a master's in publishing from Simon Fraser University. Her interests include media & technology, personal growth, health & wellness, and innovation, topics that stay top of mind in her writing.
QS is the world's leading network for top careers and education. It links graduate, MBA and executive communities around the world, with recruiters and education providers, through websites, publications, selection services and events.
The company was founded by Wharton MBA, Nunzio Quacquarelli, in 1990. Fellow director Matt Symonds and the Paris team joined in 1994. Today QS operates globally from offices in Beijing, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington DC.
QS’ mission is to provide a lifetime of educational and career information to high-achievers.
It achieves this through the platforms of: publications, web services, events and software; all of which aim to support candidates at each stage of their career path, helping them reach leadership positions.
Our communities include: QS TopUniversities.com, QS TopMBA.com and QS Global Workplace.com.
The QS team of over 140 individuals from the four corners of the world represent the experience and goals of the achievers we aim to assist. They include internationally recognized experts in the higher and business education arena.
QS operates globally from offices in London, Paris, Stuttgart, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney, Washington DC, Boston, and Johannesburg.
The QS World MBA Tour is the world’s largest series of recruitment and information fairs for business school applicants. In 2015, over 70,000 MBA candidates registered to visit 80 cities in 54 countries. The QS World MBA Tour offers a unique opportunity to meet admissions officers of the world's most influential business schools at venues around the world. Now in its 21st year, the Tour will consist of over 200 events across 55 countries over five continents during 2016.