Seeking help: is MiM the right choice?

Application & Admission
  • Posted by tevnhk2 on 07/27/12 6:48pm

    Hi there,

    I would like to get into strategy consulting but I am worried about my relatively low undergrad GPA and lack of work experience/internship. I thought MiM at a target school could be a good fix but I have other options and would like your opinion on it.

    Goal:

    • Strategy Consulting in an English speaking country
    • or work in a corporate strategy department

    My Profile:

    • GCE A Levels: 6As
    • Undergrad: Respected North American university, GPA 3.5
    • Master: (Economics) A target school down under, so far first class honours average (~GPA 3.8-4)
    • Work experience/internship: None
    • Extracurricular activities: nothing stellar but definitely much more than an average student.
    • GMAT: 710 (I did it without any prior preparation. With a bit of preparation and focus I should be able to score at least 20 points higher and I’d be happy to retake it if that could compensate for my low undergrad GPA and lack of work experience)
    • Speak 4 languages

    Worries:

    • Cannot legally work down under, thus being in a target school does not help much
    • Target school status not quite transferrable in the UK
    • Relatively low undergrad GPA (I believe they target a consistent 3.7+)
    • No work experience, no brand names.

    Options:

    • Phd in Economics: will take just another 3 years. Personally I enjoy what I am doing, at least in the short term, and wouldn’t mind going down this route.
    • MiM: due to differences in academic calendar, this will take 1 year and 9 months, so not that far off the length of the PhD. I can undertake this in the UK and that should give me greater access to the job market there.

    Which school to apply to for MiM?
    I have done quite a bit of research based on where top consulting firms hire from and I am hoping to apply to the following:

    Imperial: Strategy
    LSE: Management and Strategy
    LBS: MiM
    Advanced Masters:
    HEC: Strategy
    ESSEC: Strategy
    ESCP: Strategy

    Questions:

    • Opinions regarding PhD vs MiM?
    • Is MiM a reasonable investment of time and money given my current profile?
    • Does anyone know much about these programmes?
    • Is my list of programmes reasonable given my profile?

    Thank you very much for your time and I would really appreciate your insight.

    • Posted by Thomas Graf on 07/28/12 2:04pm

      Hi there,

      thank you for your questions. Let's de-construct them a bit and treat them separately.

      1. PhD vs MIM
      In my opinion, you should only do a PhD if you aim at a career in academia, as a fulltme professor. Ironically I am an exception as I am doing a PhD besides my work; however, I think I have a very good overview on this area and my clear message is: If you want to work as professor at a university for the next years, go for a PhD. If your wish is strategic consulting and you look for means to get in there - forget the PhD.

      2. Your current job options
      You should first assess your current job options. From the outside and as far as I can evaluate your CV, you have good and even very good records (a GMAT of 710 without preparation... what the hell are you talking about? WIth this result you have an Ivy league score already....). Now, the question is: Do you need a dress-up of your CV to reach your career goals, that is to get a job in consulting? Try to find this out first!

      • You can talk to HR departments of consulting firms to get a first feedback.
      • You can engage in networking in anything that has to do with strategic consulting (such as associations, student clubs with alumni etc.) and ask them for feedback about your chances in consulting on your current level.
      • You can even apply for consulting firms and wait for their feedback.

        Keep in mind that there are different types of consulting firms, e.g. smaller ones and bigger ones, industry-specific or general ones, inhouse consulting and external consulting firms. Try to get an overview on the field, e.g. by reading books about it. Maybe you have career options in some types of firms and not in others. Maybe you decide to start your career now in one of them, work some years, gain experience, do an MBA in some years, and change to a bigger one if you still want that then. Maybe you need to do an internship first or a trainee program to get in.

      3. Dressing up your CV
      If you have done step 2 and are sure that you need an additional education - then I would think about a Master; and yes, a Master in Management (MIM) my be a good idea. But of course, there are more than 400 MIM programs worldwide and there are differences. In your specific situation I would screen the programs according to three criteria:

      • Network Focus: Do consulting firms come to campus for recruitment and do graduates find a job in consultancy? You can get this information from the school's career office.
      • Nationality Focus: Does your school have experience with placing graduates from your nationality? E.g., if you are from India and the school has never placed an Indian student at a company... not ideal...
      • Reputation Focus: Contact some of your favorite employers and ask them if they know the school or if they even recruit there. If you want to work for McKinsey and choose a program that McKinsey does not like... not ideal...

      Overall, there are no general answers. A Master can be a waste of resources or push your career or something in between. It depends on the specific situation. Your profile is good and a Master would fit well into it. Which career impact it has, however, depends.

      One final comment: Most graduates start their career in the country of where they studied. So maybe it would make sense to choose a school in a country where you have no legal obstacles in terms of working.

      I think that for the moment you have a lot of new stuff to think about - stuff that will help you solve some of your questions and get a better sense of what you want to do.

      Best wishes
      Thomas

    • Posted by tevnhk2 on 07/28/12 6:05pm

      Thank you so much for your response Thomas, that's most helpful. I am in fact British, which is the reason why I am looking to relocate as I will be able to apply for jobs without restrictions. In terms of GMAT I was very lucky, I took the GRE a while back and didn't do too well but with the GMAT it felt very natural because the questions they asked were pretty much the way I think/read/approach things, so it's kind of a coincidence. As for a PhD, I do enjoy what I am researching and I do not mind doing it in the short term at all, and it is not completely irrelevant as I specialise in strategy and decision theories (Economics). I am more worried about the job prospect after as I know that not many firms entertain the idea of hiring PhDs and I do not do empirical (resources, health, labour, etc) or Macro stuff, which is what most economists do.

      Most consulting firms (even the big ones) tend to be relatively small and only have 1 or 2 HR persons, and if you don't get interviewed, you don't get any feedback. So it will be hard to ask anyone in general. I have been to multiple networking events/information sessions and they just tell everyone to apply, so even someone with a third class honour was told to apply to McKinsey knowing that he did not have a chance. (I suppose they have to choose their words carefully) I applied a few months ago and was mostly rejected (If you look at my profile without my master GPA and the GMAT score it does look rather average). Step 2 could be a difficult process after all. I have already done a lot of research and I know that I require some brand names on my CV for it to stand out and get through the first round screening, but at my current level it is unlikely that top firms would want me around pouring them coffee, they prefer ambitious undergraduates for that. In terms of working for a few years and then get an MBA to get into consulting, that is going to be much harder. Firstly, consulting firms recruit mostly from top MBA programmes, and top MBA programmes typically recruit students from consultancies, investment banks, top firms, etc. If I get a job that's short of stellar (which is likely), it will be hard to take the topMBA to consulting route; whereas if I do consulting now, a top MBA could be a good springboard for other interesting careers.

      So basically my CV a few months ago was not good enough - it requires an upgrade. My master GPA and GMAT score could be that upgrade, whether it is enough or not it is unclear. At this stage, an internship is hard to get as it's mostly reserved for penultimate undergrad students and my holidays do not coincide with the internship dates in the UK. Working during the semester is not necessarily wise as I already spend 80 hours a week studying/playing for orchestras, and I can't afford to sacrifice my current GPA. Which means the only upgrade I need, if I require any, would be to get a more relevant education at a more respected university/business school. This is why I am only looking at top programmes that have a history of placing students in strategy consulting (LSE, HEC, ESSEC and LBS), a strong industry connection and a strong group of students that could prove helpful in the future. Otherwise it probably won't be much of an upgrade and will not be worth the amount of money and time that I will have to spend. If that's the case, I might well start looking for a lower profile job with my current master (which is not a bad one at all) or finish my PhD and not pursue that dream for now.

      Thanks so much again for your help, I really, really appreciate it!

      • Posted by Thomas Graf on 07/28/12 10:14pm

        Hi again,

        some more thoughts. I am sure that all programs from your list are great as they all come from renowned institutions. I noticed, however, that the Imperial College Master is the only one that requires a first degree in a busines-related area.

        I guess you have a first degree in a business area. Hence, the Imperial Master could be better suited for you just by the fact that you avoid redundant introductory classes for people without a business background.

        A second thought that comes to my mind: Look for in-company projects, particularly when you have doubts about your chances to find a job in consulting. The ESSEC Master, for instance, seems to have a 4 to 6 months project and maybe some of the other have something similar. Such a project may help you get a job later on directly at the firm. I would also ask the admissions office which firms offer these projects and how often students started their career in their project company.

        Best wishes
        Thomas

        • Posted by tevnhk2 on 07/29/12 12:40pm

          Again, thank you very much for your reply. I assumed that a bachelor and master in economics count as a "degree in business-related subject (including courses in micro and macro)" but I will have to ask them about the precise requirements. Also, excellent point there about in-company project, even if it does not lead to eventual employment at that firm, it would solve my problem of "lack of brand name" and that Master could therefore provide my CV with a double upgrade (in terms of both education/school and internship).

          Thanks again!