Why graduates are turning down top consultancy jobs for start-ups

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​Why do top graduates turn down jobs at large strategy consultancies to work for start-ups?

BCG, McKinsey, Roland Berger… These are the names top graduates from the '00s were ready to get tattooed onto their arms if it would help them. This is not true anymore.

Let’s try to explain why top graduates are turning down these golden names for Blablacar and Stripe... There are three main reasons:

  • They wanted cash. They now want cash and stocks
  • Loyalty is no longer so powerful
  • Consultancies are getting disrupted themselves

In the golden age of consultancy, top graduates considered the salary as one of the most important factors. Even if the interest in money hasn’t changed that much in the past few years, the nature of expectations has evolved.

Nowadays, a top graduate is ready to turn down a large cash package for a smaller one if they like the job better, and most of all, if there's the opportunity to access stock options or a share incentive plan. It seems that being quite wealthy at 25 is not as cool as being very rich at 35, at exit.

For developers or top tech talents, the question of cash is not even on their radar. This is because the average salary of a junior web developer in the Valley is already twice that of a junior associate at McKinsey.

Our parents used to spend their whole professional lives in one to three companies. And loyalty towards a company was as important as towards a companion. That’s not true anymore. Today an employee will stay an average three years rather than 10.

When you look at consultancy, it’s easy to identify two paths:

  • The short but intense love story: two years to work hard, train hard, learn a lot and then move to the client or start your own company.
  • The life long marriage, only for a happy few: 15 years to become a partner and then 15 years to stay partner. That's 30 years of very hard work.

Now top graduates seem to have in common an insatiable curiosity and a strong desire to move to another city every five years. None of these are really consistent with the two paths offered by consultancy.

Of course start-ups also aim for low employee turnover. But they usually also give faster ways up, out, right and left.

Last but not least, even without considering the job description, the salary or any other rational aspect of a professional choice, top grads are not admiring consultants or consultancy firms the way they used to.

Why? Perhaps because today’s entrepreneurs seem more attractive than the CEOs of multinational firms or the partners of large consultancy firms.

Or maybe it's because consultancies are being disrupted themselves, with more and more data-hungry start-ups coming into their field to turn around the business models of consultancy firms.

Antoine Baschiera is CEO of Early Metrics

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