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What does the GMAT / MBA have to do with a Career in Management Consulting / Investment Banking?


Many of you take the GMAT because you want to get your MBA.

There are lots of places you can take your career, but today we will take a look at the two most popular areas: management consulting and investment banking. Assuming you are currently in another industry and want to break into these industries, read on.

There are basically two ideal times to get into these industries–it’s just the way the system works. Obviously there are exceptions, but the majority of people get into these industries via school recruiting at:
1) target undergrad programs
2) target Bschool programs

Let’s take a look at these two options

Option #1: Get in via top undergraduate school recruiting.

This is how I entered the management consulting industry with Booz & Company. Most top consulting firms with an “up-or-out” policy will want consultants from undergrad to stay for 2 or 3 years and then make a career decision: either you go get an MBA and come back as an Associate or you find something else to do. So even if you are in the management consulting industry or are on track to getting into the field from undergrad, you will eventually find yourself at a fork road deciding to MBA or not to MBA.

Talk with your company to find out if an MBA is required for upward mobility. Most management consulting and investment banking firms require it, although a few do not.

Getting an MBA is a deep decision that requires a lot of self-preparation and self-reflection that extends beyond the scope of this article. But if it is even remotely within your potential career plan within the next 5 years, it might be a good idea to get your GMAT exam out of the way as the exam score is valid for up to 5 years.

Up to 5 years.

That’s a lot of time. Say you just graduated and are starting your first job.

If you take your GMAT now, then by the end of your 2 or 3 years at your current job, you will have already completed the first major step in the MBA application process.

Trust me, the GMAT is the last thing you want to think about at the end of your 3 years as you contemplate on an MBA and have all kinds of extracurricular, social, work, and life issues to deal with.

Action Items for Option #1: Get in via top undergraduate school recruiting.

Get some relevant internship experience and develop a good story showing your interest in management consulting or investment banking.
Get your offer and start learning as much as you can. Find out your firm’s policy on promotions. Some firms require the MBA to move up, others do not.
If your firm requires MBA for promotion, then take your GMAT now to get it out of the way, and then apply to MBA sometime in the next 5 years, depending on your career status.

Option #2: Business School Recruiting

A few pros with this option include entering the management consulting firm at a higher salary and generally more responsibility. If you come from another background (IT, engineering, retail, etc), then you’ll need to do the MBA route in order to have access to these recruiting channels.

Is it possible to get in directly to management consulting without doing the MBA route? Sure. But it’s definitely not as common.

With business school, not only do you have access to management consulting recruiting programs, but you’ll also have access to a variety of other career channels including investment banking, corporate business development, etc.

But be careful! Do NOT assume that getting a top MBA automatically = getting into a top investment bank or management consulting firm. Whatever your career goals are, you should definitely do your research on them NOW. Even if you decided to do the MBA, don’t just sit there and wait for the offers to come to you.

If you want to get into real estate, then call up your school’s alumni contacts and tell them you are about to attend ABC business school and want some career advice. Set up an informational interview/phone call to get their perspective.

Remember, the MBA is a great platform to be on–it increases your personal branding and opens the doors for networking. However, you still need to JUMP off the platform and end up where you want to be! Do NOT assume the MBA is a magic bullet like most people assume.

Action Items for Option #2: Business School Recruiting

Learn about your industry NOW–google it, reach out to your network
Take your GMAT Now (Or you when you are relatively less busy)
Sometime in the next 5 years, get into a good MBA program that attracts the recruiters you want

Now, depending on your career situation, you may be in option #1 or option #2.

So what do options #1 and #2 have in common?

Both options involve taking the GMAT exam at some point.

With business school, the GMAT is required at most top schools. And even if you get into the industry through your undergrad, you still might find yourself taking the GMAT.

Bottom line: Whether you are currently in management consulting or investment banking, you MIGHT find yourself in a situation where you’ll need an MBA to be where you want to be.

If this is the case, then I recommend you get the GMAT out of the way now so you can focus on the other aspects of your career going forward.

Again, make sure you do not let the GMAT or MBA get in the way of your target career. Learn as much about your target industry as you can and use the MBA to help position (not guarantee) yourself for opportunities.

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