Should I Join a Large Consulting Firm or a Boutique?

Written by lewsauder

September 24, 2012

large consulting firm

Should I join a large consulting firm?

When I was in my last semester of college, I had interviewed with a lot of different companies and it all came down to three offers to decide among.  One was from an insurance company in central Illinois near my family where I grew up.  Another was from an insurance company in the Chicago area and still another from a small consulting firm, also in the Chicago area.

Consulting or not?

Each one had unique opportunities and it was a difficult decision.  I decided to talk it over with my parents one evening.  I sat down with them and described each offer and what interested me in each offer.

They listened to me and agreed that each one sounded interesting.  I’m sure that they could have been very selfish and steered me toward the offer that was close to home, but they gave me no answers.  They suggested I write down the pros and cons of each on paper to help me come up with a decision.

I left that night with an empty feeling.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought they would help me make my decision.  Instead, they made it clear that I needed to make the decision myself.

For more information, check out Getting In to Consulting

Large consulting firm or boutique?

Over the years, I’ve proven to myself over and over that I made the right decision to go into consulting.  I’ve also met people who had similar offers from large consulting firms and from specialized boutique firms.  They weren’t sure which was the right one to join.  Should you work for a large firm, put in 2-3 years to develop some wide-ranging experience and then move on to a firm that specializes in a specific industry?  Or do you go right to the small boutique firm to develop a specialty in your first couple of years, and then move on to a top-tier firm as a subject matter expert in one particular industry or technology?

The answer is that there is no standard formula for that career decision.  Each type of firm – and each individual firm for that matter – has its pros and cons, which vary by individual.  Something that you find interesting in a firm may sound like a prison sentence to someone else.

It’s your decision

After my visit with my parents, I followed the only advice they provided.  I went home and listed the pros and cons of each of my options.  The local insurance company would have allowed me to be close to my family, but it was the lowest paying of the three options.  The insurance company in the Chicago area was the highest paying offer, but I thought working for the same company in the same industry would bore me. Although the consulting firm wasn’t the highest paying offer, I felt it would be the most interesting and would end up paying off in the long run.

See my related post: 5 Things I Hate about Consulting

Each person needs to know enough about each of their options and themselves to decide which one provides the best fit for his or her interests and goals.

Which decision is right for you?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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