Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘Consulting Careers’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

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Unveiling the Top-25 Most Prestigious IT Consulting Firms

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As explained last week, our primary IT consulting ranking this year is a composite score that takes into account both quality of life rankings (as determined by a firm’s own consultants’ votes) and prestige rankings (or, outsiders’ rankings of consulting firms other than their own). Both sides of the equation are critical to choosing an ideal employer. But when selecting an employer, a good first impression of the company is to gauge how outsiders view its reputation in the industry. This is why the Vault prestige ranking is such an integral tool for job seekers.

Respondents to this year’s Vault IT Consulting Survey were asked to rate each consulting firm in the survey on a scale from 1 to 10 based on prestige, with 10 being the most prestigious. Consultants were unable to rate their own firm, and they were asked to rate only those firms with which they were familiar. Vault collected the survey results and averaged the score for each firm. The firms were then ranked, with the highest score being No. 1, down to No. 25. Remember that Vault’s top-25 most prestigious IT consulting firms are chosen by practicing consultants at top consulting firms. Vault does not choose or influence these rankings. The rankings measure perceived prestige (as determined by consulting professionals) and not revenue, size or lifestyle.

All in all, our prestige list provides a comprehensive roadmap of who’s who in the IT consulting industry—ranging from big tech consulting shops to smaller, niche firms, and spanning a vast swath of expertise. Without further ado, check out this year’s top-25 most prestigious IT consulting firms!

Oh, and stay tuned next Tuesday for our release of specific practice area rankings!

Written by A.A. Somebody

October 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

10 Frightening Realities of the Post-Recession Economy

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The recession ended in June 2009. Did you notice? Chances are you probably didn’t—especially if you’ve been looking for a job. The bad news: things aren’t likely to get much better any time soon; current economic growth rates mean the unemployment rate will do well to drop by much more than a single percentage point by the end of 2011.

All of that is likely to continue reshaping the employment market, and will affect everything from your ability to conduct a salary negotiation to the pace at which you can expect to climb the ladder—or even get on it in the first place.

So what’s a job seeker to do? Vault’s industry and career experts put their heads together and identified a number of key trends that will affect careerists over both the short and medium term.

1. Doing more with less

In season five of the brilliant HBO series “The Wire,” the tight-belted, high-waisted head of the fictionalized Baltimore Sun declares, upon announcing a paper-wide job cut, that “we will simply have to do more with less.” It’s a quote that could serve as a template of companies both large and small in the post-recession era. After sacking thousands of employees in order to cuts costs, pummeling employee morale in the process, managers focusing on the bottom line will be hesitant to hire more bodies in order to explore more avenues of business, even when profits begin to pick up. Instead, they’ll simply turn to their existing employees, put a cool hand on their shoulders, smile, and ask them to take on increased duties.

2. Held back by housing

The recession may have ended in June 2009, but a little over a year later, The National Association of Realtors reported sales of previously occupied homes plummeted 27 percent in July 2010, the worst showing in 15 years. So, despite the good news, unemployed job seekers struggling to pay their mortgage still have fewer options for their job search. For them, it’s either find a job where they live or accept a job elsewhere, relocate and add on the extra expense of paying rent while they wait for their home to sell.

3. Choose your education carefully

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that applications to school surge during a recession. There are no jobs, so why not get more training and make yourself a better candidate when there are jobs? Makes sense, right? In the past two years, prospective students applied to graduate schools in droves; particularly to law, business and health services degrees. While health care is one of the fastest growing industries and will likely be able to handle the influx of new graduates, the law, finance and consulting industries will not. It’s unlikely, however, that this will deter prospective students from applying this fall—and next.

4. Age diversity

An aging workforce is going to continue to be a big challenge for employers, who increasingly prefer to cut costs on training for new positions. Compounding this is the fact that people are delaying retirement because of the recession. While gender and racial discrimination will remain critical concerns, age diversity presents a new challenge for the corporate world.

5. The finance industry

Don’t let the National Bureau of Economic Research fool you. Although GDP might have hit bottom more than a year ago, and we’re technically in an expanding economy, the US still looks very recession-like to the record numbers of men and women out of work, as well as to those still employed. And nowhere does the immediate outlook worse than in finance.

Hedge funds are currently experiencing their worse year on record, collectively growing assets by a mere 1.7 percent thus far in 2010; and Merrill Lynch recently estimated that as many as 20 percent of hedge funds could shutter by the first quarter 2011. Meanwhile, following deep job cuts in 2008, investment banks started to hire again in 2009. But now with markets ice cold—and predicted to stay that way at least until 2011—firms might be significantly cutting back again. Bank of America, for one, is in the midst of 1a large job cut, reportedly sacking 5 percent of its capital markets staff, and some analysts believe that other banks, afraid of the cooling markets, if not a double dip, might not be too far behind.

6. The legal sector

In the legal sector, 2009 saw a dramatic drop in hiring—a trend that has continued into 2010, with entry-level hiring not likely to return to pre-recession levels any time soon. Law firms have adopted a variety of solutions to maintain a smaller, more efficient workforce. Many of these solutions will likely survive beyond the recession, and affect law firm infrastructure, professional development, compensation and recruitment.

In addition to cost-cutting moves like the consolidation and relocation of back-office functions, other measures include a shift from traditional lock-step salary structures toward performance-based compensation systems. Many firms now offer alternative, non-partnership career tracks or have established apprenticeships for new lawyers. On the recruiting side, behavioral interviewing techniques are gaining popularity as a means of identifying candidates who will, in the words of one law firm hiring partner, “be able to deliver client service on day one.”

7. More short term jobs

The recession might be over, but unemployment figures have remained the same. This has forced Americans to look at jobs differently, with many accepting temporary and part-time positions rather than holding out for full-time permanent work. That’s helped the underemployment rate to remain sky-high—it’s currently over 18 percent—and there are no signs of it changing anytime soon: retailers are expected to hire up to 650,000 temporary workers this holiday season.

Toys R Us is an example of a company that is going even further: it plans to open 350 temporary “Holiday Express” stores by early October, creating 1,000 temporary retail positions. Other temporary positions are expected to become available during the holiday season. But when those temporary positions end, the unemployment rate will go right back to where it was before they were created.

8. The IT consolidation trend

The initials “IT” and “M&A” already go together like cereal and milk. And with spending on hardware, software and IT services expected to hit $3.5 trillion next year, the major players in the field have lots of incentives to keep adding to their range of offerings. One way they’re doing that is by snapping up smaller firms. Recent examples include HP’s acquisition of 3Par, Intel’s purchase of McAfee and IBM’s takeover of Netezza. But while the rapid pace of consolidation might be a good thing for consumers, waves of tech professionals will likely be squeezed out of Silicon Valley just as quickly.

9. The importance of internships

Because of the shortage of jobs, landing an internship is going to be more important than ever. Despite increased competition, if you’re a college student or looking to break into a new field, they’re an integral part of your next career move.

Starting in high school, students need to cultivate paid or unpaid work experiences that build skills, character, work ethic and resume. Employers use internships to prescreen and hire talent. Your career currency comes down to the following equation: internship experience + skills. Even if only on a volunteer basis for a few hours per week—this is how you get your foot in the door and demonstrate your passion for your field of interest.

10. Negotiate a package, not a salary

While the recession has affected the number of jobs and the kind of compensation on offer, it hasn’t changed how you should approach salary negotiations. However, what you negotiate for might change. While salary increases, stock options and signing bonuses might be in shorter supply, there might be opportunities to for other types of compensation such as at-risk pay based on milestones achieved, paid time-off and a flexible work schedule.

You should value the entire package and quantify everything. How you do that is up to you. Your compensation number should factor in what is essential to you and what is non-essential. You could even give weights to the essential and the non-essential in determining the value of your offer. As an example signing bonus, relocation, 401k match, day care and base salary could get an 80 percent weight while the other 20 percent would fall under extra vacation, nicer title etc. At the end of the day, each person will be different on what they value and what they consider essential.
— The Staff of Vault.com

The Vault IT Consulting 25 is Here!

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This year, we’ve taken our consulting rankings a step further. Instead of simply listing out the top firms based on perceived prestige in the industry, we’ve gone out and asked consultants what matters most to them in choosing an employer. What they told us was that prestige alone is not a determining factor. Rather, the single most important issue when choosing a consulting firm is company culture (43 percent claimed that culture was most important!), followed by practice strength (14 percent), prestige (11 percent) and compensation (6 percent), among a few other options. We’ve taken this feedback and created a new Vault IT Consulting 25, showcasing the firms that are best to work for. This ranking was compiled using a weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care most about. (See below).

Don’t worry, we’ll still be releasing the all-important prestige rankings (check in next Tuesday for the big reveal!), and they do play a big role in the overall Vault IT Consulting 25 rankings. After all, a prestigious firm name puts a sheen on any resume, in addition to affording consultants access to a high caliber of clients and projects. That said, we believe that quality of life issues are at the core of a company’s appeal to job seekers. Let’s face it: In this post-recession era of recovery and growth, it’s a job seeker’s market, and job seekers are looking for a workplace that offers both prestige and an appealing lifestyle. Here’s the formula we used to compile this year’s rankings:

• 25 percent firm culture

• 25 percent work/life balance

• 20 percent compensation

• 20 percent prestige

• 5 percent overall business outlook

• 5 percent transparency

The scores for the first five categories are derived directly from the survey results; all categories except prestige are based on a firm’s own consultants’ feedback about their quality of life, whereas the prestige ranking is based on the perception of outside consultants. (Respondents were not allowed to rank their own firm in the prestige category.) The “transparency” category awards a 5 percent bonus to firms that distributed the survey to their consultants. Firms that did not distribute the survey internally received no points in this category. It is our view that, with increasing expectations of transparency and a free market for information, a company’s willingness to encourage employees to share their experiences externally correlates with a work culture where open feedback and self-criticism are valued—attributes that thousands of job seekers tell us are top priorities in searching for a new employer.

Stay tuned next week for the long-awaited prestige rankings!

The Vault IT Consulting 25 is here!

leave a comment »


This year, we’ve taken our consulting rankings a step further. Instead of simply listing out the top firms based on perceived prestige in the industry, we’ve gone out and asked consultants what matters most to them in choosing an employer. What they told us was that prestige alone is not a determining factor. Rather, the single most important issue when choosing a consulting firm is company culture (43 percent claimed that culture was most important!), followed by practice strength (14 percent), prestige (11 percent) and compensation (6 percent), among a few other options. We’ve taken this feedback and created a new Vault IT Consulting 25, showcasing the firms that are best to work for. This ranking was compiled using a weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care most about. (See below).

Don’t worry, we’ll still be releasing the all-important prestige rankings (check in next Tuesday for the big reveal!), and they do play a big role in the overall Vault IT Consulting 25 rankings. After all, a prestigious firm name puts a sheen on any resume, in addition to affording consultants access to a high caliber of clients and projects. That said, we believe that quality of life issues are at the core of a company’s appeal to job seekers. Let’s face it: In this post-recession era of recovery and growth, it’s a job seeker’s market, and job seekers are looking for a workplace that offers both prestige and an appealing lifestyle. Here’s the formula we used to compile this year’s rankings:

• 25 percent firm culture

• 25 percent work/life balance

• 20 percent compensation

• 20 percent prestige

• 5 percent overall business outlook

• 5 percent transparency

The scores for the first five categories are derived directly from the survey results; all categories except prestige are based on a firm’s own consultants’ feedback about their quality of life, whereas the prestige ranking is based on the perception of outside consultants. (Respondents were not allowed to rank their own firm in the prestige category.) The “transparency” category awards a 5 percent bonus to firms that distributed the survey to their consultants. Firms that did not distribute the survey internally received no points in this category. It is our view that, with increasing expectations of transparency and a free market for information, a company’s willingness to encourage employees to share their experiences externally correlates with a work culture where open feedback and self-criticism are valued—attributes that thousands of job seekers tell us are top priorities in searching for a new employer.

Stay tuned next week for the long-awaited prestige rankings!

Accenture to Spend $100 Million on Skills Training

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Is $100 million the new threshold for signaling you’re serious about making a difference? Recently, it was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledging that amount to the Newark school district. Now we learn that consulting giant Accenture will be spending 100 (very) big ones over the next three years on its Skills to Succeed program.

The goal of Accenture’s program seems pretty straightforward: the company wants to equip 250,000 people around the world with the “skills that enable them to participate in and contribute to the economy and society.” And to do it by 2015

A few examples of the type of work the Skills to Succeed program does—and will continue to do in order to meet its targets:

  • Building the skills of young entrepreneurs in Africa
  • Offering free skills training for the unemployed in Brazil
  • Training disadvantage young people in business process outsourcing and technology skills in India
  • Helping underprivileged students in the Philippines and Cambodia to develop IT skills
  • Training migrant groups in specialized technology skills in Spain
  • Helping disadvantaged young people to become entrepreneurs in the U.K.
  • Teaching business preparedness skills to students in community colleges and providing IT training for disadvantaged youth in the U.S.

In each of the endeavors, the company is working with partner organizations—some local and some international.

Now all we need are some jobs for that quarter-million people to fill!

MBA Specialization vs. General Business Skills: Should You Specialize in Sustainability?

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Recently, Vault’s own Aman Singh asked a really interesting question: “does CSR require generic business skills or an MBA in sustainability?” In other words, is it worth specializing in sustainability as an MBA or are you more likely to get a job in CSR if you really have those managerial skills down pat? Her answer revolved around another question (and so the endless questions begin!), “Well, what do you mean by ‘require’?”

Should you get an MBA in sustainability in business school?

The oddity [in the data] is that sustainability solutions like energy efficiency, LEED and HVAC require specialized knowledge and highly technical skill sets. Executives, however, seem to be placing a premium on more generic business skills such as increased knowledge and awareness of sustainability efforts, the ability to think systemically, the ability to understand complex legislation around sustainability, and financial analytic skills.

Basically, even though you need a very specific skill set in order to do good CSR work, companies esteem generic business skills instead. This contradiction led me to a whole slew of questions, with which I promptly started pestered my colleagues.

First, I went to Aman herself, to figure out what this means for MBA students who hope to find jobs in CSR. She explained it to me from the company’s perspective:

The reality of the current market is that an MBA is good for generic management skills, not specialization, when it comes to sustainability and CSR…. Companies say they don’t necessarily need someone who has done two years in-depth study on CSR guidelines and regulations. They have more value for someone who has managerial skills–someone who can lead departments and work sustainability into their role as an accountant, an analyst, etc. And unfortunately this is where the paradox remains: They like sustainability on the graduates’ resume, but they don’t want it to be the main focus. Even employers who started out looking for candidates with sustainability concentrations aren’t really looking for that as much. They want to talk about it and ensure corporate responsibility, but they don’t expect this dialogue from job candidates.

So, what if you still want to specialize in sustainability? How can you avoid getting pigeon-holed and weakening your job prospects?

Well, I think it depends on how you brand yourself. You can have the specialization, but you can also make sure your resume talks about more generic management skills and say, consulting or financing skills, depending on where you want to go with your MBA. The graduates I spoke to really emphasize all their CSR work on their resumes–they have a blog where they talk about CSR; they’re active on Twitter; they’re volunteering and doing some nonprofit work as well; their internship was focused on sustainability–so in the end, their resume is really a full page of sustainability credentials. And if the company does not want you to focus on that, it could work against you.

Last, but not least, I was curious about her predictions of the future. Do you think, I asked, that as the market rebounds, more of those pure CSR jobs will start to emerge, or do you think that people are going to get accustomed to this integration of CSR with other general business skills?

I think it’s going to be the latter. They’re going to say, “Come in as an analyst and do your job responsibly and remain ethical within the company’s values.” A lot of companies don’t even have CSR-focused departments; they understand that corporate responsibility is a cultural thing and not just the responsibility of one department, but they’re not quite sure how to make that happen.

Craft your resume around your MBA specialization to get the most 

job offersThen, I started in on Carolyn C. Wise, to get a better idea of whether or not it was worthwhile to specialize at all.

When it comes to specializing, it’s very much about what you’re going to do with it afterwards. You hire someone with an MBA rather than someone who got, for instance, an MA in Environmental Studies because you want those general management skills. You want someone who has taken finance classes, who is going to be really good as a manager, an accountant, a brand manager. But if you want them in a sustainability role or to create a sustainability strategic plan, you’ll want the sustainability skills as well.

The other thing I always say when it comes to MBA specializations is that you don’t want to close yourself off. One of the fears is that if you specialize in sports management or marketing or any of the other specialties offered by your business school, that you won’t be able to get other jobs. If you’re totally set on one type of job, then absolutely specialize–particularly if you worked in that industry before. For instance, if you worked in the business development department for an NBA team and your plan is to return to that team after you complete your MBA, then specializing in sports management makes a lot of sense for you. But if you are a career-changer, and you don’t know precisely where you want to go, specializations can sometimes hurt rather than help.

As it turns out, the institution from which you receive your MBA makes also makes a huge difference when it comes time to decide whether or not you want to specialize.

Job prospects and employment opportunities after your MBA very much depend on prestige. If you go to Harvard Business School, you have much more flexibility in the area in which you focus most of your electives. This applies for Columbia, Booth, Wharton, Tuck, Hass, all the top schools. If you’re going to a smaller or less prestigious or regional MBA program, then what electives you take, what grades you get, and how applicable the skills you learned in a specialization are will have much more impact after you graduate.

And finally, a bit of advice:

If you’re considering specializing and you’re a first-year student, you should definitely check out the professional and student clubs associated with that specialization. Talk to those MBA students, particularly the second-years, about what they studied, how they’re applying it, what jobs they’re looking at, and what the recruiting process is like for them. You should check out all the professional clubs of all of the specializations that you’re considering, because that will really give you a sense of what it means to specialize in that arena, and what the experience is going to be like when you’re looking for a job.

–Written by Madison Priest, Admit One</em