Breaking into a design consulting firm

Hello All,

Question: Will advanced degrees, but with limited experience, be enough for me to land my first job at a design consulting firm?. I have an MBA and will be done with my MFA in ID and MA in Human Factors in 2-years. I’m trying to transition away from the Banking industry, where I’ve spent 12-years analyzing companies and designing financial models and database applications. It was the design work that I’ve done in Banking that guided me towards ID and HF. However, the problem still remains, will my degrees and limited design experience be enough to get me into a design consulting firm?

Thanks, I really appreciate your feedback.

You definately don’t want to break into design firms, they have security and generally you will get arrested despite your exerience! :laughing:

Seriously though, no way to know unless you start contacting them. I’d find a few larger consultancies which may have room for people with your education among their ranks. What are your hard skills like (sketching/cad/model-making/etc.)? You sound overqualified / under-skilled for any entry level grunt positions. And with little real world experience to enter senior positions, it might be tough. I would try to get a few informational interviews to feel it out where you could fit and how you should sell yourself.

If you are on the west coast, the idsa national conference might be a good place to meet some people and have this conversation in a relaxed atmosphere.

it all hinges on your portfolio and what demonstrable value you can bring to the firm’s resource needs. Also, you might be compensated closer to your experience level vs your education level.

I agree that on paper your overqualified.
And you definitely need to post your portfolio here and get some feedback.
You’ll have to pay your dues wherever you land at first, starting at the bottom.
Just start cold calling, emailing your teaser - there’s a ton of work out there, a ton.

(Why don’t you consider teaching in the interim to prove your commitment)

Or work in business strategy for a design firm.

Your MBA would make you an ideal account manager or client services. From there you;ll be in the industry and get to know everyone.

I think a larger consultancy would be more receptive to a person with your background. Smaller firms usually need people who can hit the ground running with specific skills to get a particular project done within a tight deadline and budget. Smaller firms usually can’t or don’t have the luxury to support large strategy-type programs and don’t have resources or time to spend on big think tanks with multidisciplinary teams to mull over problems. They usually don’t have time to train people either and need someone who can bang out sketches and pump CAD quickly and efficiently. They’ll know pretty fast if you have the chops by reviewing your portfolio. I’d try to land an internship at a larger consultancy and learn from the job.

At least in my experience, degrees don’t mean that much to a consultancy, your ability to solve problems and what you can demonstrate you can do is more important. Maybe in academica and if you want to teach at some university or go into management at some corporate gig, then a degree matters more but in design consulting, I’ve found they usually don’t care as much about degrees. I’ve heard of PhDs looking for design management jobs fresh out of school with no real world expereince. They cold call consultancies and usually the consultancy owners just end up laughing at their naievity that just because they have a lofty degree they think they can walk in and run the ship. There’s no substitue for real expereince and the only way to get it is to pay dues and take your licks making mistakes.

I started in the shop shaving foam models of other people’s designs for minimum wage and walking around covered in dust for months before I even got to participate in brainsotrms and actually sketch something they’d use.