5 Types of Post-MBA Professionals Who Pivot to Consulting

A few years ago, I was chatting with a classmate from my Chicago Booth MBA program, and she told me about the work she was doing as an “independent consultant.”

I had no idea what an independent consultant was, but I did know that this classmate was earning an income comparable to when she was a manager at Bain. And she had enough flexibility and freedom to launch a side business.

Just as she shared her pivot to consulting with me, I was getting weary of balancing working as a Director of Strategy while raising my then 6-month-old daughter. Over the next few months, I resigned from my role and became an independent consultant.

I combined my healthcare and strategy background with a love of interviewing and research to become a healthcare-focused market research consultant for BTG and other agencies. I, too, loved the flexibility and freedom. But instead of launching a business, becoming a consultant allowed me to explore and test new career options.

As I began connecting with other independent consultants, I noticed that we all tend to pursue this line of work because we deeply value something about the project or the lifestyle (or both). I also realized that we tend to fall into one of five recognizable personality types.

The following are real examples of some of the consultants I know who have done a post-MBA pivot to consulting. Please note their names have been changed to protect their privacy. Perhaps one or more of their stories will resonate with you:

1. “In-Transition”

Values testing different companies or exploring new functions/industries before committing to a new full-time role

Motivations & Rationale for Becoming a Consultant:

  • In-between jobs and is willing to stretch out their job search to find the right position
  • Seeks projects or roles that let them upskill, bolster their resumé, pivot to a new industry, and may even provide an entry into full-time employment
  • Regards consulting work as a lucrative or productive path back into traditional corporate work

Real-Life “In-Transition” Example: Amanda

  • Previous role: Project Leader at Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
  • MBA: Harvard Business School
  • Unhappy with the long hours and travel, Amanda recently left consulting after three years. However, she is unsure of her ideal next role and wants to work for different companies and industries before committing to a full-time position.

2. “Emerging Entrepreneur”

Values cash flow to fuel personal ventures or side hustles

Motivations & Rationale for Becoming a Consultant:

  • Has an entrepreneurial venture or side business that requires significant investment or resources
  • Seeks projects or roles that cover expenses related to the venture or personal commitments (i.e., mortgage/rent, bills, etc.)
  • Wants to minimize financial risk and keep one foot in the professional world

Real-Life “Emerging Entrepreneur” Example: Chris

  • Previous role: Investment Banking Associate at J.P. Morgan
  • MBA: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Chris is developing a new digital payment platform for Gen Z’ers. He diligently completes an intense but well-paying project every few months to cover rent, student loans, and business expenses.

3. “Digital Nomad”

Values freedom and wants a lifestyle that supports extensive travel or living abroad

Motivations & Rationale for Becoming a Consultant:

  • Works to fund a nomadic lifestyle, which includes traveling and living around the world
  • Seeks projects that give freedom to work remotely from anywhere without worrying about using too many vacation days
  • Has little to no desire to work in traditional 9-to-5 jobs but still wants income and challenge of working on professional creative projects

Real-Life “Digital Nomad” Example: Patrick

  • Previous Role: Software Developer at Microsoft
  • MBA: MIT Sloan
  • Wants to live all around the world and has no desire to work long-term for the same company
  • Realizing that project management is a highly sought-after skill, he earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and has booked a range of projects while traveling throughout Europe.

4. “Caregiver”

Values flexibility and the autonomy to choose when to care for children or loved ones

Motivations & Rationale for Becoming a Consultant:

  • Left the workforce to become the primary caregiver for a child or parent
  • Seeks projects or roles that do not require being on-site from 9 to 5, five days a week and give them the flexibility to work anytime
  • Overqualified for many part-time or “stay-at-home” positions but wants to keep résumé updated while generating income comparable to previous roles

Real-Life “Caregiver” Example: Veronica

  • Previous role: Digital Marketing Strategy at American Express
  • MBA: Kellogg School of Management
  • Works on projects that allow her to work remotely from home while her daughter is in preschool
  • When travel is required, it is mainly for the project kick-off and critical milestones, and she only commits to day trips.

5. “Curious Expert”

Values a challenge and wants to work on an exciting problem and then quickly move on to the next one

Motivations & Rationale for Becoming a Consultant:

  • Felt stagnant or intellectually bored in their previous role
  • Seeks projects or roles that allow them to share expertise with different companies and take on new responsibilities while exploring other interests
  • Wants to work full-time but does not have a strong desire to stay at the same company or in the same role for an extended time

Real-Life “Curious Expert” Example: Michael

  • Previous role: Operations and Supply Chain Management at Amazon
  • MBA: Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Plateaued at work and was tired of the never-ending daily grind
  • He likes working in operations but wants to apply that knowledge to different industries and companies.

What do they all have in common?

While the profiles, motivations, and values of the consultants I’ve met range, they do tend to share a few traits. The post-MBA professionals I know who have made the most successful pivots to independent consulting are those with sought-after skills, notable accomplishments, and 3–5 years of professional experience.

Examples include:

Top Tier Business School/Specialized Degree or Skill
  • MBA from a Top 20 School
  • Ph.D. in a “business-friendly” field like health economics, biotechnology, software engineering, etc.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Project Management Professional Certification (PMP)
  • Programming Certifications for C/C++, Ruby on Rails, Javascript, Python, Java, etc.
  • Six Sigma / Kaizen
Notable Experience/Backgrounds
  • Management Consulting
    e.g., McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Oliver Wyman, etc.
  • Investment Banking
    e.g., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Citi, etc.
  • Private Equity
    e.g., Blackstone, KKR, Carlyle, etc.
  • Fortune 100 Companies and Industry leaders
    e.g., Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, CVS Health, Nike, Disney, Netflix, etc.
Years of Work Experience
  • 3–5 Years or Associate/Manager experience for execution-type projects
  • 5–10 Years or Director/VP experience for advisory-type projects or roles
  • 10 Years or Executive experience
Industry Experience
  • Management Consulting
  • Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology
  • Financial Services
  • Health Insurance & Hospitals
  • Industrial Goods & Manufacturing
  • Consumer Packaged Goods
  • Information Technology and Services
  • Computer Software

Within those qualifications, the following list represents highly in-demand services, according to the consultants I know.

In-Demand Expertise Management

 Consulting & Strategy

  • Business Strategy
  • Corporate Strategy
  • Data Analysis
  • Market Research
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Pricing

 Investment Banking, Finance & Accounting

  • Due Diligence
  • Financial Modeling
  • Mergers & Acquisition Advisory
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Financial Accounting

 Project Management

  • Program Management
  • Change Management
  • PMO (Project Management Office)

 IT & Digital Technology

  • Data Scientists
  • Digital Strategists
  • Software Developer
  • Mobile App Developer
  • IT Project Management


  • Process Improvement
  • Procurement
  • Supply Chain & Logistics

 Product Development

  • Business Development
  • Research & Development
  • Go-to-Market Launch
  • Customer Segmentation


  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • SEO
  • Communications

I hope that learning how and why some professionals pivot to become independent consultants empowers you to see new possibilities for your own career path.


Skilled professionals are becoming independent consultants to capitalize on their strengths, gain ownership over how they work, and select projects that interest and excite them. You can too! Become an independent consultant today.

Apply Today


About the Author

Victoria Hefty

From her start in finance to a career that spans healthcare, strategy, and working as an independent consultant, Victoria Hefty has developed a unique perspective on what it takes to find and grow into different career opportunities. Victoria is now a Professional Development Director, Career Coach, and host of the Post MBA Pivot podcast, where she shares stories of professionals who took unexpected, interesting, or unique paths after graduating from business school.

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