While his work colleagues started their careers managing assets, analyzing big data or building financial reports, Leonardo Assad (Leo) was writing headlines for advertising in magazines.
Now a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group in São Paulo, Leo says his background is, by no means, a liability. “I use competences developed in my advertising career, such as creativity, client management, teamwork and communication skills, to leverage my performance as a consultant”, he says with the confidence of a strategy expert. In his last advertising years, on a more senior role, Leo developed other abilities necessary to succeed as a consultant, such as analytic skills, logical thinking and structured problem solving, but it was only during his MBA at ESMT that he realized he could do them as well as experienced consultants. “At ESMT, I learned that skills are not something that you either have or don’t have. They can be taught and developed. I had the chance to talk to many C-level executives visiting the school and all of them, with no exception, told me they were still learning and improving their competences.”
Not that such a career change comes without challenges. Before starting his MBA, Leo had his first consulting applications rejected. When asking for feedback from recruiters, he received some discouraging comments: “Some told me I was old and that my previous experience was not relevant to the job as a consultant”, he said, but on the same breath he stated: “But others told me to not give up my dreams, that my shift was possible and that my skills and experience could be valuable for consulting. I just needed to signal a strong commitment to change my career by, for example doing an MBA at a well-regarded institution”. And that is what he did. Leo applied for an MBA at ESMT, Germany’s top business school, and joined the Full-Time Class in 2016.
More than just a highlight in his CV, ESMT’s MBA gave Leo all the necessary support to succeed in his applications. The Career Team, professors, colleagues and alumni gave him valuable tips to convince future employers that he could win in a new career. “I learned how to tell my story. But for other people to buy it, I had to first believe in it myself.” Leo knew intuitively he wanted to work with consulting, but only after his career coaching sessions at ESMT, he fully understood his motivations behind such a drastic career change: “I always loved coming up with ideas for different companies, but I wanted to deliver solutions to improve my client’s processes, services and products; not just its brand. I also wanted a work environment where I could develop a wider range of skills and get closer contact to decision-makers.”
When Leo’s motivations became clearer, he could convincingly tell his career-change story. Now he just needed to find the right people to listen to it. “ESMT’s career team brought many top companies to the school and that was the easiest way to network and get the attention of the recruiters. I also visited job fairs and my coaches gave me valuable social media networking tips, which got me interviews at top consulting firms.” Leo also had the assistance of a professional CV writing software to create an appealing resume, although he thinks that a career changer should not rely on his CV when looking for a new job. He got almost all his interviews through networking. Just sending his CV would rarely yield results: “A CV only tells what you have done. It doesn’t tell what you can do”.
With scheduled interviews ahead, Leo just needed to show he had potential to be a consultant, by rapidly solving complex cases and to convince he was a good fit to the company he was applying for: “There is a lot of online material to prepare for consulting case interviews, but more than reading it, you should practice it with peers.” In 2016, ESMT’s career team brought a team of professional consultants to simulate case interviews. “That was the most fruitful day. In a 30-minute session, a professional consultant gave me instant feedback on how to perform better in an interview”, said Leo. The overall results were excellent. Besides Leo, students of the 2016 class accepted offers at McKinsey, Accenture and KPMG.
After receiving offers from three top strategy consulting firms, Leo opted for The Boston Consulting Group: “BCG has diversity in its DNA. In my office in São Paulo, there are people from so many nationalities and backgrounds! I have colleagues who studied Biology, Philosophy and Theology… When I say, I come from advertising, everybody smiles. They want to know all about my industry and profession. When we share our diverse experiences, we grow as a team and we offer a wider range of solutions to our clients. I couldn’t be in a better place!”. When asked if there is anything he misses from his old career, Leo smiles and promptly answer: “Not really! Well, maybe the casual dress code. I still struggle every morning to knot my tie”.