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Let’s say you’re recruited by the Dallas or Chicago office of a management consulting firm, but you picture a career in LA or NYC. How can you go about transferring offices in consulting? Should you give your preferences before you receive an offer, or should you make a request once the offer is in hand? Should you work for a year and then make a request? Or should you just live wherever you want regardless of the offer? During my time in consulting, I made not one but TWO office transfers. Here’s what you need to know about how to request an office transfer:

Request office transfer pre-offer

  • Pros: This is the honest, straight-forward approach for those that are hell-bent on a particular city. In voicing your desires early, you set the tone for open discussion and avoid fooling the consulting firms recruiting you. It also is easier to receive an offer in your desired city as opposed to having to transfer offices after the fact.
  • Cons: Unfortunately, the preemptive approach is often viewed by consulting firms as a sign of arrogance or hard-headedness. It’s easy to see how your good intentions could be twisted to your disadvantage – after all, the recruiters likely have pride in their home city, and may be put-off by your assuming you may get an offer. I tried this approach with one firm and was warned that I’d better be careful not to be too adamant until I had an offer.

Request office transfer post-offer, pre-acceptance (RECOMMENDED)

  • Pros: This path avoids annoying any consulting recruiters prior to receiving an offer, and it gives you a much higher amount of leverage. While you may bruise a few egos, it’s much more likely you’ll be successful in starting the career in both the industry and city you most prefer. In fact, this option worked for me for my first transfer from the Midwest to the East Coast.
  • Cons: Again, your recruiters will likely be a bit put-off by your lack of interest in their home city, but it’s highly unlikely anyone will hold it against you once you join, especially in your new office. However, the new office relationship can be disappointing in this scenario, since you weren’t recruited by that team the office leaders may be less invested in your success.

Request office transfer post-start date

  • Pros: This is a common route that leads to an expanded network and a more diverse consulting experience. I transferred from the East Coast to Texas after one year of work. My network and overall confidence operating in different environments definitely benefited from the move.
  • Cons: After you transfer offices, bad blood with your first office can still impact your performance reviews, as they’re less motivated to give you high marks. In my view, this is a small price to pay if you truly prefer to live elsewhere, but there are financial consequences nonetheless.

Live where you want, when you want (NOT RECOMMENDED)

  • Pros: Complete freedom to live near family, friends, or your favorite beach.
  • Cons: Definitely the most controversial option of the four, you will undoubtedly experience negative consequences for choosing this route. Disconnected from a network, having snubbed the partners who recruited you, there’s little incentive for the firm to take care of you. I would only exercise this option if A) you’re able to visit your home office at least once every three weeks or B) you truly don’t care about your ratings / raises / bonuses compared to the benefit of living in your desired location.

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