The Goldilocks Principle

Toby McAllister shares his thoughts on what to consider when planning to work for a consultancy.

The Goldilocks Principle

– Toby McAllister shares his thoughts on what to consider when planning to work for a consultancy:

About 3 months after relocating to Canberra from interstate I received a call from a friend.  He was seeking my advice about moving into the consulting sector as he had interviews scheduled with two different consulting firms. He wanted to know what he should look out for and what he needed to know when considering which job to take.

I didn’t realise it before the conversation, but after answering my friend’s questions it became obvious to me that when choosing a consultancy firm, applying the goldilocks principle around a few key areas could enable him identify the right employment opportunity to suit his needs.

Summarised simply, the goldilocks principle is the idea that there is a ‘just right’ amount of something. In consulting firms, to what should the goldilocks principle be applied? When choosing a firm I suggested putting aside the porridge, chairs and beds and told my friend to look at size, clients and personal development opportunities.


Irrespective of whether consulting firms are large, small or in-between, what matters is determining what is important to you. Do you want to work as a part of large teams in a highly structured environment or do you prefer smaller teams where you play an active role in all aspects of the business? For me the right size firm is one where you have access to key decision makers for formal and informal discussions and guidance, including that which relates to performance. Furthermore the right size firm will be one that allows you to play a role in the company without that role feeling more stressful or burdensome than the expectations your client places upon you.


Individuals are often attracted to consulting because it offers them diversity – diversity in the type of work they do, the people they work with and the problems they solve. With this in mind client diversity is an important aspect to consider as well as how work is managed. Ideally a company should offer you stability and sustainability while offering signs of ongoing growth.

Professional Development

Professional development is critical at any stage of your career. The market we operate in is constantly evolving and the right skills are needed to keep up with the pace of change. The right firm enables you to pursue professional development opportunities without making them difficult to access. They will also have a plan to support you navigating the market. They will know what opportunities are relevant for you and your client because they have the market knowledge to ensure a good fit. Importantly, they also have the means to make it happen.

In conclusion, my friend did not accept either of the two offers he received from the consulting firms. Instead he accepted an offer from interview number three, deciding to work for a private firm. His decision doesn’t mean ‘Goldilocks’ consultancy firms don’t exist – they do, I work at one. Rather, I think my friend’s decision reveals that when you know what ‘just right’ is, choosing to work for anything else doesn’t really make sense.