Case Study | From Local Audit to Global Finance: How Liam Transformed His Career with an INSEAD MBA

Liam, an Irish audit and tax compliance associate, aspired to join a top investment firm but lacked international experience and worked at a smaller, independent firm. With strategic career mapping and a compelling application, he overcame these challenges to secure admission to INSEAD. After graduating, Liam joined a leading consulting firm and ultimately achieved his dream of working at a global hedge fund. Read about his journey to understand the importance of strategic planning and leveraging unique experiences.

Irish male applicant with 6 years of experience

Application Round: Round 2 (Sept Intake)

Liam was a successful associate in audit and tax compliance at Ireland’s leading independent firm of chartered accountants and tax advisors. When he approached us, he had a clear dream: to join a top investment firm. However, he was uncertain about which MBA program to pursue and how to shape his career goals. A significant motivator for him was the desire to experience overseas education, something he had never had the chance to pursue before. Liam was driven to expand his horizons and take his career to new heights, and we were excited to help him chart the path to achieving his ambitions.  


We faced three key challenges with Liam: First, we needed to clearly define his career goals, ensuring we could map his next moves to enhance his chances of achieving his long-term objectives while securing admission to a top business school. Second, he lacked international experience, a significant disadvantage given top business schools’ preference for globally-minded candidates. Third, he worked for a small independent firm, whereas most of his competitors had experience with global audit firms.

The Importance of Career Mapping

The first priority was mapping out Liam career path. Considering his current experience, we recognized that breaking into the investment management sector immediately after his MBA would be highly challenging. Therefore, we advised him to spend a few years with a leading consulting firm first. This approach would enable him to gain valuable operational experience, thereby complementing his strong financial background with strategic management skills. It also helped us identify the best MBA program for him: INSEAD. Not only did INSEAD’s unrivalled placement in Consulting align with his career aspirations, but it was also the perfect choice because his fiancée was about to start a secondment in France, making the location ideal for both of them.

Strategic Approach

Working with Liam, we quickly realized we could turn one of his perceived weaknesses into a strength. His position at a smaller firm operating solely in the Irish market might seem like a disadvantage compared to those at global audit firms. However, this role allowed him to take significant initiative and ownership in managing his client portfolio. For example, he was initially given a small portfolio but was fully responsible for its growth. Impressively, he tripled his billable book in just two years. 

His lack of international experience was a significant disadvantage for INSEAD, and we decided to highlight his life history. He was a first-generation college graduate and his family didn’t really have the financial means to support his ambition to study overseas. 

Vision Crafting

International experience is crucial as it highlights higher cultural intelligence and enhanced interpersonal skills. We could effectively demonstrate these attributes through Liam's client-facing work and extracurricular activities, which included extensive travel and active involvement with local NGOs, such as rowing across the Channel to raise funds. Additionally, we aimed to showcase his strategic insights, as he was providing more than just audit and tax advisory services to his clients, along with his strong entrepreneurial mindset. We used the three motivation essays (candid description, achievement/failure, and extracurricular activities) to build a compelling profile, with each essay complementing and reinforcing the others.      


Initially waitlisted, Liam quickly received a full admission offer in the subsequent round. After graduating, he joined one of the MBB firms, where he spent the next three years building his profile and staying focused on his long-term goal. Two years ago, we were immensely proud when he joined one of the world’s largest hedge funds, achieving his dream.


Liam's journey to his MBA and beyond is a powerful testament to the potential for all types of applicants to not only secure admission to top MBA programs but also to excel in their careers afterward. His story demonstrates that with the right strategy,, and a willingness to leverage unique experiences, candidates can overcome perceived disadvantages. Notably, it highlights the importance of careful career planning.

Words from Liam:

"Working with Jonathan was a truly enjoyable experience and unlike any other "MBA consultant" I've heard of. Initially helping me choose the correct business school for me based on a myriad of factors including country, personal fit, GMAT score and post-MBA employment goals. He then worked with me to frame my profile in a manner that I was comfortable with, only focusing on highlighting the content that I wanted to include. This approach was something I really appreciated, knowing I had prepared all aspects of my applications myself, under the supervision of someone who was well placed to direct me away from any common pitfalls.   Jonathan was extremely professional throughout and I would like to think a genuine connection was made through the process. After landing my dream MBA in INSEAD I will certainly owe him a debt for years to come!” 

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