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Between a Rock & Hard Place

Anonymous A asked on Sep 25, 2018 - 3 answers


This not a case question but rather a career one. I am currently a management consultant at a tier 2 consulting firm (e.g. Deloitte, Accenture, AT Kearney). I received an experienced hire interview from MBB. My current case ends in two weeks and I planned to take 2 weeks off to prepare for my MBB interview in November.

A partner emailed me and told me they'd really like me to be on a case that starts right after my current one. I can say no, but this case is in the field I've wanted to do work in since I joined the firm out of undergrad a year ago.

I am between a rock and hard place because I am staring at a case in front of me at my current company that I've wanted to be on for a long time. Yet I also told myself that I would commit two weeks of paid time off to do nothing but refine my interview presentation because getting into MBB would take my career to the next level.

In theory, I can do both the case and prepare for my interview but as those of you consultants know, once you get on a case, life can get crazy and I do not want to come out of this situation feeling like I did not give my all to my MBB interview. If I forgo the case the partner emailed me about and I don't get MBB, I'm not sure how easy it will be to get on a similar type of case again but if I ultimately get MBB, it won't matter because I would have catapulted my career to an astronomical level.

Would love some advice.

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replied on Sep 26, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews
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I think you have the right answer staring at you in the face: what happens if you take the new project, fail your interviews and never get into MBB - what then? Will you hate yourself forever?

Having said that, I'd like to challenge two of your core assumptions however:

1. Do you truly need 2 weeks to get ready for an MBB interview when you arguable have already succeeded at such an interview at a Tier2 (even if the bar was lower, most of these do give case interviews). Let me answer for you: many of us got into MBB by preparing while working full time & having a family. Just commit to a plan such as "review feedback in the morning before work, listen to audio on my way to work, do a case in the evening and 2 each day during the week-end". Sure you will hate life even more than usual for these 2 weeks, but what's 2 weeks in the grand scheme of things?

2. You seem to believe this will be the last opportunity you have to apply for / interview at MBB. First, you can probably delay the interview if needed; second, they will probably still be interested in 6 months if they are interested today

Also, you mention that you've waited for "one year" to do this type of project? One year is NOTHING! I can't even remember the type of projects I used to dream of doing when I was 1 year out of school. [insert old geezer joke here]

Last but not least, let's also look at the bigger picture: You are just 1 year out of undergrad. Odds are, a Masters degree is in your future, which will then give you another solid chance at MBB.

Here's what I suggest:

1. If you are "MBB or bust", you take time off and prepare as best as you can

2. If you are a type-A and think you can do it all, you take this cool new project for now since it is important to you - but you also kick your prep into high gear before/after work and during week-ends; if you honestly feel you would need a little bit more time, ask MBB for a delay, they will usually try to accomodate. And you can still ask for a couple of days of beach time / PTO if needed (I'm sure you can be creative here).

Good luck.

replied on Sep 26, 2018
Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business
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Couldn't agree more with Guennael.

Also think about this: You are 1 year into your job and a Partner at a large, well-renowned consulting firm is requesting you personally on a project - via email, not through the staffing office. That is pretty awesome - many partners don't even know the names of the people working in the junior roles. And no matter what you do or aspire to, having a Partner in your corner NEVER hurts.

So do the project and suck it up for a couple of weeks. If MBB works out, great. If not, you can still do cool things where you are now, probably have a great, very fast career progression, and give MBB another shot down the road.

replied on Sep 26, 2018
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Why don't you just reschedule your interviews? There is no penalty for doing this