Entry Level Consultant Struggling

Bain BCG MBB McKinsey
New answer on Nov 30, 2023
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 21, 2023

Hello Consultants,

I'm currently working at one of the three MBBs and is one month in staffed on my first project(BA). I've entered a challenging setup where the team is huge and I joined by end of phase 1. I am currently working right with an EM and no tenured consultant is present between us.

I'm facing two main challenges:

1) feel like I'm under utilized ( I talked to my EM several times and he tells me its natural, also he thinks my work is good so that not why I don't get enough work) Hence, I feel like I don't add enough value and is not learning as I should.

2) I've attended 2 PS sessions with the partners with my EM and I don't speak at all mainly because my EM handles all the session and I feel like my contribution would not be useful/nothing to add. Is this normal or will the partners view me as passive? (I've been working on the workstream for three weeks only)

I feel very disappointed and don't know what to do about my situation. Can you please advise if this is normal and tips on how to behave? 

(edited)

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Benjamin
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 28, 2023
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer & top performer

Hi,

I think your situation is fairly normal, especially in my experience in developing market offices where projects can often be understaffed/limited budget. Sharing some quick thoughts on your 2 situations based on my experience both as an analyst/consultant and as well as a manager/principal overseeing consultants.

  1. Feeling like you are under utilized
    • I think what you should do is have a clear development plan/agreement on what you want to achieve and grow towards on this project
    • If this is super clear already, then what you could do is to make it more impactful for you is to get to the next level of specificity - e.g. the conversation is around how to demonstrate the top score (at BCG it was a “1”) along ALL the dimensions that are relevant for your workstream
      • i.e. if you are expected to do a model, what does a “1” model look like from your EM's POV
    • It is not unreasonable that you are doing good work, but almost nobody performs at a “1” level in their first month. Push towards this. 
  2. Not speaking up
    • I got this feedback in my first few cases as well - this is very common
    • The partners have very little interaction with you - often it will be limited to the team sessions
    • Thus, whatever impression they will have of you is based on that limited time during the team sessions
      • Will they necessarily ‘mark you down’ for it? No. But will you ‘stand out’ as a strong, proactive contributor? No as well
    • I would do 2 things
      • Ask your EM to help carve out/scope out a portion during the PS sessions for you to present your findings
        • This is a perfectly fair ask if framed in the right growth/development framing
      • Prepare at least one question/point - just one question or point, you would like to ask or raise in the meeting
        • You will need to carve out time to think about this before hand but trust me, it is useful 

Happy to have a more detailed chat if helpful, just drop me a dm.

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Cristian
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Content Creator
replied on Nov 24, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there fellow suffer, 

I had the exact same challenges when I joined, so I fully get it. 

Upfront, I'd recommend you read these two articles with tips that I wrote based on my own learnings from starting as a consultant:

I have one piece of advice for you that hopefully should solve both of the challenges you presented - find and isolate your workstream. 

In practice, that means you should aim to control and develop all the content on that particular workstream. Effectively, this will allow you to lead it and move it forward on your own, which will then give you enough stuff to do on a regular basis. It will also provide you a platform for discussions during problem-solving sessions with Partners. 

If you don't already have a workstream defined, then discuss it ASAP with the EM. 

Being able to handle your workstream standalone is also the main transition between BA and Associate, so it's already a step in the right direction.

Good luck!
Cristian

———————————————

Practicing for interviews? Check out my latest case based on a first-round MBB interview>>> CodeWave  

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Ian
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Content Creator
replied on Nov 23, 2023
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

You are being paid $, correct? And you don't want to lose the job, correct?

Use aforementioned $ to hire a coach! Seriously. A coach can help you improve your weakness areas and turn your performance around.

The first 10 months I really struggled. Then it got much better. Most of your peers are also struggling.

Pick yourself and get a can do attitude. No one ever told you this would be easy. 

You are in the marines. Do you want to be a marine or just regular infantry? You have to work. If you weren't trying to be the best you wouldn't have to work and it wouldn't be hard. It's hard because you are learning and being pushed.

I highly recommend you read my consulting survival guide

Here are a couple of snippets from that guide, based on what you've said:

  1. This job is inherently stressful, and you are not going to be the first person to struggle with stress. Consulting firms have mechanisms in place to try to keep consultants from burning out. If you are struggling, reach out early.
  2. You need comrades - your people for the really good and the really garbage days. Find them and stick to them.
  3. There will always be pressure, but not every task will make or break the bank. If the success or failure of the project relies solely on the one slide you’re making, there are bigger issues going on.
  4. Keep a one-page version of the case story up-to-date every couple of days.
  5. Always bring solutions, not problems.
  6. You learn so much more when you are fully transparent about what you don't understand.
  7. You will do your best work once you are okay with being fired.
  8. Your Project Lead/Principal is not inside your head. Learn how to communicate and guide their attention to what they need to know. Work to their style and your life will be easier.
  9. You have to stand up for yourself. And people will respect you for it (98% of the time).
  10. People’s perception of your performance is just as important as your performance.
  11. Communication is as important as content. Communication isn’t what you say, it’s what they hear.
  12. Being good at the qualitative aspects of consulting (presentation, communication et  c.) Is significantly more important than being good at the analysis/excel/quantitative side of consulting.
  13. Consulting is a confidence game. Always have a strong opinion, lightly held.
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Raj
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replied on Nov 28, 2023
FREE 15MIN CONSULTATION | #1 Strategy& / OW coach | >70 5* reviews |90% offers ⇨ prep-success.super.site | MENA, DE, UK

I understand the challenges you're facing in your current project setup. Let me address your concerns and provide some advice:

Feeling underutilized: It's not uncommon to feel this way, especially when joining a project in its later stages. Your EM's reassurance that it's natural and that your work is good is a positive sign. To add more value and enhance your learning, I recommend taking a proactive approach. Seek opportunities to contribute by offering assistance to your EM or other team members. Take the initiative to ask for additional work or offer to take on smaller tasks that can support the project's objectives. This will demonstrate your eagerness to learn and contribute, and it may lead to more challenging assignments.

Limited participation in partner sessions: It's understandable that you may feel hesitant to speak up in front of partners, especially as a new team member. However, it's important to remember that your perspective and insights are valuable, regardless of your experience level. While your EM may be leading the sessions, you can still contribute by actively listening, taking notes, and asking thoughtful questions. If you have ideas or observations that you believe could add value, don't hesitate to share them with your EM beforehand or during a suitable moment in the session. This will show your engagement and willingness to contribute to the team's success.

Overall, it's important to maintain a proactive and positive mindset. Seek opportunities to learn and contribute, even if they may seem small at first. Communicate openly with your EM about your desire for more challenging work and ask for feedback on how you can further add value to the project. Remember, it takes time to fully integrate into a project, and your contributions will grow as you gain more experience and build relationships with your team.

I hope these tips help you navigate your current situation. If you have any further questions or need additional guidance, feel free to ask. Good luck with your project!

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ALEXANDRE
Expert
replied on Nov 30, 2023
FREE INTRO I exMcKinsey EM I exKearney consultant I High Success Rate I Official Coach for HEC (160 coachees in 2022/23)

I'm currently working at one of the three MBBs and is one month in staffed on my first project(BA). I've entered a challenging setup where the team is huge and I joined by end of phase 1. I am currently working right with an EM and no tenured consultant is present between us. I'm facing two main challenges: 1) feel like I'm under utilized ( I talked to my EM several times and he tells me its natural, also he thinks my work is good so that not why I don't get enough work) Hence, I feel like I don't add enough value and is not learning as I should. 2) I've attended 2 PS sessions with the partners with my EM and I don't speak at all mainly because my EM handles all the session and I feel like my contribution would not be useful/nothing to add. Is this normal or will the partners view me as passive? (I've been working on the workstream for three weeks only) I feel very disappointed and don't know what to do about my situation. Can you please advise if this is normal and tips on how to behave?

 

ChatGPT

ChatGPT

 

It's not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain during the early stages of your consulting career, especially when joining a large team and project. Let's address your challenges one by one:

Feeling Underutilized:

  • It's not unusual for new team members to feel underutilized initially, especially if they join a project towards the end of its initial phase. It can take time for project leaders to understand team dynamics and distribute work effectively.
  • Since your EM has acknowledged the quality of your work, it's a positive sign. However, it's important to continuously communicate with your EM about your availability and interest in taking on more responsibilities. Express your eagerness to contribute more and learn from different aspects of the project.

Not Speaking in Partner Sessions:

  • It's common for junior team members to be more passive in partner sessions, especially when they are relatively new to the project. Your EM is likely leading the sessions to ensure a smooth transition and provide you with the opportunity to observe.
  • However, it's essential to gradually start participating in these sessions. You can begin by preparing brief updates on your workstream or any relevant findings. This demonstrates your understanding of the project and your ability to contribute. Over time, as you become more comfortable, you can actively engage in discussions.

Tips on How to Behave:

Proactive Communication:

  • Keep communicating with your EM about your workload and express your eagerness to take on more responsibilities. This will help them understand your availability and willingness to contribute.

Seek Additional Responsibilities:

  • If you find yourself with extra time, proactively seek out additional tasks or offer assistance to other team members. This demonstrates your initiative and dedication to the project.

Prepare for Sessions:

  • Before partner sessions, discuss with your EM about potential points you could contribute. This preparation will boost your confidence and make you more likely to participate.

Build Relationships:

  • Take the opportunity to build relationships with other team members, including more senior consultants. This can provide additional avenues for learning and potential opportunities to contribute to different aspects of the project.

Remember, it's normal to feel a bit uncertain early in your consulting career, and it often takes time to fully integrate into a project. Stay proactive, continue demonstrating your commitment, and gradually take on more responsibilities. As you gain experience and contribute more to the project, you'll likely find yourself in a more central and fulfilling role.

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Hagen
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Content Creator
replied on Nov 22, 2023
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi there,

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your situation:

  • First of all, it's not uncommon for new consultants to feel underutilized in the early stages. I would advise you to use this time to understand the broader context of the project and familiarize yourself with the industry and client background. This proactive learning will prepare you for more complex tasks ahead.
  • Moreover, regarding not speaking up in internal meetings, it's normal at your level, especially being only three weeks on the workstream. However, I would highly advise you to gradually start contributing. It can be as simple as sharing a relevant data point, asking a clarifying question, or giving a brief summary of your work. This shows engagement and eagerness to contribute.
  • Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself. The first few months in a consulting role are about adaptation and learning. Focus on absorbing as much as you can, and don't hesitate to seek feedback from your project manager or peers. It’s a journey, and every small step counts.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on your specific situation, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Brad
Expert
replied on Nov 22, 2023
Expert coach | Head of recruiting for Bain | 8+ years interviewing | Free intro call

Hi there,

 

Don’t beat yourself up. It’s absolutely normal on your first case to not be ‘in the flow’ yet. 

 

If you’d like more share of voice in the PS meetings, I suggest speaking to your EM about presenting some of the analysis that you’ve done. Focus on delivering what the insight for your work is first, then how you got there (much more impactful in this order and it stops you rambling on about how you got to the answer which is typically too in the weeds for a partner).

 

One thing that does surprise me is that you’re reporting directly into an EM. That’s a big gap and the EM won’t have a lot of spare time for coaching. Have you through about aligning yourself to a senior BA in another workstream? Typically a new entrant into a firm has the same concerns and stresses as everyone else, so having a ‘buddy’ who’s been in your shoes can be an incredibly helpful sounding board – especially on the softer things like how to present to Partner X in the PS sessions.

 

All the best and I hope that helps. Drop me a note if you’d like to discuss futher.

 

B.

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Benjamin gave the best answer

Benjamin

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