How do you set yourself apart from everyone else? By default, if you are not being counselled out, does this imply that you will be getting promoted?
How hard is it to make partner at BCG?
across all criteria relevant to be elected for Partnership at BCG (and any comparable consultancy), such as problem-solving, IP develpment, people leadership, coaching, client leadership, commercial targets, etc.), the absolute threshold is not that high.
The true difficulty comes from staying above the bar in all of them and be truly distinctive in one or two and still be able to sustain the lifestyle.
Can you do the problem solving and manage a team and build relationships with clients and perform internal Firm duties (eg, lead and develop a Practice) and see your family and get enough sleep and…?
Building up the skills from Analyst to Partner is not a completely overwhelming task — because you can get guidance and support and encouragements, etc. The real difficulty comes from the cost of doing it. Drafting and tracking a work-plan is not rocket-science — but if it does not come naturally, you’ll still have to do it for 3–4 years non-stop. If you get grumpy and inefficient when you sleep less than 8 hours a night, be prepared to work on that — quickly!
For example, a Junior Partner ("Principal") may have a good track record / reputation for managing the lifestyle of the teams. However, looking behind the curtain might very likely reveal that, since he always has 3 or 4 teams working at the same time for multiple clients spread across two continents, he has to work just about every weekend for 2–4 hours, reviewing packs, on conf-calls, etc.
So at the core, it is really about the fit of this profession with your own strengths and whether you really want to make the effort to sustain that kind of life.
The "up or out" policy which implies that you are either asked to leave or be promoted every promotion cycle (~2 years) only applies until Manager/Principal level. The promotion to partner is a lot more challenging, and a lot more political, than all the promotions before.
It is hard to answer the question "how hard is it" - because none of the experts on Preplounge (to my knowledge) were ever partners, and we would need to benchmark it to something else. What I can tell you about making partner, from what I know:
- At Bain (and I am sure at BCG it is similar), a global partner promotion committee has to assess your promotion to partner vs. other nominations from around the world (this is different to earlier promotions which are managed at the office level).
- People can stay at principal level anywhere between 1-4 years (1 year would be a true superstar and very rare, 4 years is probably the maximum). Exceptions to this of course apply (e.g. I know someone who has been a principal for ~6 years but her career has been interrupted by having 2 kids)
- To make partner, you have to start demonstrating that you can sell projects - this will either be by selling follow-up phases of work at existing clients, or successfully winning project pitches wit new clients.
- Most partner promotions are also highly involved in at least one office activity - e.g. recruiting, Internship programme, etc. to demonstrate they also have office leadership capabilities.
I can talk about McKinsey, but I believe it's similar for all MBB companies. Usually, you have 2-3 promotion windows when you are nominated to be evaluated for the partner role. If you can not satisfy the criteria, you have to leave the company.
First of all, you should, of course, satisfy the certain formal criteria (knowledge contribution, performance ratings, feedbacks from the teams, responsibility for one of the corporate functions like hiring, etc).
But there are 2 most important things that you should have:
- Having a number of partners who worked with you, and who support your promotion (10+ partners, international exposure, etc)
- Having several clients whom you are successfully developing (selling the new projects)
This is extremely hard taking into account how many factors you can't influence directly.
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