How to avoid making the same mistakes for twice at work?

career advice mistakes work tips
New answer on Jul 16, 2020
3 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 08, 2020

I know it is a basic requirement for excellence at consulting that you don't make the same mistakes for times. However is there anyone struggling at this like me? I have tried very hard to avoid the same mistakes I made, but most of the time I will end up making a similar one. Especially in the context of many numeric/financial information, I cannot even identify my errors when I double-check myself.

I wonder if you have any tips/advice to avoid making the same mistakes? I really think I need to solve this problem as this kind of behavior will overshadow the other good part of my work, ruin my reputation at work and most importatnly damage my CONFIDENCE on my capabilities.

Elaborate more information on my common mistakes based on expert Jamie's feedbacks:

- Mistakes normally came with negligence or oversight, especially with numbers. The less thinking it requires, the more likely I will make mistakes. A ridiculous example is copying and paste wrongly. The weird thing is that I cannot even identify the mistakes when I go through it again.

- Mistakes are also made with my wrong assumption or pre-set mindset. An example situation is: I needed to use document 2.0 to produce some work because document 1.0 has mistakes and I was fully aware of it. In the end, I used document 1.0 without realizing it at all because I was too confident that I opened and used document 2.0.

- Operational mistakes: send an email without attachment or to wrong recipients; forgot about sth when doing work (reporting, change/add of work requirement, etc)

Thanks a million!


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Jamie replied on Jul 08, 2020
Former Tier 2, now MBB in Dubai. Here to chill :)

Hi there,

Will give you my 2cents as current MBB consultant.

For starters, your opening is quite confusing - what "mistakes" are we talking about?

The first step of not making mistakes is actually having a crystal clear idea of what the mistake actually is! Only after you understand the mistake can you actually address it.

Now, regarding the general idea of avoiding mistakes at work:
1. Make sure you actually understand what you are doing. Ask questions upfront to ensure what is expected and play back to your superior in your own words to ensure both of you are on the same page
2. Create a plan on how to solve the problem you are trying to solve. Depending on the complexity and your level in the company it may make sense to run back to your superior to ensure your approach is doable
3. Proceed with your analysis taking into account:
3.1. Speed to output. This is key in MBB. be quick to produre a draft that you can take to someone and have a conversation
3.2. Correct sources. Ensure everything you are doing is defendable with a realiable piece of data
3.3. Sanity check. Think about what the output actually is and if makes sense to you. spend time triangulating with primary and secundary research
4. Present your results in a clear manner (both verbally and written). This means having a clear flow on what you are presenting, slides look nice, ...

Again, without any details on what you are referring this is what you should keep in mind.

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Anonymous A on Jul 08, 2020

Hi Jamie, thanks for your feedback! I have added more details about my mistakes in the question based on your feedbacks

Jamie on Jul 08, 2020

Hi there. Thanks for your input. First of all if you are making mistakes like the ones you described regularly, this is a very quick way for you to ruin your chances at any firm. Attention to detail is key to a top consultant anywhere. Its not easy to teach you how to become organized and increase your attention to focus, but I would at least say that you need to start being organized, perhaps creating a booklet for your cases or at least leveraging OneNote. At the beginning dont rush to have things done without ensuring you know what you are doing. always take 1 extra step / minute to ensure that whatever you are doing or sending is correct. my 2cents

Anonymous replied on Jul 16, 2020

Dear A,

I can see 2 main reasons for making mistakes - lack of concentration and lack of conclusion for the future based on your mistakes.

For the second reason I would recommend you to analyse your every try, make assumtions why it happened and what you can do to improve it.

For concentration practice meditations helps a lot here to keep your mind stable and concentrated on a one task, one issue at a time. Also try to practice one-tasking approach, not multi-tasking.

Hope it helps,

If you need any further advice or help, feel free to reach out.



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Anonymous replied on Jul 09, 2020

Hi Anonymous

I started as a junior in McKinsey and went through a very similar learning curve and as an EM - I have seen many analysts do similar slip-ups as well. Often times the analyst themselves are their own worst critic. I know I was disappointed in myself so building on Jamie's excellent list here are some behaviour solutions as well:

1. Do not multi-task. When you are working with financial data - you need 100% focus. Getting distracted by your phone, email pop-ups or general web distractions has a really high impact on the quality of your work. Rather turn off notifications, buy a noise-cancelling headset and make sure you focus on only one task at hand. Do check your email every 45-60 minutes though for urgent requests but your EM will typically call you

2. When you find a mistake - understand the cause and incorporate a behaviour that helps you detect it in the future. Put a sticky note on your laptop as a reminder. If you are unsure on how to fix and identify a mistake - ask your EM. Sometimes you might not understand the solution - ask your EM again. Better to be annoying up-front than to make mistakes later. As an experienced EM - I valued my annoying associates and analysts as I knew they just wanted to understand

3. Work with experienced EMs and be open about your strengths and weaknesses. Let them coach you on this well

Most importantly - you are not doing as bad as you think! But you need to slow your pace down and have open dialogue with your managers. Slow and accurate is the way to go at the start of your consulting journey

Best of luck

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Anonymous on Jul 09, 2020

One last thing - there are no simple and easy tasks. Going into every analyses no matter how simple - be aware there is always room for mistakes so never compromise on focus