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How to become an Engagement Manager and Partner quickly?

and Bain BCG McKinsey
New answer on Oct 26, 2023
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on May 02, 2020


I would like to ask those people who worked at McKinsey what one has to do in order for him/her to become an Engagement Manager and Partner when starting from the Associate level. How quickly is one able to accomplish these promotions?

Kind regards


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updated an answer on May 02, 2020
Ex Kearney Senior Manager | Ex McKinsey Engagement Manager | Interviewer & Case Coach at McKinsey (200+ Real Interviews)

Hi There,

Realistically speaking, if you start as an Associate (either as an MBA hire or Exp Hire):

  • Associate (ASC) to EM >> the quickest I have seen: 1 year; on average: 2-2.5 years
  • EM to Associate Partner >> the quickest: 1 year; on average: 2.5-3 years
  • Associate Partner to Partner >> the quickest: 1 year (election happens only once a year, but usually you won't get another acceleration if you already have that from ASC to EM and EM to AP); on average: 3 years

I know a person who got hired as an Associate and became a Partner in only 4 years (1 yr as ASC, 1 yr as EM, 2 yrs as AP), but he was already a Director in one of Global Bank. He should be directly hired as an AP, but Partners admitted that he was hired a bit lower to ensure he has what it takes to be a consultant and don't want to overpay. He proved that and got accelerated.

However, If you are an MBA hire - the chance to get the same treatment might be extremely slim. If you are really smart and can adjust very quickly - I think you might be able to achieve in 5.5 - 6 years (2 yrs ASC, 1.5-2 yrs EM, 2 yrs AP). What to do:

  1. Accelerate your learning & culture adjustment from 1 year to 6 months (become a thought leader on your area of expertise)
  2. Become Jr. Engagement Manager (JEM) right after 1 year instead of 1.5 years
  3. Get yourself into a strong Senior Partner or Partner network in your year 1 - they will vouch for you and make sure you will always get projects
  4. Build a strong fellowship with your junior (analyst, associate, etc) after you become JEM
  5. Develop a solid relationship with your key clients (C-level) after you become a standalone Associate (6 months after joining)

Having those things will definitely help you to accelerate your career, but won't guarantee. As there are multiple non-explainable factors to evaluate for ASC to EM designation and EM to AP designation or even Partner election.

The common one (and what we keep telling our prospect/candidate) is usually 7 years from Associate to Partner (2.5 yrs ASC, 2.5 yrs EM, 2 yrs AP).

Hope this helps!


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Anonymous replied on May 05, 2020

Dear A,

I used to apply a couple of principles, when I was on the fast track. In the brackets, I have managed to claim from the consultants to project manager level at Roland Berger just within 3 years, which is extremely fast. So, the general principles for your fast tracking are the following:

- Undersell and over promise which means that you need to always set up right expectations for you and always exceed them

- Communicate and network with the right people. Find the supporters in the firm who will push you.

- Set up clear goals and objectives for every year and every evaluation period together with your mentor and understand what do you need to deliver in order to come quickly to the next level

- Work smart, but not hard.

Hope, it helps. I'm happy to share my experience. Fell free to reach out.



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replied on May 03, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


The most important thing you need to understand is that consulting is a client business and client is always first. Here is my subjective view of what's needed to succeed on different levels of hierarchy. Pls take into account that it's the ideal state and getting these skills is a journey.

Analyst / associate level

  • Having a good DGL / career counselor, etc. (Each company has different names). This is a person who guides your development in the company, collects the feedbacks on you, and presents your case to a promotion committee. Make sure to have a person who is organized enough to collect the feedbacks in time, who is a nice person in general and who has enough authority in the company (i.e. Senior partner - the more power he has - the better)
  • Choosing the project you work on smartly (i.e. collect the feedbacks on each and everyone prior to accepting the project)
  • Perfect technical skills (Excel, PPT, Problem Solving)
  • Good feedbacks on you from the client. Thus try to make friends with your clients (Both senior and non-senior role. Even a bad feedback from a blue collar can ruin your career)
  • Ability to manage your own standalone workstream with minimum supervision. TOP performers bring the end products that impress others
  • Being proactive - helping the team with daily routine, scheduling, etc. Participating in the office initiatives
  • Establishing relationships with your managers and partners. Ideally, you should have multiple senior partners to be excited about you and to support you)
  • Being lucky!

Manager level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Having your client happy - this is the most important! If the client is happy - everything else will work
  • Managing multiple partners who have different opinions. Since partners have a busy schedule it becomes very tricky to synchronize them and to align the viewpoints
  • Good feedbacks from your team - having a happy team is important. Unfortunately, sometimes it's a trade-off between having your client and partner happy
  • Telling about your success on projects to others - I'm personally not a fan of this kind of selling, but I know many people who made a career using this skill

Principal level

A lot from the above, plus:

  • Having multiple clients happy
  • Having a long list of partners supporting you (More than 10)
  • Contributions to the development of the company (Knowledge, office ops, etc)
  • Selling the projects. If you manage to sell to existing clients or even bring the new clients - you are the champion.

Partner level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Sales, sales, sales


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Anonymous replied on May 03, 2020


A lot has been mentioned in details. Just to add on that, from associate to EM to Partner, the skillset required are different and the job nature changes to (from more problem sovling focused to more sales focused). So I think one needs to judge and decide whether he/she would enjoy such changes or not. It is not only about going up fast.



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Content Creator
replied on May 03, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


It depends a bit.

Normally, you would do 2 years as a BA, and then, after an MBA, come back as an associate. In your 1st year as a returning associate you would start acting as a EM, but without being one officially -this is the figure of the JEM, Junior EM-. THen, after a few months acting as such, you are officially promoted to EM (the main change here is in the bonus, not even in the base salary vs. Associate)

For people who are not returning from MBAs and have been BAs in the past, it takes some more time to start acting as JEMs.

Hope it helps.



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Content Creator
updated an answer on May 02, 2020
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

Typically the fastest promotes to EM from Associates are those who have had previous experience managing and leading projects and have done so in the sector in which they have specialized (so if you have worked in Healthcare and do a lot of work in healthcare as an Associate it is usually quicker)

There are many reasons it is not encouraged to get to EM significantly before other

1. Typically you get promoted as a class

2. You can be very highly rated and be an Associate and make as much money as someone with the same rating as an EM - there is no salary jump as an EM

3. EM is a very different skill level you typically start out managing a project before officially being designated as it is a very important client managing role and poor EMs have the highest impact on the success of a project. They need to be sure about you being able to deliver as an EM

If you do want to get there quicker, apart from industry experience, working smarter than others, knowing more about the project and being great with clients will help a lot

All the best,



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Content Creator
replied on May 03, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate


I would also just add: This is a marathon, not a race. Make sure that you're hustling sustainably. It's a long journey and you will need periods of rest/recharge. The biggest question for most isn't WHEN they'll make Partner but IF

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replied on May 02, 2020
Ex-McKinsey Project Manager with experience in Switzerland and Latin America


agree with all the above. Some insights on how to accelerate your promotion (and keep your lifestyle more or less sustainable-> went from Intern to Fellow, to Associate to EM in 2.7 years on 80% take tiime)

-> help set up a new office (especially in unpopular regions it will increase your exposure)

-> build expertise early (once you know which industry or function you like, go for it & start building relationships with clients and CSTs)

-> go on take time (while theoretically it affects your tenure, if you do it smartly you will end up with a higher utilization & more freedom on which projects you are on and thus more successful, since you are doing what you like)

PM me for more details.



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Content Creator
replied on Oct 26, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

It's around 2-3 years to get from Associate to Manager. 

Basically, an Associate is independently handling a stream. 

A Manager handles associates, so it coordinates across streams and integrates them, though no longer owning content on a particular stream.

There are many more differences, but this is the core one. Once you're inside the firm, you receive an overview of the skills expected at each level.

Then it's another 2y or so to get to Associate Partner. And another 2-4 years to get to Partner. 

It's a long road, but time goes by fast.



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Content Creator
replied on Oct 25, 2023
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer & top performer


Interesting question and definitely admire your ambition :)

Some in depth answers have already been given - but I'd like to share abit of perspective based on my own experience

  • There are many factors that influence your trajectory towards EM and Partner that you will not be able to control
  • The best years in consulting for me was Consultant Year 2 (right before Manager), and many people wish they were back in that role ;)

Good to look forward, but don't forget to enjoy the journey :)

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