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How to prepare to begin?

BCG soft skills
New answer on Feb 29, 2024
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 01, 2024

Hi everyone, I am in the lucky position of being offered a position as Associate at BCG in European office, starting in January 2025.

There is a long way to come but I have recently spoken with a mentor at the firm and they suggested that, in the meantime, I could spend a little time on developing some niche skills to help me with the cases. I am aware of the importance of Excel but I think it is a bit too early to start worrying about that.

In fact, they suggested something like “python coding” or “data analysis”, as examples of niche skills that could add value.

Is there any specific skills that would benefit an incoming Associate to know and that can be developed with little effort over a long period of time? Would coding in Python actually be useful to learn in order to have a slight edge?

 

Thank you!

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Daniel
Expert
replied on Jan 01, 2024
Ex-BCG Consultant | Chicago Booth MBA | Tailored Coaching | Comprehensive Interview Prep

Firstly, congratulations on receiving an offer! I know a lot of hard work has gone into getting this far, so you should celebrate the accomplishment.

As far as skills that you will need, the job is about collecting and analyzing data, generating insights, and packaging all of this information in a useful manner, and doing so as accurately and quickly as possible. Excel and PowerPoint are the tools used most frequently and so you'll plenty of training and likely practice using them on most of your cases. Developing facility with other tools will provide

Python coding: This can be a very useful tool. On one of my cases, one of the associates ran Python code to pull data that went in a dashboard that was presented on a weekly bases to the executive team. Using Python allowed them to quickly pull together a lot of data that was not readily available, and they could focus on analyzing it and generating insights. So this is definitely a useful skill.

Data analysis: This is a broad category, but it may still be useful to find courses to familiarize yourself with data analysis concepts and best practices. You'll use them throughout your career. The immediate value-add lies in being able to use the tools quickly, though. In a few instances, there were cases that were specifically looking to staff someone who was familiar with Alteryx or Tableau. You'll almost certainly use these less than Excel, but they can help you process a ton of data quickly and generate compelling outputs for your slides. And so having it as a tool in your tool set can help you be more resourceful - even if the case your on doesn't even ask you for it.

In addition to those, I think consuming business news articles and research papers can be very helpful in developing your ability to not only understand particular industries, but also to develop your ability to think critically about the problems clients will ask you and your future case teams to address.    

With all of that said, definitely find some down time to rest and relax. The job is intense and the learning curve early on will be steep, so make sure that whatever you choose to do that you come in fresh ready to embrace the challenges you will face.

Best of luck!

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 03, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Know that no-one can perfectly prepare for the job and that's the point: You will mess up, you will learn, you will be trained and supported. That's OK!

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First: Read the 25 tips in my consulting handbook

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Second: In terms of things you can learn/do to prepare beforehand:

1) Daily Reading

  • The Economist, The Financial Times, BCG/Mskinsey Insights

2) Industry deep-dives

  • Learn, in-depth, how the industries/companies your office advises, work. (PM me for an industry overview template)

3) Analytics tools

  • Alteryx, Tableau, etc.

4) Excel

5) Powerpoint

  • Best practices/standards
  • Different layouts
  • Quickly editing/updating slides
  • Thinking in PowerPoint

6) Presentation skills / sharp communication

  • There are some online/virtual classes for this

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Third: In terms of doing well in your role when you're there:

1) Understand the context/prompt (what role are you in, what company, who's watching, etc.)

2) Understand the objective (what, specifically, is expected from you...both day to day, and in your overall career progression)

3) Quickly process information, and focus on what's important - Take a lot of information and the unknown, find the most logical path, and focus on that.

4) Be comfortable with the unknown, and learn to brainstorm - think/speak like an expert without being one

In summary, there will always be a flood of information, expectations, competition etc. and not enough time. Find out which ones matter when. (i.e. be visibile and focus efforts on the things that people care about)

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Fourth: Here are some great prior Q&As for you!

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/what-makes-a-good-consultant-how-to-get-a-good-review-6790

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-hard-is-it-to-excel-in-top-consulting-firms-6762

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-become-an-engagement-manager-and-partner-quickly-6722

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/need-to-learn-skills-in-the-ample-free-time-before-starting-at-an-mbb-what-should-i-do-6774

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 02, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Wow, congrats! Really happy for you.

And amazing to see that you have this drive to already get going. 

It comes down to what you want to optimise for. 

You get all the training that you need in the beginning, so you can also enjoy the time until then travelling or pursuing any other interest. 

If you do what to have some sort of edge, or develop one of your skills, my strong recommendation would be to work on soft skills rather than hard, technical, analytical ones. 

Basically, learning something like Python might make you attractive on some projects only within the first 2-3 years. Beyond that, believe me, you'd rather be known for something else than Python. 

Once you move past entry-level, the role becomes more and more about leadership and delivering impact through others. i.e., you should aim to get as far as possible from coding away at your laptop beyond the first year or so. 

If you're interested, however, in pursuing a more data-driven track, perhaps transitioning into data science with time, then yes, it might make more sense to stay close to it. 

Sharing with you an article with several other tips for your start in consulting:


Good luck!
Cristian

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 02, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Congratulations on the BCG offer! In terms of your question:

Q: Is there any specific skills that would benefit an incoming Associate to know and that can be developed with little effort over a long period of time? Would coding in Python actually be useful to learn in order to have a slight edge?

I am not sure Python will necessarily help for a generalist consulting position. However, if it is interesting for you to learn it as a personal interest, there is nothing wrong with studying it and it might be useful for some projects.

In terms of the best way to use your time, it depends on your goals and skills you want to develop. Given you have a significant amount of time, you might consider some of the options below:

  1. Prepare for the GMAT (in case you want to do an MBA later on)
  2. Improve your skills with Excel and PowerPoint
  3. Freelance based on a skill you know/want to learn
  4. Do an internship in a position that can help you long-term (eg sales)
  5. Launch a website you can easily automate (useful to develop entrepreneurial skills)
  6. Learn a new language

Good luck!

Francesco

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Hagen
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 29, 2024
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi there,

First of all, congratulations on the offer from BCG!

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

  • First of all, while it is great to see how eager you are to prepare for your career start with BCG, I would highly advise you not to worry about it.
  • Like all major strategy consulting companies, BCG will provide you with excellent onboarding and training that will prepare you for everything you need to know.
  • Lastly, if you want to prepare on your own, I would advise you to improve your Excel and PowerPoint skills. While there may be company-specific Excel and PowerPoint functions, you will still be faster in the first few months with some practice.

You can find more on this topic here: Salaries in the consulting industry.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to best practice your Excel and PowerPoint skills beforehand, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 02, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hey there,

Congrats on the achievement!

If you are interested in preparing for your new role, I'd suggest the following:

When I got the offer some years ago I did the same. I reached out to people I knew in McKinsey and people who interviewed me to ask: what can I do to make the start easier? how can I prepare?

The answer from everyone was: Relax! Enjoy your time before you start and don't think about it. You will figure it out on the job. I followed that advice and it made sense to me once I joined.

When you start at in top tier consulting there are 2 ways to learn:

  1. Formal training. The formal training sessions/ weeks/ days in the beginning, are nice, however, they are more for networking and meeting your peers. You learn some interesting concepts and get some useful tips from more experienced consultants BUT
  2. Constant and implicit learning on the job is where it's at. No matter if you are a newcomer or a veteran after 2 years, you will always find yourself on a steep learning curve. As soon as you barely mastered one skill or the skills needed for one level in the hierarchy, you will take care of things, which are expected from a more senior colleague. This cycle never ends. You are expected to learn on the job, learn from your colleagues, your mentors, sometimes even the client. So basically a newly promoted Engagement Manager has the same 'struggle' as a new-hire Business Analyst. They both need to work in a completely new environment and role.

Knowing that, if we now go back to square one in your BCG journey it makes perfect sense to enter the firm with a blank slate with a lot of curiosity and eagerness to soak it all up and quickly learn the ropes.

Nothing matches the experience and the learning and this is a good thing (also the reason why ex-MBBs are valued highly on the job market).

You will learn everything you need to master while doing it. You will be thrown in the cold water and need to swim. However, your colleagues will always be happy to help you and mentor you. And for the rest, you will figure everything out along the way. The key here is always to ask for tips, shortcuts, feedback, etc. Don't be quiet if you get stuck.

Lastly, if you have no domain knowledge about a certain industry or topic, read through the internal library of documentation (which is endless) and call some of the firm experts on the topic. Usually, they are happy to offer you a short call to get you up to speed.

But here’s something extra: Since the question came up ever so often with my clients, I've authored a book titled "Consulting Career Secrets," specifically to guide newcomers like you in navigating this journey. The goal of the book was to answer all typical questions of entry-level consultants and show them the way to make the entry and the transition as simple and painless as possible. While no book or training can entirely prep you for the unique experiences of your first day, week, or project, it offers comprehensive insights to mentally prepare you, suggests essential tools and skills to acquire, shows you the ways how to do that, and strategies to quickly adapt and excel in your new role. You can DM me if you want to know more.

In any case, don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy the ride!

Florian

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Alberto
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 08, 2024
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

Congrats on your offer!

Your number one priority under my view should be enjoying your time to start on day 1 will full batteries (resting, spending time with love ones, exercising, traveling or doing anything you love).

The moment you start:

  1. You'll have little time for everything I've mentioned
  2. You'll get great training on the skills you need to develop and expectations will be you know nothing

So chill down and good luck with new role!

Best,

Alberto

Check out my latest case based on a real MBB interview: Sierra Springs

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Nikita
Expert
replied on Jan 02, 2024
MBB & Tier2 preparation | 90+ offers | 7 years coaching | 2000+ sessions | PDF reviews attached

Hey,

Are you coming in as a management consultant or as a data scientist? If the answer is the former when I see no reason for you to spend your time and effort on learning how to code: you'll probably barely use it during the real work, since all the hard coding will be allocated to data scientists.

Keeping that all in mind, learning how to automate your consulting work can serve you greatly during your tenure. For that, I suggest you look into learning how to write macros for Excel and maybe into SQL.

Good luck!
Nick

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Daniel gave the best answer

Daniel

Ex-BCG Consultant | Chicago Booth MBA | Tailored Coaching | Comprehensive Interview Prep
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