I feel completely out of place. Any advice?

MBB mental math Personal Life
New answer on Nov 25, 2022
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 23, 2022

I apologize for this non professional question. I've used this website before and it's been the most helpful thing to me during recruitment. I hope this sort of question is allowed. 

I'm nearing my 4th month at an MBB firm as associate/BA. I couldn't be prouder of myself for reaching this level. However, ever since I joined, I'm struck by this feeling that I'm out of place. Don't get me wrong, I like the work and will perform every task diligently. What I mean is - I feel like I don't belong to the firm's social side. Everyone here is too "posh" for me, it's so alienating. I rarely ever relate to my colleagues small talks about fashion shows or new luxury restaurants. People do seem accustomed to a certain higher "class", and its hard to adapt. Im not sure if I can get used to this environment.

 I get why consulting prestige is so alluring now. But I just can't help but feel too inadequate. Is this normal? How do I acclimate better?

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 23, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Absolutely this question is allowed! And, congrats on getting MBB…this is a huge achievement in-and-of-itself!

Please remember that everyone feels like an imposter at MBB. And, also remember, that most people don't feel 100% fit in most places!

You're facing a problem that a lot of kids of immigrants or lower class families feel when they go to a private school. Ultimately, you really have to decide what you want to do:

  1. Pretend. Go along with the conversations (even if you don't have things to add), learn what's expected, and do that
  2. Adopt. Go full-in. Embrace their “culture” and things they like. Start doing them and trying to enjoy them.
  3. Reject. Realize that's not you and you're just there to do the job. Get through the 2 years (or whatever your target is) and get out. Know that you'll find “your people” in the next job.
  4. Adapt. Are you sure all your colleagues are this way? There are always sub-cultures in firms. MBB are big…there are groups within it. At BCG we had all types of people. Try to find the colleagues who aren't in space.

On another note, welcome to adulthood my friend! This is the beginning of you having to navigate the real world.

Just know that you are not your environment. And nothing will ever be perfect. If your environment doesn't match you, survive/adapt until you can get to the environment where you thrive. And, learn what you have to have versus what you're “ok” with (what you can accept because x and y thing are great). If you can learn how to do this, you're one step closer to sustained happiness :)

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Benjamin
Expert
replied on Nov 24, 2022
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer with ~5 years of interviewing experience

Hello,

First of all, agree that you should be proud of yourself for reaching that level, and you'll have many more moments ahead of you in consulting to feel the same way.

I just can't help but feel too inadequate. Is this normal? 

  • You should never feel inadequate because you feel like you have different interests, aspirations, or come from a different background/social class
  • Your self-worth should definitely not be defined by MBB,

How do I acclimate better?

Some great suggestions by other coaches already. I will just add 2 more points

  1. If you are at MBB, it is likely that there are people who are similar to you, given the size of these firms. Try and get to know as many people as you can - you probably will find like-minded souls
    • If you wanted to, you could also try networking outside your immediate office
  2. In the event that you really cant find a group of friends at MBB, I don't think its the end of the world
    • You can still perform well on the job and you will be graded to your case performance, not your social affiliation
    • Yes you may have less of an internal support system, but you could also find support outside of the firm
    • I've known many consultants who's best and true friends are not in consulting, and the friends they make at MBB are mostly superficial/acquaintances 

It is not an easy situation to be in, given you are a new junior joiner. What I've learnt over the years - be true to yourself and eventually you'll find who matters and who doesn't 

 

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Mathias
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replied on Nov 23, 2022
Ex-McKinsey Engagement Manager / Ex-Diplomat - Perfect choice for non-traditional candidates. Let's get you an offer!

Thanks for sharing your experience. 
As a first generation student working at McKinsey, I faced some of the same challenges. It gets better over time. A lot of people deal with the imposter syndrome. Some specific things you could do to address the issue: 

- find like-minded colleagues: e.g. at McKinsey, I was involved in setting up an informal affinity network for first-gen students

- talk to your managers about situations that make you feel uncomfortable - they are usually happy to support your

- stay true to yourself: Especially in client situations it can be an incredible asset to be “the normal person” that is down-to-earth and approachable

- suggest non-elite team activities: I went trough my fair share of luxury restaurant dinners, but I also suggested activities such as attending a football game

All the best for your time at your MBB Firm. You have earned the right to be there! 

Kind regards,
Mathias

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Dennis
Expert
replied on Nov 23, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

I can relate to your question and felt in a similar way when I started out. 

In my experience, there is the “official” side of people and the more “private” and genuine side. The former you will have a lot at office or company events/gatherings where often a lot of management team members are around. So everyone feels like they need to act like peacocks showing off their feathers. 

The latter is more in small group interactions (e.g. when staffed on a project together) and for me that was the way to actually get to know people and build connections. Try out starting conversations around topics that interest you and see who chimes in - you can go from there. There is only so much one can rave about restaurants. 

 

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Anonymous B replied on Nov 23, 2022

Hello,

Fully agree with Ian. Additionally, I would like to point out that this is also a bit linked to age. Business Analysts and Consultants and some ELs are usually young, single who have come into money. They are not too family oriented (i.e. no wife/kids etc). I have observed that as you grow older in the firm, 1) you can find people whose company you enjoy 2) you also grow in designation and thus the people you hangout with are also typically managers/principals - who are much more settled in their personal life. 

Hang in there and good luck

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Mario
Expert
replied on Nov 25, 2022
Ex-Mckinsey (analyst->associate->manager) and now in tech (Bytedance) + Part time interview coach and mentor

Hi there,

 

First of all, you're not alone. A lot of consultants feel dragged into a lifestyle that isn't really “them”. 

You can try to:

- Separate between work and personal life (you can get your fair share of actual topics you like with groups of friends and outside work)

- Find yourself people who are like you (again, you're not alone and with time, you'll meet some consultants or colleagues who you can relate to, you just need 2-3 of those and you're set)

- Be yourself. Do not feel like you need to get molded into a certain character to make it. Build your own personality and stick to your roots as this is what people would appreciate in the long run

 

Mario

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Adi
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 24, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

Your observations are fairly accurate and a lot of people face similar challenges. What you dont want to do is to blow this out too much for yourself- emotionally & self worth wise. 

You are in that firm because you deserve to be there. You dont necessarily have to play the game that everyone else is playing. Be yourself, be unique and create your own rules. Of course, you dont want to come across as a “social outcast” or “too alienated”, so balance this out. Focus on doing high quality work, getting great client feedback and believe me, none of the rest will matter much.

The bigger question is whether this particular firm and consulting in general are the right FIT for you. For this please have a look this article for more guidance- https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-do-i-know-which-career-is-right-for-me

All the best.

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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