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Managing the effects insecurity with casing

Anonymous A asked on Jul 10, 2019

Hey all,

So not an industry question but still felt the need to ask...about 20 cases in, have given about 17 and naturally, I'm still struggling/failing/learning again. However, with casing at times it feels like you're moving 7 steps forward and then 20 back. Sometimes I feel like whenever I learn something new, there's so many things I still have yet to learn. At times, it doesn't get to me -- but now, as I just finish doing a McKinsey command and control case that I just failed epically, at times it does.

I wanted to know for everybody that is casing for the first time, how do you all cope with the stress associated with casing? How do you try to limit the conversations in your head of discouragement? Are there times where you doubt yourself and your ability to do the work as a management consultant -- how do you deal with that?

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts.

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Leif
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replied on Jul 10, 2019
BCG | Kellogg MBA | 5 years of case coaching experience | 200+ candidates coached
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Hi there,

You are looking to hear from a fellow first time caser, so I'm probably not best positioned to answer your question here. But since I recently went through this process myself, I thought sharing a few personal tips (that worked for me) might be helpful.

  1. First of all, keep in mind that you are not alone. There are thousands of other candidates out there who are going through the exact same doubt and insecurity. People who got offers from top consulting firms went through the same doubt and insecurity when they were casing. I have friends who were totally stressed out and even cried when doing cases. Guess where they are now? So, set your expectation that way. It is an inevitable process. Keep up the hard work and one day you will see the light.
  2. Then, I actually think that it's great news that you are finding yourself struggling/failing/learning (at this stage - you mentioned that you've done 20 cases). Please, please regard casing as a learning process. The goal is not to do every case perfectly, but to expose your weaknesses as much as you can before you get into a real interview. That is how you learn. I would be really worried if you are saying that you feel very confident about yourself now, and can crack every case thrown at you.
  3. And hey, what about the things you have been learning and the things you have been doing well in those cases? Super-achievers like yourself put all their attention on their weaknesses and completely ignore their strengths/achievement. Take a look at what you've accomplished so far, after these 20 cases. Compare your current performance to the first time you cased, and see how much you have improved. I have not cased with you so I do not know where exactly you have improved, but the fact that you now have learned "something new" and that you know there are "so many things you need to learn" (direct quote from your question) is a really really good sign.

Ok, so let's talk about strategies. It is one thing to talk about expectations and mentality, but it is a different thing to actually improve and finally pull yourself out of this stage (which matters the most). Here are some suggestions on what you can do:

  1. Keep track of these "something new" that you learned and the "many things you still have to learn". Review both the "learned list" and the "yet to learn" list periodically, and tackle them one (or several) at a time. Move a "yet to learn" item to "learned" once you have it cracked. One day, the "learned" list will grow really long and the "yet to learn" list will start to shrink. Again, remember, this takes time! Do not try to learn everything all at once. Do not rush it.
  2. Related to the point above, set goals (multiple goals) for each case. There should be an easy goal and a stretch goal. For example, the easy goal can be - I will make no math errors. It should be something you need to improve on, but isn't too difficult to achieve. This helps you to improve while at the same time build up confidence. The stretch goal should be something more difficult to achieve. You say you just did a McKinsey-style case and according to you, you failed epically. So what is the key learning point? What is the most glaring mistake? Take it into your next case.
  3. Find a case partner who you will regularly case with. He/she should know your strengths and weaknesses, so that he/she can not only help you improve by continuously training you on your weak spots, but also provide encouragement and psychological support when you need it, as a witness of your growth.

Hope this helps. And feel free to message me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further!

Alexander updated his answer on Jul 10, 2019

Hello,

I'm in a similar boat, and have only recently started live cases. I think it's important to remember that you are only practising, and that there are no negative repercussions to you failing. In fact, if you fail now you will learn something new and will eventually run out things to do wrong! To keep track of your errors, I would recommend keeping the notes you write down during the case - I have a notebook in which I keep it all organized, and find that if I look back just 5 cases I realize how much progress I've made. I also go back to a case the next day, look at it with fresh eyes and find that this really helps with understanding where I could have performed better.

Please note that you should focus on improving one or two things at a time, and I would recommend keeping an Excel sheet with a high-level summary of all cases, together with some short action items. This will help structure the learning process ("structure is good!", said the aspiring consultant...)

To further reduce stress, I would recommend finding a semi-permanent case study partner. Just someone you get along with and trust, someone who can pay attention to what you want to work on in particular. Having a case prep partner to both hold you accountable and lift your spirits makes everything so much easier.

Lastly, it's frustrating to jump into an extremely hard case - after all, you would never open a textbook on the last page and expect to understand it all! There are a few case books that sort their cases by difficulty, as does Preplounge. I particularly like the Darden 2018 case book, which gives several difficulty ratings (quant, qual, overall) and which you can easily find online (or you can contact me and I'll send it to you). Working on a few basic, easy cases at first is really helpful - do a market entry case, a profitablity case, a market sizing case... and then branch out into the more difficult ones.

I hope this helps. Feel free to reach out if I can help in any other way!

(edited)

Anonymous B updated his answer on Jul 10, 2019

Hi,

You got some great advice from other guys. I am also preparing and feeling similar, a lot of struggles in my mind, questions about motivation and so on. At the end of the day I know that I want it and I decided that I will pursue it and do my best no matter the outcome.

What helped me is to be behavior driven instead of goal driven. At the end of the day, you can't have full control of the outcome, but you can make sure that you give your all (control your behavior) and try to enjoy the proccess - I find it entertaining to solve cases, even though I sometimes suck.

Embrace the possibility of failure - you fail, you learn. Even if you don't get a job at the targeted company, you will still have some benefits of preparing for case interview. Some benefits that I will gain (and probably you):

  • improved communication skills (structured communication, body language)
  • improved analytical skills
  • improved business English (not my first language)
  • gaining industry knowledge / becoming business acumen
  • lot bigger chances of cracking future interviews with other companies
  • ...

One more thing that I would like to say regarding your question: " Are there times where you doubt yourself and your ability to do the work as a management consultant -- how do you deal with that?" - I sometimes doubt my ability to work as a management consultant and that's fine. I calm my inner voice by talking to myself: If I really do my best and don't get the job, maybe I am just not for mng consulting, maybe I am just not on the intelectual level of these guys... Maybe that's true and maybe it is not.. If it is, that is fine, you have to accept who you are and know that you can chase greatness without getting that job. There are so many paths to success.

Victor Cheng said that Steve Jobs would probably be a shitty consultant - he was often driven by intuition instead of data, Jack Ma couldn't get a job at KFC etc. Realize that this is not the only opportunity of your life. Life is a roller coaster ride, enjoy it! :D

I would love to hear some more opinions whether you agree or not,

Thanks

(edited)

Vlad updated his answer on Jul 10, 2019
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Hi,

It's very simple - 20 cases is not enough!!! Your expectations are too high. It's actually a very small number, especially if you've done it not with the most experienced partners. Just keep calm and move forward!

Best!

(edited)

Eugene
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replied on Jul 10, 2019
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HI,

First, confidence comes with practice. Cases are actually easy and you'll get there. Being nervous is normal both during prep and obviously during actual interviews.

Second, try practicing cases in smaller steps - practice the same case 2-3 times with partners but focus on a specific area of the case. E.g., do a case end-to-end in the first session, then have a session where you go end-to-end but mentally focus mostly on the drill-down, then a session when you focus mostly on maths etc. Otherwise you'll be stressing about too many things each time.

Third, if you feel overstressed and have time before application, overindex on self-study first: go through LOMS etc., talk to a coach or two without a full-fledged case practice, allocate 2 hours and practicec just case openings on your own etc. You will feel better then when you practice with partners again

Hope it's helpful and happy to chat more.

-Eugene