Preparing before starting

consulting strategy consulting
New answer on Mar 23, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 22, 2021

Hi all, I start my first strategy consulting job next week.

Being stuck at home with covid restrictions, I was wondering if there are ways to make use of this week and make my life as easy as possible once I start?

Any suggestions on any materials to read, excel/powerpoint courses to complete, processes to establish to maximise my efficiency, or anything else that comes to mind would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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Francesco
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replied on Mar 23, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Congratulations on your offer!

These are the tips I usually recommend before starting to work in consulting:

  • On the technical side, Excel will be the most important technical thing to master at the beginning, in particular for VLOOKUPs and Pivot tables; you could also review PowerPoint if needed. You will likely receive training on this once you start anyway.
    • Tip for Excel: learn how to use the keyword as much as possible and relegate the touchpad to the minimum – this will skyrocket your productivity in the long term.
  • For better communication, two great books are:
    • How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie (classical on how to manage relationships)
    • Never Split The Difference - Chris Voss (great negotiation book)
  • For mindset, some great books are:
    • The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy (great book on long-term planning)
    • Tiny Habits – BJ Fogg (excellent, science-based book on habits formation)
    • The Mediations – Marcus Aurelius (written ~ 2000 years ago but incredibly actual – the personal diary of the most powerful man in the world at the time)
    • The 80–20 Principle - Richard Koch (very smart life tips from one of the founders of LEK)
    • Peaks and Valleys – Spencer Johnson (crisis management tale – from the same author of the famous “Who moved my Cheese”, I personally found this book a lot more interesting and applicable)

Below you can also find a list of things that could be useful to practice during your first weeks:

  1. Take notes when your manager tells you something – this will help you to remember details and will show you care about them to the team.
  2. Always double-check. The first impression is very important in consulting (and in any industry in general): if you show you are reliable from the beginning, you create a reputation of a reliable person. Double checks should be done on expectations for your job, your Excel analysis, your slides – basically everything.
  3. Define priorities before starting any set of tasks. The majority of the results usually come from a subset of activities – this is true also for your tasks in consulting. You have to identify which they are and prioritize them – the application of the so-called 80-20 rule or Pareto Principle. Alignment on priorities and expectations is particularly important with your manager at the beginning of the project.
  4. Socialize with your colleagues and start to build a network. Consulting (most likely also your new industry) is a people business and you should build a good network both within and outside the company. A good start is key to develop good relationships long-term. More difficult to do during COVID – but there may still be opportunities for virtual gatherings. Try to take advantage of as many as possible to build connections.
  5. Organize your private life activities. You want to organize your calendar to leave some space for personal activities (sport/ friends/ family). This is not easy but can be managed if you organize well, and long-term will be critical to keep a balance between work and private life. Also, it is better to align with your manager/teammates from the beginning on your core needs, so that there are no surprises later­ on.
  6. Ask for feedback every two-three weeks – this will show you are proactive and willing to learn.
  7. Ask for help when you don't know what to do – better to let know you are in trouble with meeting a deadline than missing the deadline.
  8. Be social and respectful with the support staff – these people are great and influential as well in the company.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Florian
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replied on Mar 23, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

If you want to make the best use of this week, do something you genuinely enjoy since you will have much less time in a week from now for these things.

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 McKinsey or any MBB really, 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 MBB 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.

No book, no training, no coach can prepare you for your first day, your first week, your first engagement. 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.

Also, for every technical problem (IT, Excel question, etc) McKinsey has a Global Helpdesk and the rule is to call them for every problem you can't solve within 5 minutes. They will fix your computer, guide you through Excel formulas, etc. I reckon this is similar for others.

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.

Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy the ride!

Florian

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Ian
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replied on Mar 22, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

First, congratulations :)

Second...you only have a week until you get slammed with 70 hour weeks and a ton of stress. My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy your freedom :P You should be completely and absolutely bored by the time you start your role...so that you're ready and grateful for the challenge when it hits!

Third: 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!

Now, for tips....

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First: Read the 25 tips in my consulting handbook here: https://www.spencertom.com/2018/01/14/consulting-survival-guide/

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

  • https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/free-online-resources-to-learn-excel-basics-6946
  • Pivottables
  • Working with data
  • Key fuctions (vlookup, Index match, count and sum if/ifs, sumproduct, concat, etc.)
  • Hotkeys (i.e. use keyboard more than your mouse)
  • Financial modeling

5) Powerpoint

  • https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/powerpoint-skills-4072
  • Wireframing
  • Lead-in titles
  • Best practices/standards
  • Different layouts
  • Quickly editing/updating slides
  • Thinking in PowerPoint

6) Presentation skills / sharp communication

  • There are some great online/virtual classes for this (including the academies meantioned above

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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)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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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Clara
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replied on Mar 23, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Congrats of that offer!

If there is one thing I wish I had done before joining McKinsey, that would have been Excel. It can really be a game changer, so I would really focus on that (more than pptx, industry knowledge, etc., that are nice-to-have, but not deal breakers).

Excel skills are part of the core skill-set of consultants, and it´s great that you want to practice them. PFB a list of the most popular commands:

Basic operations: SUM, SUMPRODUCT

Text transformations: CONCATENATE, LEFT, RIGHT, & operator,

Connecting different datasets: VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, INDEX(MATCH(),MATCH())

Conditional-based operations: SUMIF, COUNTIF, SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, COUNTA

Learn how to analyze data using Pivot Tables

There are plenty of online materials:

Microsoft Support: https://support.office.com/en-us/excel

Kubicle: https://kubicle.com/personal (go for the 7 days free trial - Excel for Business Analytics)

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Gaurav
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replied on Mar 22, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies
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Adi
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replied on Mar 22, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

This question has been answered many many times before. So please search the Q&A forum broadly.

Congrats for the job and have a good start.

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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