Starting at McKinsey!

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New answer on May 11, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on May 10, 2021

Hello All!

I recently accepted a job offer at McKinsey and I start in the next two weeks. My undergraduate and postgraduate degrees were both in International Affairs and I have no prior experience in consulting what so over. For my prep work I focused a lot on quantitarive reasoning, case structuring/framework (top-down approach) and creative reasoning.

As I am starting soon I am getting increasingly anxious about my abilities as I do not come from the conventional consulting background. Can anyone offer my any advice when it comes to expectations for new joiners? Specially when it comes to using Excel, PPT, etc...) I worry that I will struggle to keep up and not be the candidate they hired.

How were your first days at consulting like?

Thanks in advance!

(edited)

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Ian
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replied on May 11, 2021
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Congratulations!

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!

You will need to learn Excel, PPT etc., but don't worry - you can learn these on the job.

Now, I have some advice for you.

=======================================

The essentials

1. You need comrades – your people for the really good and the really garbage days. Find them and stick to them.

2. There’s almost no such thing as a rule. Whatever it is, you can find an exception.

3. This job is inherently stressful, and you are not going to be the first person to struggle with stress. Consulting firms have mechanisms in place to try to keep consultants from burning out. If you are struggling, reach out early.

4. There will always be pressure, but not every task will make or break the bank. If the success or failure of the project relies solely on the one slide you’re making, there are bigger issues going on.

5. Having a life you are happy with is more important than being the perfect consultant. Figure out not just what is critical at work, but also at home. Knowing what is most important and when will help you strike the right balance.

The practical stuff

6. Keep a one-page version of the case story up-to-date every couple of days.

7. Group emails get poor responses.

8. Be careful about adding Partners and Principals to Facebook.

9. Always bring solutions, not problems.

10. It can help to share your recent review form in your regular feedback sessions.

11. You learn so much more when you are fully transparent about what you don’t understand.

12. If work expands to fill the time available in which to do it, then limit the time available.

13. Remember number 4 and number 5? If you find you’re working until 1am every night, take a look at your balance. Unless you’re working on a “make or break” task, try to leave early enough that you can pause, get a decent night’s sleep, and come in fresh the next morning.

The unspoken truths

14. You will do your best work once you are okay with being fired.

15. Your Project Lead/Principal is not inside your head. Learn how to communicate and guide their attention to what they need to know. Work to their style and your life will be easier.

16. Reputation is extremely important – over-indexing to achieve good first impressions at the start of a project (and your tenure as a consultant) can create a lot of goodwill you can cash in later.

17. You have to stand up for yourself. And people will respect you for it (98% of the time).

18. People’s perception of your performance is just as important as your performance.

19. Over time you will develop a reputation amongst the upper cohort – they talk to each other about consultants (just like we talk about Principals and Partners amongst ourselves).

20. Communication is as important as content. Communication isn’t what you say, it’s what they hear.

21. Being good at the qualitative aspects of consulting (presentation, communication etc.) is significantly more important than being good at the analysis/excel/quantitative side of consulting.

22. Your career development advisor is not a purely objective mentor; what you tell them will impact their perception of you.

23. Success is 80% work, 20% timing. Opportunities can be random, but you also need to know how to place yourself.

24. Consulting is a confidence game. Always have a strong opinion, lightly held.

25. Once you hit 12-18 months tenure, you have more power to say “no” than you think you do.

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Francesco
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replied on May 11, 2021
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Hi there,

Congratulations on the McKinsey offer! You are supposed to have a basic knowledge of Excel and PPT as a minimum. So if you don’t have much knowledge, better to review them. You will also get some training, but if you are already at full speed when you start your first project, that’s better.

Below you can find what I usually recommend to prepare for a consulting job:

  • 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. As mentioned, 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
  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.

Best,

Francesco

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Clara
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replied on May 11, 2021
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Hello!

Congrats of that offer and welcome to McK!!!

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 -unfortunately now we cannot post the adress but you can find them easily-

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

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

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

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Antonello
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replied on May 10, 2021
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, first of all, congrats on the offer! Do not be in a panic, they do not suppose you to be proficient with Office (indeed, nothing in the interview mention in). I recommend having a quick look at courses on Excel, but you are going to learn everything you need in your first project

Best,
Antonello

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Araz replied on May 11, 2021

Hi,

Congratulations on the job offer! I know it is not much related but could you please share your experience and tips on how to prepare for the game and interviews?

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Florian
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replied on May 11, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | Imbellus Expert

Hey there,

If you got hired through the tedious interview process, you will do well on the job, trust me.

Most people that start out at McK feel the same way and 50% of the new joiners do not have a business background.

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 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 McKinsey 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-McKinsey 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.

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.

You will do just fine. Enjoy the ride!

Cheers,

Florian

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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