What's this? Every month, I'll be answering a selection of your questions. If you'd like to submit a question, please E-mail me or use the contact form here. I edit the questions I receive to shorten them or protect anonymity.
Q1. Chances at MBB
Q2. Avoiding consulting travel
Q3. Private vs. Public sector clients
Q1. I have a postgraduate degree from a top 5 UK university and have been working at a small energy consultancy for about 6 months. I want to move. Do I stand any chance of getting a job at McKinsey, BCG or Bain? - JS, UK
Reading between the lines, I think this reader is worried about whether spending such a short amount of time in his current role will negatively impact his chances at MBB.
I can reassure him that as long as he's performed well in his current role (i.e., he's not being fired
for gross misconduct) it should not negatively impact his application. MBB are looking for good candidates and will hire anyone that meets their hiring bar. They’ll also believe that if they do give you a job, the risk of you leaving for a ‘better’ consulting job is low because within consulting, MBB see themselves as the best jobs around.
If you pass the CV and aptitude tests and reach first round interviews (which is slightly easier to do if you've networked to get an internal referral), I’d bet that none of your interviewers will even ask why you want to leave your current firm.
Q2. I know consultants travel a lot. Is there any way to avoid this? - MA, UK
Travel is widely recognised as a necessity is consulting and if you’re going to be a consultant, you will spend at least some time travelling. However, there are ways to minimise the time you spend away from home and, if you have a good reason for not travelling (e.g., family illness, impending childbirth), most consulting firms will go out of their way to help you do this.
If you plan to work for a major consulting firm (e.g., MBB, a second-tier firm or one of the Big 4 you can reduce the amount of time you travel by being flexible about the projects you work on and the people you work with. Some of my former colleagues managed to work on London-based projects for 75-80% of their time by being completely open to working in any industry or with any team, as long as they were London-based. The obvious trade-off is that these colleagues had to work on projects that were less interesting to them or with teams that they may not have chosen.
Alternatively, you could try to specialise in an industry that has a small geographical focus or even work for a consulting company that only works in this industry. The obvious example is the financial sector. In London, all the major banks have their headquarters in London, so consultants working exclusively with banks endured minimal travel.
Finally, you could consider working in a non-client facing role at a consulting firm. These could include analytics, communications or professional development. These roles are typically office based and involve minimal travel (although there are significant other trade offs).
Q3. Are there differences working with public sector and private sector clients? - MV, France
During my time at McKinsey, I worked with clients in both the public and private sectors. I found the experience very different and preferred working with private sector clients because, in general:
As a result, after the first 6 months of my McKinsey career, I worked exclusively with private sector clients. Remember however that this was just my preference- many of my colleagues loved working with public sector clients.
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm