I talk regularly to people who are trying to break into management consulting. One thing that's almost always apparent is, unless they've worked in consulting previously, most applicants have no idea of what their typical day will be like if they land a job and become a consultant.
I can empathise with this because until I joined McKinsey in London, I had no idea of what my life would be like either (as it turned out, I worked a lot but learned a lot too).
To help anyone who might be in the same position, I've laid out below what a typical Monday at McKinsey looked like. It's based on the last project I did at McKinsey, where I was the Engagement Manager on a team serving a client near London.
0700: Wake up to my alarm going off. Lie in bed for a few minutes feeling pleased that I'm not serving a client outside of the UK- early morning Monday flights are the worst. Grab a quick shower and try to spend a few minutes afterwards talking to my wife about our plans for the day
0730: Jump into a taxi. One of the things that took me a while to get used to when I joined McKinsey is that it's considered quite normal to take taxis (i.e., Firm approved minicabs) even for long journeys. The commute to my client's office is slightly longer than an hour. I use the time to read through some E-mails on my phone and think through the day ahead
0830: Arrive at the client site. I pick up some breakfast from their canteen before heading to the team room. I'm the first from our team to arrive and spend the next hour or so replying to E-mails from the weekend. In the last 12 months, I've become a lot more boundaried about working on weekends and don't respond to E-mails unless they're urgent
0930: Lead a team check-in with the associate and analyst working on this project with me. They usually reach the client site at around this time and that's fine by me- everyone has different working rhythms and as long as we get what we need to done, I don't mind how they do it. At the check in, we discuss what our aims are for the week and what we'll get done today
1000: Talk through a model with one of our key clients. The clients we're working with on this project are pretty informal and regularly drop by our team room with little notice. This is both good-in that it's helped us build a strong relationship with them- and bad- in that it can make it difficult to predict when we'll have time available to work on things by ourselves. After sitting in the first 10 minutes of the meeting, I let the analyst lead it whilst I work on some slides for a call with the partner that we're having later
1200: Have a problem solving call with the partner on the project. In it we give the partner an update on the progress we've made, share the work in progress analysis that we're doing and talk about what we'll present at a Steering Committee (SteerCo) meeting we have towards the end of the week. The partner has talked with the project sponsor and has some helpful feedback on what they'd like to discuss at the SteerCo
1400: Hold a meeting with the full client working team. The project we're working on is a complex commercial transformation. We have a full client team working on it with us, with representatives from all parts of the organization (e.g., HR, Finance). Every week we have a meeting to share progress and align on next steps. Today's meeting runs over and lasts for 2 hours instead of 1
1600: Check in on what we need to get done today. Once the meeting has finished, our McKinsey team meets to agree on what we need to do by end of day today. Our key tasks are to complete a two analyses that the partner asked for on the problem solving call and build an outline of the presentation we'll give to the SteerCo later this week. We agree that my team will focus on the analyses whilst I concentrate on the SteerCo deck
1630: Hold feedback sessions. I think that giving and receiving regular feedback is important to the smooth running of a team and make a point of scheduling an individual feedback session each week with the associate and analyst on the team. We've done this every week so there are no real surprises in the feedback- everyone is comfortable with the direction we're heading in
1700: Build SteerCo deck. It's time to get down to some serious work so I put my headphones on (I work better this way) and start drafting the SteerCo deck. Most of the clients leave the office around now
1900: Jump into taxi. I can do my work equally well at home so I call for a taxi. Before I leave the client site, the team and I spend 2 minutes aligning again on what they'll send me before then end of the day
2000: Arrive home and spend some time relaxing. My wife and I discuss our days over dinner and watch some television
2200: Open up laptop again. After my wife goes to bed, I open up my laptop again. The team has sent me what they promised so I look through this, make some edits and send it to the partner for his review asking for his feedback before tomorrow afternoon
2345: Head to bed and prepare to repeat this tomorrow!
As I've said elsewhere, one of the best things about consulting is its variety. If you become a consultant, a typical day will vary a lot based on what project you're working on. I've worked on projects where I've been able to stop working at 1900 (rare!) and I've also been on one's where I've regularly worked until 0200 and had to work weekends as well- in the end, this was a big reason why I chose to leave the profession. The above was fairly typical of my experience though.
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm