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A Day In The Life of a McKinsey Consultant: Work, Hours and Perks

Updated: Sep 21, 2019


What Do MBB Consultants Do?

Management Consultants mainly advise clients in top management positions (e.g., CEO, CFO level, divisional heads, etc) on business strategy and other matters. This may involve topics such as growth, portfolio management and profitability. Clients tend to be large corporates (e.g., Fortune 1000, FTSE100, etc.), private equity companies as well as governments and non-profit organizations.


Companies hire management consultants mainly due to the following reasons:


1. Functional or industry expertise: Consulting firms have access to a breath of experienced experts with expertise in key areas mainly through previous projects conducted at other firms. Those experiences and best practices can be leveraged in a confidential manner.


2. Objective opinion/ advice: When top management wants to take important business decisions (e.g. acquiring a firm, moving into a new area of business) they need to convince all its stakeholders. Bringing in consultants can provide an independent opinion on that matter and boost credibility.


3. Lack of in-house capabilities: With pressing issues, corporations often lack the in-house capabilities/ resources at hand to solve those. A good example for this would be private equity firms that heavily rely on ‘smart’ consultants to conduct specific aspects of the due diligence for an acquisition in record time.


How Do Your Tasks Look Like?


As a junior consultant e.g. business analyst or associate, you will mostly:


1. Collect data from different sources (internal, from the client, external from expert networks, etc) and run analyses

2. Liaise and align next steps/ to dos with your project team/ colleagues

3. Make your client happy, e.g., keep them up to date, deliver and agree on results and build a working relationships with them

4. Work with clients to draw conclusions and then present those in a coherent manner (top down)

5. "Own" your work(-stream) and contribute to internal problem solving sessions with senior leadership on your project team


Consulting Hours


Putting in 60-70h per week is completely normal and oftentimes demanded. But this varies depending on the type of client, the country you are working in, the senior leadership, etc. In Europe, Germans and Italians are known to have a culture that leads itself to long hours while the Nordics (e.g., Sweden, Denmark) are known to be more focused on maintaining a work-life balance.


Management Consultants tend travel quite a bit. This is especially true in countries such as Germany where many companies are based in small towns. In this case the project team will travel to the client on Monday morning or Sunday evening and return home on Thursdays. If you're based in London much less travel will be required as a lot tends to happen in the Greater London area.


Why Does Everyone Want To Be A Management Consultant?


The lifestyle: flights, airline miles, business class travel, great hotels, taxis, dinners and fancy restaurants and more.


The brand name/ external validation: working at McKinsey, BCG etc still impresses a lot of people. Not only ordinary people but one of those names on your CV will definitely open a lot of doors.


Exit opportunities: Depends on the state of the economy but most consultants exit into business development/ strategy position at large and prestigious corporates. This is closely followed by consultants that either join or found start-ups and those that move into private equity or other investment roles.


Working with smart people and having an impact: Most management consultants are highly driven people by nature who have always performed near or on top of their class in school, extracurriculars, sports etc. Consulting attracts those people because they can have a significant impact on organizations in a very short period of time. On top of that you will be working with a lot of awfully smart people with great communication skills that will allow you to continue to satisfy your thirst for learning and sustain a very steep learning curve.


Paid gap to pursue an MBA/ PhD: Most MBB offer educational leave programs to their business analyst, usually after about 2 years on the job. Those willing to commit themselves to return to their firm after their leave of absence will continue to receive part of their salary/ some form of reimbursement for tuition fees incurred. This is a great way to go back to Harvard and get your MBA without being burdened by student debt after graduation.


Great compensation: see below


Consultant Compensation

Starting compensation (base + bonus) in the US are around USD 100k for undergrad hires. In the UK starting consulting compensation tends to be a bit lower at around GBP70k. In the US, for post-MBA associates this is more likely to be around USD 200k.

Early in your career as a consultant you will likely earn less than investment bankers. But over the long term this gap significantly narrows. It is not unusual for Senior Partners at MBB to earn $5m+.


What an Average Week of a Management Consultant Looks Like


Your primary goal as a Management Consultant is to do great work, i.e. solving problems for corporations. However, at the same time it is all about making your clients happy. You could even say this aspect is more important than the actual results that you produce. This means your schedule will often be quite packed and at times unpredictable. Time for the gym, sports really depends on your time management skills, need of sleep and the intensity of the project. Some teams will organize an evening team sport session (e.g. Badminton) on one weekday.


Obviously there is no standard week. But below is an example of how an “average” week may look like.


Sunday evening routine

21:00h: Pack your suitcase and pre-order a taxi for your drive to the airport for the next morning.

22:00h: 7hrs to go until your alarm goes off! Hopefully you didn’t party too hard on Saturday evening, because if you slept in late on Sunday you will probably have difficulties falling asleep.


Monday

5am: wake up and get ready for the taxi.


5:30am: Take the taxi to the airport. Check emails and respond while being driven to the airport.


6:15am: Arrive at the airport and go through security


7am: You have priority-boarding so you will be one of the first on the flight. This allows you to finalize some work on your laptop as soon as you sit down and while the other passenger are boarding the plane.


8:30am: Touchdown: Turn on your work phone, store your laptop and your noise cancelling headphones.


8:50am – Get off the plane and wait for your colleague to arrive with whom you usually share a taxi to the client.


9am: Take a taxi to the client site. If needed use the idle time to make some final edits to your latest PowerPoint deck that you will discuss with the client at 10:00am.


9:30am: Arrive at the client site and settle in your team room.


10am: Update session with your key client contacts.


11am: Do a ‘check-in’ with your project lead and discuss how to progress with your project lead given the input/ feedback you received from your client and start working on them immediately.


1pm: Try to get a quick 30min lunch break at the client's canteen otherwise go and grab a sandwich at the café.


2pm: Tick off some items off your to do list and update on the team room flipchart


3pm: Check and integrate the new or visually improved slides that you got back from your back office staff for the problem solving session with the Partner tomorrow morning.


4–5pm: Meet an executive that has requested a meeting with your team. Run him through the project scope and timeline. Appreciate his input and agree on a follow-up meeting to discuss the working mode.


5-6pm: Create 2-3 slides summarizing the key takeaway of the 4pm meeting.


6pm: Take a taxi and drive back to your local office. Order delivery for dinner or have some sandwiches from the local office.


7–10/11pm: Do a quick status update with your project lead on what slides/ analysis needs to be finished today. Continue executing on those.


11-12pm: Try to call your girlfriend, family for a quick chat or head to the gym.


Thursday:

7:30am: Check out from the hotel and meet at the lobby to take a taxi to the client.


8am: Arrive at the client’s . Grab a quick coffee if you didn't manage to get breakfast at the hotel (most consultants get used to skipping breakfast to save a few more minutes for sleep).


9-10am: Problem Solving with your Partner on the project.


11am: Debrief with your project lead.


12am: Have a quick 30min lunch break and go down to the canteen with the Junior Partner that is on site today.


1-3pm: Attend a client


4:30pm: Take a taxi to the airport. Finish an analysis that you were working on.


5pm: Arrive at the airport, go through security and head to the airport lounge for a quick snack.


6:30pm: Take off back to your home city


8:00pm: Touchdown. Turn on your phone to see whether any new emails with urgent to dos have come in.


8:30-9pm: Finish some work during the taxi ride.


10pm: Arrive at home


Apart form the interruption from the flight most Tuesdays, Wednesdays are very similar to Mondays. Fridays on the other hand tend to be a bit more relaxed. You will have the choice of working from home or your local office. Rarely will you be working beyond 8pm.

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