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What it’s like to be an entry-level consultant at McKinsey, BCG or Bain

If you’re comparing consulting with other career options or you’ve just landed an offer with McKinsey, BCG or Bain, you might be wondering what to expect from the experience of being an entry-level consultant. In this article, we share what life is like for newcomers at top management consulting firms.

You’ll receive an unusual amount of responsibility and ownership

Being an entry-level consultant at a top consulting firm is an experience unlike any other entry-level job. While you may still occasionally be asked to fetch coffee and do the printing, these kinds of tasks certainly won’t be the main focus of your role.

Far from being treated as a ‘second-class citizen’ – as you might in another entry-level position – you’ll get involved in the work of a management consultant from the outset. You’ll be required to own a part of each client project you work on, and make a significant contribution to your project team. You’ll also find that your opinion matters; you’ll be expected to contribute to problem-solving sessions and speak up if you see a different way of looking at the problem.

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As an entry-level consultant, you’ll conduct analyses to help solve challenging and complex problems for some of the world’s biggest organizations. You could therefore easily find yourself crunching numbers on multi-billion dollar initiatives from the very start of your consulting career. While you may be supported in your analysis work by more senior colleagues in your first year, you’ll be trusted to work far more independently in your second year.

In meetings, you will have a seat at the table among senior clients who are at the top of their organizations, as well as managers and Partners from your own firm. While entry-level consultants rarely lead meetings, you will be expected to participate fully in discussions with senior and influential stakeholders and make a positive contribution.

Your workload may stretch you

Consulting firms are hired to solve problems that either can’t be solved by the client or require more time or resource than the client has available. Consequently, there’s always a huge amount of work for a consulting project team to do in order to solve the problem and make a recommendation to the client. The workload is shared among members of the project team, which means that you won’t ever shoulder the burden alone. However, it also means that you’ll be expected to dive in and help out when others are underwater.

It’s no secret that management consultants work long hours and, as a new consultant, you should expect to work much harder and far more intensely than you would in any other entry-level job. To see what a typical daily schedule might look like, take a look at our description of a day in the life of a management consultant.

You’ll learn a lot

When it comes to just how much you’ll learn at the start of your time at McKinsey, BCG or Bain, the term “drinking from a fire hose” doesn’t do the experience justice! Entry-level consultants work across a variety of sectors and topics, which means that you’ll gain deep insight into a plethora of industries, companies and senior executive-level problems very quickly. In fact, it’s often said that one year in management consulting is equivalent to two to three years in another industry.

As an entry-level consultant, you’ll receive comprehensive formal training from your firm, along with a huge amount of additional support from incredibly smart people who have many years of knowledge and experience to share with you. Senior team members will offer mentorship and guidance on the tasks you undertake as you work on projects, from participating in problem-solving sessions to creating models in Excel. You’ll therefore have access to plenty of on-the-job learning in addition to formal training.

You can also expect to receive a great deal of feedback from senior people in your team at the beginning of your consulting career. You’ll be given feedback from your project manager on a weekly basis, and from a Partner at the end of each project. In addition, you’ll receive a detailed performance review every six months. This means you should always know what you need to do to improve and how you can build upon your capabilities to excel in your role.

You’ll work hard – but you’ll play hard too

Top consulting firms know that all their consultants – including those at entry level – work extremely hard. That effort is rewarded with highly competitive compensation packages and a host of additional perks, many of which aren’t available in other industries.

Consultants at every level enjoy the same expense policy as Partners, along with a very generous policy on hotel rooms. This means that when you travel for work, you can book with your favorite brand or boutique hotel within a reasonable price limit. In addition, each of the firm’s offices is likely to run an all-expenses-paid team retreat every year.

Over the course of a project, consultants often find themselves spending most of their day with their colleagues, including meal times and travel to client sites. There’s a generous budget for team dinners during client projects and a team event budget to celebrate the culmination of a project. Team members naturally form close bonds while working on projects together, so you can expect to make lifelong friends through the inevitable ups and downs of consulting life.

Interested in joining McKinsey, BCG or Bain as an entry-level consultant?

Being an entry-level consultant is an incredibly unique experience and a fantastic way to begin or upgrade a professional career. You can expect to have a lot of responsibility, work extremely hard, learn a huge amount and be rewarded for your efforts. With a top-tier consulting firm on your resume, you’ll find that a whole raft of attractive exit opportunities are available to you when you come to take the next step in your career.

If a career in management consulting sounds like it might be right for you, you can learn more in our complete guide to the management consulting industry. And if you’re preparing to apply to a top consulting firm, the resume and cover letter templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you get your application in great shape.

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