Almost every budding consultant wants to work for McKinsey. It’s no secret that “the Firm” sits atop the consulting world, and there are many reasons why.
But no firm is perfect, right? And why does everyone want to work at McKinsey, anyway? Why is it the gold standard of consulting firms?
Find out below as we break down the top 10 reasons to work for McKinsey, as well as 6 reasons not to.
Top 10 Reasons to Work for McKinsey
1. Exceptional People
What you’ll hear repeatedly from McKinsey consultants are that the people make the job worthwhile. It’s true for any consulting firm that they’re in the business of people. McKinsey has a very rigorous (and competitive!) recruiting process that usually results in the hiring of excellent consultants. In many cases, it will be your colleagues you learn the most from when you work for McKinsey. The culture of McKinsey is always thought-driven, structured, and can feel a bit stoic or academic at times. Still, it’s energizing to be in a community of thought leaders who can succinctly structure and communicate at an executive level!
2. Top Notch Clients
McKinsey enjoys a stellar track record with the world’s leading companies across all industries. Working with the world’s biggest companies results not only in interesting work but also exposure to leading executives. McKinsey projects work with the top layers of any organization, practically guaranteeing you engagement with senior-level leaders.
3. Challenging Projects
When you work for McKinsey, you get the opportunity to work on some of the largest and most challenging problems in the world. Tough and challenging problems require intense critical thinking and hard work but also a rewarding experience. When a company needs “the best,” they will call on McKinsey.
4. Professional Growth
There will be no shortage of professional development opportunities when you work for McKinsey! From training programs to challenging workstreams, you will build excellent communication skills, develop leadership skills, and learn how to apply a thoughtful, structured approach to problem solving. Formal professional development at McKinsey includes both required trainings (e.g. new hire orientation) and lots of optional development opportunities (both on-demand and live trainings). In addition, the Firm leadership highly values professional development, helping consultants protect the time dedicated to trainings (so that you can actively engage).
5. Personal Growth
McKinsey consultants are known to work hard both in terms of number of hours and intensity. As a result, you will often be pushed to your limits, sometimes emotionally, at times mentally, and others even physically. Though it’s not always fun, getting through the challenging times will ultimately make you a stronger person and a well-seasoned professional. The breadth of problem types, industries, and functional areas available across engagements also provides great personal growth in developing and enhancing your business acumen.
6. Ongoing Mentorship and Feedback
Ongoing mentorship at McKinsey make the Firm a great place to work. Mentorship programs – both formal and informal – provide excellent opportunities to learn. And McKinsey places a great emphasis on continuous improvement for all employees. Expectations and requirements of your role are clearly established, and the formal review process gives you frequent feedback to understand how you are performing and in what ways you can improve.
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7. Compensation and Perks
The Firm’s structured review process across engagements leads up to a (usually) semi-annual review, where you are evaluated against the expectations of your role (and the rest of your peer cohort). McKinsey prides itself on being a “meritocracy,” where your contributions and development are rewarded. And the compensation and perks at McKinsey are definitely a considerable benefit to joining the Firm. Though you will have to put in the hours and earn your pay, you will enjoy an extremely competitive salary, excellent insurance, and industry-leading PTO.
8. Opportunity to Develop a Specialty
Working at McKinsey can offer you an opportunity to explore various industries, functional areas and types of problems in a way few other firms can. This provides you with the chance to find an area of specialty that matches your interests and passions. Any consultant will develop specialties after working on similar projects over time. As a generalist at McKinsey, over time you choose your “major” and “minor,” indicating your primary and secondary alignment to a specific industry or functional area.
9. Excellent Exit Opportunities
McKinsey is one of the most well recognized brands in the world. Having the McKinsey name on your resume shows that you’re smart, can work hard, and have worked on challenging projects for industry-leading organizations. You’ll be an attractive candidate for many corporate opportunities when you decide to leave the Firm in pursuit of the next step in your career.
McKinsey also provides industry-leading “search” time at the end of your tenure to give you time to find a new position while not being staffed on a project. This search period is paid time to help you find your next position. McKinsey recognizes that it is a great benefit to the Firm to have alumni in positions of leadership, and they help create the space (and provide job search resources) to help you be successful in your job search.
10. Strong Alumni Base
And that strong (and growing) base of McKinsey alumni alone can make working for the Firm worthwhile. Ex-McKinsey consultants are in positions of leadership in organizations around the world. McKinsey does an excellent job maintaining strong relationships with these alumni, providing a lifelong network of outstanding individuals bound together by the shared experience of working for the Firm. McKinsey also invests in training opportunities, knowledge sharing events, and job search services for its alumni.
6 Reasons Not to Work for McKinsey
1. The Work is Stressful
Working for McKinsey is not for the weak of heart. The Firm places an incredible amount of responsibility on every consultant, regardless of level. Get ready to be pushed to your limits and expected to perform. Each new engagement provides the opportunity to step up in new ways, and you will always be challenged with growing and performing at a higher and higher level. You must consistently lean into and engage in your work – otherwise, you will be pushed out.
As is common across large global organizations, hierarchy and seniority exists within McKinsey. With this comes internal politics. The better you are at networking with Engagement Managers, APs, Partners and Senior Partners, the better your chances of getting staffed on projects that you want and building sponsorship within the organization to support your upcoming promotions. If you don’t like to deal with networking and internal politics, McKinsey, and consulting in general, may not be for you.
3. Long Hours
You can’t work for one of the top firms on exciting projects without a strong work ethic. McKinsey consultants are known to be amongst the hardest working in the consulting industry, which is saying a lot. If you’re looking for a chill 40-hour workweek with no weekend work, McKinsey is not for you. After your first few engagements, you will start to understand the predictive flow of a project and when the extra effort will be needed (e.g., before any Steering Committee meeting or final presentation). But in addition to these expected timeframes, McKinsey teams work diligently for their clients and are always “on-call” when new challenges and questions arise. It can be hard to protect time during the work week and even on weekends.
4. Lack of Implementation
The nature of work at McKinsey is providing recommendations for the client organization to implement. While the Firm is rapidly building out its implementation capabilities, strategy is the Firm’s bread and butter. As a result, the vast majority of your work will entail telling a client how and why to do something rather than actually implementing a solution. To some, this is great. To those who consider themselves to be operators and like to see the impact of their work, this can be frustrating.
5. Cultish Thinking
McKinsey consultants adhere to a certain way of thinking and style of communication – and you are expected to assimilate into the culture. After a few years at the Firm, you’ll start to see that almost everyone speaks the same language, holds similar values, and operates in a similar way. For the independent thinkers out there, McKinsey may still be a great place to develop your consulting toolkit for a few years – though you may not want to be a “lifer.”
6. Lack of Creativity
Though you are certainly challenged and exposed to a variety of interesting business problems at McKinsey, there is not as much creativity in this type of work when compared to fields like entrepreneurship. You won’t be starting from a blank sheet of paper thinking of new product ideas or creating service offerings from scratch at McKinsey. If building something yourself excites you, a consulting career might not be the best fit.
McKinsey & Company is one of the most sought-after consulting firms in all of management consulting, though it has its drawbacks as well. Despite the challenges, the Firm continues to break records year after year with the high number of candidates applying for limited openings. You have to show you are the best candidate for the job by properly networking in the Firm, perfecting your resume, and crushing every single PEI and case interview.
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