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40 yr old details path into McKinsey Imp. Group

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

I enjoyed all parts of the program. I had listened to all 180 or so podcasts before reaching out to Michael and felt like I knew him very well through the podcasts. The podcasts were superb and I liked the ones were Michael described engagements from each stage of his career: analyst, associate, and manager, associate principal and principal. They were the most interesting to me.

As a 40 year-old, married with children and a daughter starting an expensive college program, I doubt I was the ideal pick for FC. I was just happy to get the acceptance letter!

Prior to my screening interviews, Michael and I had an additional 5 discussions over 3 months so that he could properly understand my background and motivations. I liked this part since the calls forced me to think very carefully about my own reasons for making the switch.

Michael did not trivialize anything. Assuming I knew his thinking, he painted a picture of the worst possible outcome so that I was clear I wanted to proceed. He made it clear this would be a humbling and humiliating experience to have myself assessed by much younger partners after I had spent 2 decades building my career in a corporate environment. I needed to be prepared for it and not let it affect my family, lifestyle or mood.

I thought 5 calls was a little over the top but in recollection, I don’t think anyone from FC ever asked if I was ready to sign up. They made me jump through some hoops to have a screening call after the 5 interviews. That strange process set the tone for the program. Things were deliberate, set at my pace and we worked towards a target we both had agreed was feasible: McKinsey and Booz – the former for its broad definition of leadership and the latter for my sector skills.

Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?

The program more than met my expectations. Mid-way through the experience – I say experience because calling it a program is a disservice – I was trying to explain what was happening to my wife. At this point, we – I say “we” because there was no doubt that Michael was internalizing my pain – I had been rejected from McKinsey, Booz, BCG, Bain, Deloitte and Monitor and I was not feeling good.

I am not sure Michael sees reality the way others do. Five direct rejections in 2 months seemed like a pretty compelling consensus on the futility of my dream. Michael did not see it that way.

He told me “so we got rejected my one partner and one recruiter. That’s one 2 down and about one thousand to go.”

Michael finds the one piece of leverage in your profile and works it to get you in. He relentlessly focuses on it and hammers away until he gets you into the interview. The problem is that he is hammering you! Which is necessary, since I am the one who needs to execute and Michael only lets up once you pick up the pace and match his speed.

Update calls sometimes lasted just 3 minutes. He zooms in on that one point of leverage to see if you pushed it in a networking call. If you did not, it it back to the drawing board. So, you MUST know your spike well. Michael will give it to you, but you need to drive it relentlessly.

I am not sure I fully understood all the machinations at work but I had nothing to lose and just went along. I soon learned that recruiting is not standardized and different partners would view my profile very differently and I just needed to connect with one.

Coming back to my analogy I felt a Pit-bull with a lock-jaw on a bone is the best way to describe Michael. If he sets his sights on something, it does not matter what McKinsey or Booz is saying, he will stay hanging on until he get things to change to the way he wants it. I felt like a flea on the Pit Bull going along for the ride.

It was wild but we got there – after 9 months of torture, sleepless nights and struggles I managed to transition as an expert into McKinsey’s Implementation Group. I cannot say he takes such a long-term view on all clients but I am grateful he did that for me, investing much more in me than I would have invested in myself.

What was the most important learning’s from the program?

There is no standard plan to get in as an experienced hire. When I said wild ride earlier I meant that in every possible way!

Michael was clear about this in the first call but I did not realize this was a literal phrase. I spoke to many experienced hires that had joined McKinsey and everyone had suggested routinized ways of doing things. I know why they did it because they had amazing degrees from great schools and where in their late twenties and early thirties when they made the shift to McKinsey.

In their cases they had the exact profile McKinsey and Booz sought and submitting an online application was bound to work for them. So you have to be very careful that you take advice from a comparable peer group.

I had none of their advantages and we had to fight for each step of progress we made.

My son watches lots of computer games and it reminds of them. We would move forward with our plan and then regroup and plan since Michael and I had no set path to get me in. It was like we were in a war zone with little margin for error and lots smoke and fog around. I felt that way but Michael seems to have liked it.

I may be doing a poor job of explaining this, but the lesson I want to drive home is that experienced hires need to build in a path to a consulting firm and not expect to use an existing path.

For me, that was a big lesson.

Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?

Yes, but in a way that is hard to describe. I remember asking Michael for a plan for how the sessions would work, when I would finish networking and how the cases would run.

When he said this was not possible as everything was dependent on my networking I was very worried. What did I sign up for!? I eventually became comfortable having to work with Michael to constantly think through every step and not take things for granted. Nothing could be planned and it took me a long time to realize this.

I am almost certain I would have quit if Michael was not guiding me. The process was totally confusing and looked futile after my 5 rejections in two months.

That hand-holding was important and the main advantage of the program. Michael is really calm no matter what is happening and leads you through things.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

When I eventually received my Booz offer I was tired of the entire process and ready to pull my application from McKinsey. Michael cautioned me not to do that. He felt it was important I compare the two firms.

In his words “If you take Booz, then they chose you. If you interview at McKinsey and still take Booz, then you chose them. Psychologically, you need to always be in control of the situation.”

This may not be the typical memorable moment but a lot of things clicked at that point. The whole FC approach is not just about getting the offer, but laying the groundwork to be successful once I had received the offer.

I enjoyed the McKinsey interviews much more than Booz and took McKinsey even though Booz offered more money. Michael again had some wise words: “Pick the partner you trust the most to mentor you.”

I trusted Michael because he had always been right and so far I have no regrets.

After my 5 rejections, Michael told me this funny story.

“Okay, so we failed. Lets dust ourselves off and try again using a different tactic. Previously we played up your battle scars and experience. Now we need to show you have that, but can be just as energetic and polished as a new MBA. You are like a tug-boat who has been out to sea for decades. All rusted, crusty and full of barnacles. We need to smack on some lipstick, add some volume to your hair and paint your toe nails. Don’t worry. We will not make you look like a prom queen, unless you want us to.”

Some of his analogies are so hilarious you remember them forever.

What would you like changed in the program?

The description of the case training program does not even come close to capturing what I went through!

That is both good and bad. Good because I don’t know if my entire experience can be captured in the description of the program. I would think all clients have very different experiences so it is going to be messy and confusing to explain it all.

It is bad because many experienced hires will not understand the effort required when they join. This was my experience. There must be a better way to communicate the process.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael is an outstanding mentor. I felt privileged to get into the program and see how he makes decisions. He has this ability to find very small opportunities and dig at them until they are worth pursuing. Like the Pit-Bull he will not let go if he thinks it is worthwhile.

Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?

The examples above show how they were tailored for my needs and development.

What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?

This is a fantastic idea and the reason I chose FC. They were the only coaching program using ex-partners. It was a fantastic experience and bringing in such recognized partners like Kevin etc really shows me that FC is investing in its clients.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you Firmsconsulting Team.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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