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Manager uses unusual tactic to get to Bain

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

I did not enjoy the program but I must explain that this had less to do with Firmsconsulting, than my own personal issues which made it difficult for me to prepare and my underestimation of the skills gap I had. I do think that FC made this as fun an experience as they could, given my challenges, and eventually got me into Bain after what must have been the longest and most painful networking experience in the history of modern day networking!

I kept on striking out with partners and recruiters and Michael would constantly work with me to adjust my style. I even gave up at one point and we had a “Kick starter” meeting where Michael told me in the most direct way possible that it is my life but he was not going to tolerate someone who chooses to quit and I needed to get my “act together.” Michael provides advice in a helpful fashion so it is not harsh, but boy was it a kick in the pants.

So I enjoyed working with Michael but did not enjoy having a child, almost losing a child, moving homes, avoiding retrenchment and switching jobs while searching for a consulting role.

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

When I first approached FC my expectations were not super-high. I knew I was a long-shot candidate and was older, 35 years, with some consulting experience. I had tried many other services but nothing worked. My reaching out to FC was more an effort to confirm what I already thought to be true. I wanted to be sure I had tried everything merely to know I had tried everything. My attitude was just to get it over with to know deep-down that I had done by best, exhausted all options and could move on.

The first call was the initial kick in the pants! Michael was very polite but dissected my resume, experiences and previous interview attempts. I was convinced in that call that these guys knew management consulting better than anyone else. Michael was direct in his feedback and pointed out in great detail why my resume would not work. He had specific reasons for how the overall resume should be structured, choice of words, structure of each bullet – context, action I took and result of the action I took.

I recall this one sizzling piece of feedback from Michael – Although inadvertent, your choice of wording and questions creates an atmosphere where you want us to validate your enthusiasm for management consulting. Let’s be clear about this – no partner is going to do that or wants to hire someone who needs validation. McKinsey is not a place to “find yourself.” You need to demonstrate at all times and in all interactions that you know why you want to be at McKinsey and how to get there.

My expectations went through the roof after this call because the advice was so useful. It took a long time to network, find my feet, slip back a few more times and get Michael to pull me and get me into Bain, but I think that even if FC had not succeeded with me, I would gladly say they exceeded my expectations.

It is very hard to find advice for experienced hires but FC had a tonne of useful information. The idea of having options in life and my journey into management consulting sticks with me to this day. I saw it with my own eyes as one path to MBB closed, but we could simply switch to another path we had created. That is a great lesson  and useful skill to have.

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

I found many parts enjoyable and very useful. The techniques to structure cases, building hypotheses and brainstorming were very good. The ability to build frameworks without cases probably saved me from memorizing a good few pages of structures. I anyway did not have have the time to do it with a new-born baby.

Yet, the most useful technique was directly related to my unique profile as an experienced hire. I was told upfront this would take from 3 to 12 months given my profile. I was also told that 12 months is a lot of time and I could do much more to plug holes in my profile.

After editing my resume for what seemed like the 100th time! – it was really just 9 but seemed like 100 – FC took my resume and had me write down what I would accomplish in the next 12 months to plug the holes in my profile.

Those to-be-done items became my road-map for the next 6 months – an astonishing planning tool. And they pushed me to get them done, and helped me to get there as well. It was hard stuff as well including getting myself onto a major conference as a presenter for my company since Bain was a co-sponsor of the event – the start of my beautiful friendship with Bain. And FC was kind enough to torture my slides until they made sense and passed the consulting logic test!

I realized that my entire profile could be changed 180 degrees in 9 action packed months. It changed my way of thinking about time. I incorrectly assumed career changes took years – not months.

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

I was not even a realistic contender before I joined the FC program. The program is not perfect (more on that later) but you do feel this physical change in your chances when you join. Several areas point this out:

I always thought I was a good communicator. I was proven wrong. My first full case session was only completed to about 12% as Michael carefully reviewed and adjusted all of my techniques for breaking down the case and communicating my thinking. I was able to develop a way to engage the interviewer better.

I previously considered networking to be emailing someone or joining them for coffee. FC showed me that networking was exponentially more strategic and best done with partners – who knew! Things that I always did in a coffee session, like asking for help to submit my resume turned out to be no no’s. FC uses lots of dating analogies to network and that probably explains why I was so bad at it.

Michael pushes you. In one off our middle sessions, I put down my pen and wanted to quit. I remember being told that I would be “dragged through the finish line” if that was what it took. I was a bit scared but also impressed that FC cared so much about my development. We spent the rest of the session talking about Michael’s own consulting experiences. That gave me the motivation to slowly push through.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

With a doubt it must be the screening call.

I was given a case to estimate the number of visas issued by the US embassy in Moscow. I had seen something similar in my MBA case manual and strolled through it. In my feedback letter, which was very detailed, FC explained why everyone does estimation cases incorrectly and why my technique was wrong.

They were kind enough to show me the solution video when I asked nicely and I was floored when I saw the technique. I realized how much great information was not on the internet.

What would you like changed in the program?

I love Michael and think the following changes can make him and the team more lovable!

I admire and respect the greatest care taken to protect client identities. But I think if clients want to disclose their identities and practice together, it should be allowed.

Skype sessions were really good, but maybe the last session should be done in person. Not sure if this is logistically possible but it would help.

I would have preferred a rotation of coaches. Working with the same coach is good, but it is nice to see how I could have done with a different coach,

The criteria for working with the mentors are not clear. It would have been much better if we could track our performance against this goal.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Yes. I felt that Michael was constantly using my performance in the sessions to re-calibrate my objectives and tactics to get into MBB. Until we started, we were going after BCG, but after he saw my first few cases he decided Bain would be the best fit for me due to my personality and image, and then we constantly looked at different ways to get me in front of Bain partners.

He was effective because he kept changing tactics as new information came through, but kept me focused on the overall goal. That is hard to do but he did this very well.

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

This one is harder to answer. I have not seen other sessions but I also felt all the sessions we covered were trying to fix gaps identified earlier. There was also a rationale for each case type done, so I would say yes, but cannot know for sure.

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

Excellent idea because it validates FC and shows that they know what they are doing. When the heads of McKinsey and BCG are doing case training, where else do you need to go? My only concern is that the allocation is not explained as clearly upfront and I would prefer harder criteria presented.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Keep up the great work – and I would still like to have a mentor if that is possible.

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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