Question:

I am very excited to have received my dream consulting firm offer just two days ago.

I don’t think I am a traditional consulting candidate and I had no interest in consulting at all, up until last May.

Your website, LOMS program and daily emails were definitely great resources that helped me learn more about consulting and more importantly, the case interview process.  Thank you!

I also understand this is just a new start. There are a lot more challenges in actual work. I know you have done an excellent job during your time at McKinsey.

I am wondering if there is any tips you would like to provide for an analyst? Especially during this half year until I start working, is there anything you would recommend us college seniors to read, to study or to prepare?

Also when we start working, what are the most important things and habits you think we should keep in mind in order to do well?

Thank you again!

My Reply:

Congratulations on your offer!

Consulting is a great field, and really an amazing opportunity for someone coming out of an undergraduate program.

For a new college graduate, I can’t think of any other job where you learn as much as you do in your first two years of consulting. It really is just ridiculous how much you get to do, who you meet, and how much you learn.

In my first two years at McKinsey, I engineered a $1 billion divestiture for one of my clients – if I didn’t do the work, they wouldn’t have done it… and I still have the SEC filing for that deal.

I presented in the boardroom of a Fortune 25 company — I’ve never seen a conference room table that seats 80 people (the size of the board), has microphones for every seat (because you literally cannot hear what the person at the other end of the table is saying), and costs $250,000 (for a table!).

I worked for a very famous client who has a Hollywood movie created about his life.

There are many things you can do in the time between when you receive your offer and your start date.

The short answer is to learn to use Microsoft Excel and get as much practice as you can in public speaking.

The main functions in Excel to get familiar with are:

* data importing (CSV files, tab-delimited files)

* text manipulation functions “(concatenate, “right”, “left”)”

* financial functions around IRR (internal rate of return)

* model building (a.k.a. “what if” analysis)

I do not know of a good book or resource that teaches these skills. Everyone I know sort of just picked it up with analysts trading Excel tips at lunchtime.  I’m sure there is a better way, but I have not found it yet (but haven’t really tried either).

If you don’t come from a business or business finance background, it is worth reading a book or two on financial statement analysis.

Just go to Amazon, search for the phrase “financial statement analysis” and pick the books rated four stars or higher.

In terms of what’s important on the job, the list is quite extensive. I am contemplating holding a teleseminar to cover the highlights and am even considering a week-long seminar to go in-depth on all those skills.

By the way, the big secret is: Now that you’ve mastered case interview frameworks — once you’re on the job you don’t actually use them very much!

Most of the work is getting data.

Most of whether you are considered successful or not is related to 1) insights you provide from your work (a.k.a. your synthesis); 2) whether or not clients value your presence on a team.

Half of the data is from computer systems. The other half of the data is from interviewing people. I took a peer counseling course at Stanford… and the whole premise of the course is to teach counselors how to listen actively without judgment…. not to advise people in need of counseling (usually suicide counseling), but rather to just listen and show that you understand them.

It turns out this was a surprisingly useful skill to have in consulting. Many times, the client/consultant relationship starts out as adversarial (at least from the client’s perspective). You are the outsider who is here to point out the management team’s mistakes — some managers can be resentful of that.

So how you ask questions is very important in getting the information you need and keeping the client relationship intact. Congratulations on your offer!

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