Is McKinsey a Good Place to Work? 5 Pros & 5 Surprising Cons

Is McKinsey a Good Place to Work?
Liz Kenny

Liz Kenny

Former McKinsey Consultant

You might be an aspiring consultant yearning to join McKinsey, but have you asked yourself: “Is McKinsey a good place to work?”

What should you consider beyond the prestigious name, compensation, and global opportunities? Let’s explore the nuances that make McKinsey a sought-after career destination.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What makes McKinsey one of the top consulting firms in the world
  • 5 compelling reasons to work for McKinsey
  • 5 unexpected challenges that might shape your decision on “is McKinsey a good place to work?”

Let’s get started!

What Makes McKinsey Great?

McKinsey is one of the most, if not the most, prestigious consulting firms in the world. McKinsey creates immeasurable value for its clients, influences how the business world operates, and produces many of the world’s business and political leaders. 

For almost 100 years, McKinsey has pioneered frameworks and approaches that are used worldwide to help leaders improve their organizations’ performance. Consultants strive for excellence in serving their clients, and clients should expect outstanding outcomes when they work with McKinsey.

It’s clear that McKinsey clients anticipate excellent results. But what about the consultant experience? Is McKinsey a good place to work?

Answering Why Is McKinsey a Good Place to Work

5 Reasons to Work for McKinsey

For most people, spending a few years at McKinsey has a positive return on investment – not just financially but professionally! 

Here are some of the valuable reasons to work for McKinsey, as told by a former McKinsey consultant:

1. Invest in Your Professional Skills

If you work for McKinsey, you will dramatically improve your professional skills, like storytelling, executive presence, and even listening. 

For example, client meetings are always packed with topics, so I developed a new way to prepare for and digest meetings. 

Before meetings with my team or clients, I prepared agenda topics and “must-answer questions.” I would always review these questions before the meeting ended to ensure I didn’t leave without the necessary information or next steps.  

During meetings, I organized my notes page into three categories: “Specific Agenda Feedback, Other Notes, and Action Items.” I actively listened and translated the discussion into my next steps, even if no one had explicitly told me to do anything. 

At the end of a meeting, I would always recap the items on my to-do list with my manager or the client to ensure I hadn’t missed any key next steps.  

You will also receive a lot (almost constant!) of feedback on your work. This can be overwhelming, but if you embrace feedback, you will make the most of your time at McKinsey.

Showing Reasons and Answering Why Is McKinsey a Good Place to Work

2. Invest in Your Business Skills

Working for McKinsey is the fastest way to build your business skills. You will receive consulting training to perform analysis, conduct interviews, synthesize information, build PowerPoint presentations, and more.

Furthermore, each project requires consultants to leverage specific analyses and insights. McKinsey has many resources and research to help you learn about any industry, function, framework, etc. McKinsey also offers in-house training or will help you find experts to train you.

During your first few years at McKinsey, mentors at the firm will help you choose projects that give you broad exposure to different types of client work and business challenges. It’s important to get comfortable, even be enthusiastic, when you need to dive into new territory. As a consultant, you will constantly be in new territory. Learning how to ramp up on an industry, function, or client specifics is a core skill. 

Insight from a Former Consultant: You should aim to demonstrate analytical problem-solving skills early and often as a consultant at McKinsey. Otherwise, this will be a noted piece of feedback and may hold you back from advancing or taking on certain projects.

3. Strengthen Your Network

If you work for McKinsey, you will be surrounded by accomplished professionals at your firm and with your clients. The people you work with will be driven and smart. If you do a good job for any of them, they will want to work with you again. Make sure to leave each team member or client with the impression that you’re great to work with and deliver results.   

You can also learn something from everyone around you. Your teams at McKinsey can show you what great project management and thought leadership looks like, and your clients can show you how valuable deep expertise can be.

Even in difficult situations, you can learn from those around you. I once made a mistake in a financial model, and I agonized about telling my manager about it. He very quickly estimated that my mistake had a trivial impact on the overall opportunity we were considering, and then he gave me advice on how to double-check my work going forward. 

The most important thing was that he comforted me that consultants can make mistakes and learn from them. I aim to pass that on to the junior consultants I work with.

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4. Enjoy Generous Compensation and Perks

McKinsey consultants are well-compensated and well-fed! McKinsey and its top peers, BCG and Bain, typically compensate consultants in the same salary range. While you may get slightly more money from one or another firm, they are close enough that money should not be the deciding factor.

Most McKinsey consultants travel to their clients’ offices each week. When you travel, you can expect to stay in nice hotels and enjoy good meals. You will also earn status and rewards with airlines and hotels. I was lucky enough to earn luxurious trips to Hawaii and Puerto Rico with my consulting travel rewards.

5. Expand Your Pool of Future Opportunities

If you work for McKinsey, many people will assume that you surpassed a very high bar to get there. Potential employers will assume you are smart, hard-working, and deliver results. When you leave the firm, and even decades later, you can expect to have many professional opportunities based on your time with McKinsey.  

Consultants who want an MBA can also get sponsored by McKinsey to cover their tuition. This is a great opportunity to go to business school, expand your network, and then return to McKinsey.

Woman considering reasons to work for McKinsey

5 Considerations When Asking “Is McKinsey a Good Place to Work?”

Everyone knows the basics of what’s challenging in consulting – long hours, too much travel, demanding clients, etc. We want to share some deeper insights that may impact your professional satisfaction during and after your work at the firm.

1. You May Experience Limited Control Over the Type of Work You Do (Even When You Pick Your Projects!)

It’s true that you have some say in the projects you work on, but there are times that even after you’ve done some due diligence about the project you’re considering, you may not truly understand what you’re signing on for.

Perhaps you didn’t truly understand the scope of work, or some analysis changed because the information wasn’t available. I had a few projects where my role changed because of someone else’s skills. I was supposed to build a model and focus on quantitative skills. I transitioned to qualitative work because a team member struggled to build client relationships. I had a great time flying around the country interviewing stakeholders for our project. 

When we started the project’s second phase, I earned credibility with my team and then got the chance to focus on building more quantitative skills. 

These experiences can be difficult to navigate, and the best advice is to find mentors who can help you. There is always something you can learn, even if it’s not what you expected.

Considerations When Asking “Is McKinsey a Good Company to Work for

2. You Must Deliver On Your Clients’ Goals (and Maybe Not The Goals You Think Are Best)

Sometimes your client may be facing challenges that you are not tasked with solving.

As you become familiar with a project, you may have a hypothesis for an entirely different way to solve their problem or realize that your team may not be focused on the right problem.

Generally speaking, there is only a little room to pivot the scope of an engagement once the team is heading down a certain path. This can feel frustrating when you can see there’s a better solution or that the solution you’re proposing misses an essential part of the picture. 

As a consultant, you’ll need to set aside all your big ideas (likely as a single bullet point on a slide titled “Other Considerations”) and focus on solving the problems in scope.

3. Client Confidentiality Limits Your Visibility Into the Potentially Negative Impacts of the Firm

We all know that McKinsey consultants sign confidentiality agreements and do not discuss their clients or their work with the public. But even within the firm, you may not know what other teams are working on. 

Many rules exist to prevent conflicts of interest within the firm and discourage unethical behavior. Overall, that’s a good thing. But it also means you will have limited visibility into McKinsey’s impact on the world.

There is a lot of media coverage about the work McKinsey has done over the last several years. It’s up to you to decide if you’re comfortable working for a firm that may be doing work that doesn’t align with your values.

Signing The Contract After Deciding- Is McKinsey a Good Company to Work for

4. Many McKinsey Projects Wrap Up Before Implementation

There is often is a huge gap between what a consulting team envisions and what a client team can actually implement.

As a consultant, if you move from strategy project to strategy project every 3 months without the experience of translating great ideas into reality, you’ll be stuck in an ivory tower. Strategies all work “in theory;” successful ideas must work in practice.

If you work for McKinsey, try to join some longer-term projects in addition to the standard 3-month studies so that you can benefit from implementing strategies and build deeper relationships with the project leaders and clients.

5. Most McKinsey Consultants Do Not Role Model How To Set Personal Boundaries

At McKinsey, you may feel surrounded by people trying to outdo each other with work. You might have a teammate who brags about working until 1 am every night or who woke up in the middle of the night to fix an error in a spreadsheet (O.K., that one was me!)

McKinsey consultants are sometimes identified as insecure overachievers who feel better about themselves by proving they can work the hardest (and make the best slides). Not every McKinsey consultant falls into this category, but it is a predominant trait of successful McKinsey consultants.

If you decide to join McKinsey, you should be aware that part of the organization’s success depends on a culture of people who feel the need to invest more in their work than they do in other areas of their lives.

– – – – – – –

Is McKinsey a good place to work? Only you can decide what suits your professional and personal goals and make the experience what you want.

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Why McKinsey is one of the best consulting firms in the world
  • The top 5 reasons McKinsey has a positive ROI for you
  • 5 considerations when you want to know if McKinsey will be a good fit for you

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