A Reflection | What I learned from being “counseled out” of MBB after 1-year post-undergrad
I have been a frequent mentor on this sub, but unfortunately my MBB career has come to an end after my 1-year review. Although this is obviously not the ideal outcome, I learned a lot from this and I want to share some of my learnings with you all. Feel free to ask me any questions; I am generally very open to talking about my experience, and I want to help others be successful.
- People are judging you from day 1- There was an intern on my team, and after he left the office on his first day (interns typically leave before the rest of the team in consulting, and that’s normal), the whole team was talking about her. “What did you think of the intern?” “She seems to have a very positive attitude!” “Yikes… she is an MBA student at Tuck but can’t even make a pivot table!” Obviously you're not expected to know stuff on your first day, but you need to show up confident, ready to work hard, and learn quickly! And even if you're at a firm where the first case isn’t scored, it is crucial that you do well, because I do know of people who got PIP’d after their 6-month review. And regardless of scores, everything affects your reputation, which leads to my next point…
- Your internal reputation matters, and leadership does talk- If you do well, people will like you and want to work with you again (and vice versa). When managers try to staff their teams, they will 100% ask your prior EM about your feedback. It literally takes 2 minutes to go to the company’s internal site, find all the previous managers you’ve worked for, and ping them “How was it working with xxx?” The staffing market is like dating- everyone wants to date the hot chicks, and the ugly people are in a cycle of singleness. I know people who were billable from 1 project to the next with ease, and others who couldn’t get staffed if their life depended on it.
- Luck is a factor in your career- Because every project is completely different, luck plays a small but significant role in success. I have a friend who cruised on an easy internal project for 2-months and got great reviews, while others got stuck in a burner case with a horrible manager, put in 65 hours/week and got bad scores because his manager didn’t set aside the time to coach him. Life isn’t unfair, never a perfect meritocracy. But that’s no excuse for bad work- sometimes the job isn’t a fit, and that’s perfectly normal. Don't go so hard on yourself.
- The ‘up or out’ policy is real- They don’t talk about this in recruiting, but people do get counseled out. In my office, I know at least 2 that got cut at the 1-year mark (and 1-more who saw the writing on the wall and quit). I’d guess that ~10% get counseled out per year, with that number slightly higher when the market is slow. And these are impressive people- everyone works very hard and is very smart.
- Don’t tie your self-worth to your job- Nobody cares that you work for Bain, or that you got ‘top bucket’ in your review. I have friends that think it helps in dating- it doesn’t. I’m dating a med student who has never opened excel (and it’s so refreshing). Don’t base your confidence on your title, because as I have seen with my tech friends, what can be pulled from you in an instant. If you look yourself in the mirror and see nothing but a wallet and a fancy job, then you have bigger issues that need to be addressed. I’m very lucky to have close friends who were supportive of me during my firing; any 'friend' who judges you personally for doing bad at work is for the streets.
- Career isn’t a linear path, and that’s OK -- Embrace the Uncertainty! I called my dad all down-bad after a poor performance review and his response was “Chill out man, nobody cares!” I came into consulting expecting to do stay for my sponsored HSW MBA, then eventually exit as a director of a big company. I had my whole plan set only for it to get burned after a year. I was so stressed about the uncertainty, especially in this economy. But one thing holds true- you are smart and have the chops to secure an MBB gig. My therapist encouraged me to compare life to a stock; you might have some ups and downs, but if you are hardworking and capable, it will have a long-term upward trajectory. Some companies/jobs aren't a match for certain people, and that's totally normal and OK.
Tactical takeaways (what went wrong in terms of performance and skills) are in my comment below, linked here: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/comment/3216613#c…