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.

  1. 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…
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.  
  5. 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.  
  6. 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…


Thanks for this, glad you have such a good head on your shoulders and are taking it as a learning experience. I'm sure much of this is a reflection on the poor period we're in now.

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.

 As someone with this same plan + end goal, how are you pivoting to achieve the same things? (big company leadership and HSW MBA)


Honestly the MBA is likely not going to happen unless I get a scholarship or get stuck in my career & want to pivot. I'm very debt-averse and honestly I think you can certainly move up very high without an MBA these days. I could see myself going for a big scholarship at a T15 just for the letters and the experience. 


Interesting to hear, thanks. Any plans with big company leadership still being the end goal? I know consulting isn't the only way to get there, but joining a company low in the ranks and fighting through the bureaucratic means of progression isn't exactly ideal as an alternative. Do you have other plans in that regard? Thanks again


How do you deal with the fact there’s a huge variance of your career based on uncontrollable factors / luck. Due to my summer internship staffings as a generalist I got placed into this same bad group FT with shitty mentorship which means longer nights, more wheel spinning, less interesting projects, and worse reviews/bonuses.

Other groups / fellow analysts are getting a ton of hand holding, great WLB, and great reviews. This leads to cooler deals/staffings, network, PE opps, exits etc etc. It’s the halo effect as you already mentioned. It’s hard not to be envious / jaded when I see this.

Really sucks because it wasn’t due to my work product it really revolves around a few initial staffings that were out of my control? Had I been placed on XYZ team with a good group, all of a sudden I’m that desired analyst / look good. Like I just can’t mentally accept the way I’m getting screwed right in front of my eyes. Wish I was ignorant to it and didn’t realize what was going on.

I get life’s not fair but I’m really struggling with just accepting this. Dunno if you just get numb to it as you get older or what.


I feel you man- that sucks. I had similar experiences in consulting where I felt that the studies I was put on were much harder than the average project.

My input (I'm just an analyst but here are my immediate thoughts):

1. Don't put so much emphasis on specific PE ops you or your peers might have. What could be a 'worse' PE op could actually end up better for you in the long run. 

2. If it's true luck, it should average out over the long run (everyone would hypothetically get screwed and get super lucky the same proportion of time)

3. Top bucket analysts would be more likely to handle unlucky situations (e.g. if a top bucket analyst gets placed in a tough group, it would be more likely to work out OK). At my MBB, there are some people who are so good that no matter what the project it, they figure out a way to do well.


Unfortunately, a large part of life is based on luck and a career is but a small part of that. This may be a bit off topic, but a couple weeks ago a buddy and I were rear ended on the highway. It was bad luck, nothing we could have done. I walked away with minor injuries such as whiplash, while my buddy suffered major life threatening injuries and his life will never be the same. He had a stellar career and now is on disability. I can only attribute this to bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My point being that focus on what you can control in your career and like OP said, your life is not your job. There’s a lot of worse places in your life for bad luck to hit than your career. If you get really bad luck in your career, take it on the chin and focus on other aspects of your life and be grateful you don’t have bad luck in your health, family and/or friends.


I am 100% with you, especially on the career not being linear part. For many great students who grew up getting used to keeping working hard and striving for the next best thing-which is a lot of people who consulting attracts-this might sound scary. But you are smart and hard-working and something will find its way to you. 

Best of luck to your next journey in life.


Ok bro. I guess there are many ways to say apply everywhere, study case books and network as hard as you can if you go to a crappy school. I think it’s dangerous to give advice if you haven’t actually had much work experience and have been on the interviewer side of the table, but you do you.


Thanks a lot for this and really appreciate you being so candid and forthcoming. We hear a lot of stories on this forum of smooth success but inevitably there will be a large number of people who get pushed out of top roles early on which is not necessarily a fault of their own. 

One query I do have, and this is a difficult one to address since everyone is so different, but how have you been able to decouple your self worth from the top "prestigious" role? A lot of us put tons of effort to land these seats and then when we do it ingrains itself in our personality...As a side point, I actually found that it also does help with dating as people have heard of MBB and associate it with high pay/prestige which is certainly not unhelpful (though i fully appreciate you will need other characteristics to be successful in dating) 
Would love to hear your insights into this more broadly. Thanks again.


I’m a 2nd year analyst at MBB, doing slightly above average. I stopped caring about prestige when life hit me hard and I had to face real issues (I’ve had lots of health issues, had to go on short term disability, coupled with some major family issues and a major accident). It opened my eyes to how superficial I used to be and how many real problems millions of Americans have. Why the fuck would I give a shit about the name on my job when a close family member is struggling to survive? I’m now disgusted as to how prestige driven I used to be and I also am disgusted at other entitled people who jerk off to prestige.

As for dating, I’ve yet to meet a girl that even knows what MBB is. They all know what Goldman is and that’s it lol. And I personally wouldn’t want to be dating anyone who was dating me for the MBB name, that’s just weird.


I struggled with this a lot too. A lot of people like us spend so much time working that the job becomes who we are. Ask yourself- if you lost your MBB job and were forced to work at a firm nobody has heard of: who am I? I bet a lot of people on this sub have very little going for them besides work, so they cling on to that for their self-esteem. It's like the fat, divorced 50-year old who still talks about the days he was the high school QB. Or the 28-year old who asks everyone where they went to college, hoping someone would ask him back (because he went to Princeton). 

And figure out how to build other aspects of yourself that make you happy. Go to the gym and feel good about your physique, get a tight-knit group of friends with whom you talk about things other than work, develop a hobby and interact with people who might not be in your prestige bubble, round out your experiences by traveling to another country and go hiking. 

Your job can still be a big part of who you are, but it doesn't have to be 100% of who you are


Hey, I don't have much to add, but maybe my experience can be of comfort. Last month I received the same treatment, and was fired for poor performance from a T2 firm (but I suspect a good dose of cost-cutting as well). I was only a few months into the role, fresh from undergrad. The cards stacked against my favour and I had a rough few cases. Despite excellent performance in an earlier case, the firm still decided to drop the axe. My firm doesn't really do CTL - people just suddenly 'disappear' and having been on the other side, the company truly does not care. They even made me agree to a scripted cover-up story of why I left the firm. That experience dented my self-esteem, and it left a bad taste in my mouth for work in general. 

Since the firing, the event has been really messing with my head because I never knew what I wanted to do career-wise. Consulting had been my saviour - it was the perfect answer for smart, insecure workaholics who didn't know what they wanted to do. Now that I have left the company and most graduate programs (in my country) have closed, I feel like I've fallen through the nets of society and have been left behind. 

I hope y'all are doing well and have supportive friends and family. Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone


I'm glad to hear that there are downsides too in working in Consulting! Pretty much everyone talks about exponential learning, growth and career development, and great exit opportunities in PE, IB, or M7 MBA

I was looking to break into consulting full-time after McKinsey visited our campus but got denied (0/3) in all MBBs. This post is somewhat gratifying to know that work/job is not everything, and there are fair amount of bad experiences too (which nobody talks about openly).


While you have some valid points and had the right idea with the post... you forgot to hit on the #1 item: "what have you learned from being counseled out". You mention "luck is a factor in your career", "don't tie your self-worth to the job", "career isn't a linear path", etc. - BUT, what did you actually learn about your performance or areas of improvement that could be helpful for someone starting on the job. 

I've been around for a while now and I have seen folks who are heavily involved in clubs during college and dedicates significant time "mentoring", but lacks the ability to actually perform the job. It's not luck. It's hard work, being a team player, having confidence but always willing to learn from others, and being pleasant to work with. 


This hits the spot. @OP - I do agree that you make some good points and are "qualified" to mentor college kids but please read this VP's comments (second paragraph) judiciously and really ponder. 


Good point- I'm still processing the whole thing (this just happened to me last week) but I've definitely thought of what went wrong on a tactical level (In short, I struggled with confidence and stress, had weak communication skills, and struggled to truly 'own' the workstream end-to-end).

More details in my comment below!!


Good points. I do appreciate you pushing me to think about this further, as it is hard to look back when clouded with thoughts/emotions (this just happened last week, so I'm still processing everything). To clarify:

Yes, I definitely have thought about what went wrong with my performance, and I'm definitely not chalking up the reason I was fired to luck (I said luck is a factor, but good/bad performance is definitely the stronger determinant).

And when I said I was a 'mentor', I didn't mean to make that the focal point of this thread. I just meant to point out that even the guys who are writing paragraphs on here explaining case interview prep do fail, even though college freshman/sophomores on here see us as invincible due to our MBB branding. It was honestly just a hook at the beginning, and I didn't mean to cause a stir with it, although I have coached multiple people and helped them get great offers. 

I also meant this post to be more big-picture at how consulting firms work/operate, how the game is played, and how this experience has helped me grow; but you brought up good points, and I'm not here to say "the system is broken, I am perfectly fine!" That being said, I will go into tactical issues below.

***People enjoyed working with me and I worked very hard (Plenty of former managers offered help me find a new job & be a reference when I was let go), but I did struggle with confidence. I did feel that the job was very fast and I had a hard time keeping up at times, especially when onboarding to new industries. My biggest 'strengths' were analytics and speed-to-output (being able to get things done timely). The weaknesses they cited in my reviews were 'ownership' and client communications.***

1. Own your workstream like your life depends on it (Not literally, but you get the point) - If you own a workstream/module, you are the sole leader of that work stream. You are accountable for the outcome, the analysis, presenting it to clients, and any mistakes. Your manager should trust you to present to clients and answer questions related to the module. The manager is a guide who helps steer you in the right direction and resolve issues. My biggest area of weakness was ownership; I did very well when taking orders from my manager (e.g. 'make a slide on x' or 'run an analysis comparing a and b'), but I did not run my workstream as effectively as I should. I struggles to know when to raise issues with my manager, and when to solve them myself. 

2. Ask a lot of questions early on before it's too late - Early in a project, it's normal to have questions about the industry/client you are woking in. Good consultants will go through the previous meeting materials on their first day and come up with a list of clarifying questions (just like the case interview!) But when it hits week 4 and you're asking basic questions about the client and the industry, it becomes an issue; your manager will lose trust in you. 

3. When you present in meetings, be ready- When you need to present in a meeting internally or with clients, this is your chance to build trust and credibility with senior partners and clients. Too many times I screwed this up. The best advice I have is to go 'top down' where you start with the big-picture and then dive into the details when you're asked to do so. And know your audience- a VP doesn't care about the specifics of the excel model, but your manager might be more focused on that. 

4. The expectations are high, and there's little room for errors- Small mistakes are just killer. They happen to everyone, but if they're a consistent issue, it just destroys your credibility because your manager will have to check everything over and not trust you to be independent. 

5. Know excel going into the job-  For me, the analytics side was a strength because I had a strong grasp of excel going into the job. While they say you're not expected to know things going in, it is for sure a bad look if you graduated from a top MBA program (or undergrad) but cannot make a pivot table. It's not that hard- there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to take a 10-hour online excel course on LinkedinLearning before you start just to know the basics. My first reviews were on par (I fell apart in the second half of the year for other reasons) largely due to carrying out strong analyses on excel independently. 

6. For slides, keep a mental repository of past work- That way you don't have to make something from scratch. So when someone says "I need a slide on xyz" you think of slide abc that you made 3 months ago that is similar in structure. Also find other slides that your manager liked and model yours off that structure

7. Seek out mentorship, because nobody is holding your hand- Everyone has a bunch of things to do. So if you need help with something you need to be proactive about speaking with your manager and getting what you need from him/her. You need to actively manager your development (tell your manager what skills you need to improve on, actively solicit feedback, etc...)


I'm very sorry to hear that. And I hope that you are at least able to get the support you need as you transition out. The labour market out there is a little rough, but hopefully the alumni network can be good for something!

As a fellow MBBer a little after the one-year mark, I do agree with all your points. And I particularly think that points 1-3 are grossly underestimated by newcomers, especially #3.

Luck is an incredible factor. Some people get a single stable team with a supervisor + SM/PL/EM who is willing to boost them, others get stuck with someone who does not like them. Others yet get thrown from case to case without ever working with the same people twice for more than 4-5 weeks, making it hard to find sponsors for promotions and forcing you to start from scratch every time (creating goodwill, impressing in the first week, showing you CAN do things).

I really hope you can leverage your experience and what you learned for the better moving forward. As you said very rightly, life is not linear. There are many paths to the same goals.

Best of luck to you! And thanks for sharing!


It’s an interesting post but in some ways less so for what is written and more so what is not written. I went through the MBB system for a couple of years and have seen plenty of people accelerate or not make it through so I think I have some perspective (although things have gotten harder)

The thing that is distinctly lacking from your post (and not uncommon for fresh joiners) is a focus on soft skills. Every point you mention (even the reputation point) ties back to hard skills and performance from that perspective. Having been part of various teams with people on performance plans I can tell you that there are plenty of very average people who wouldn’t stand out in any random corporate from a smarts or work ethics at consultancies

Their longevity in the firm usually came down to their ability to be likeable, connect with the senior team and preferably the client (even if it’s junior clients). You are very hard to fire if a client actively tells your boss they like you. Similarly your boss will much more tolerate your perhaps mediocre performance if they like you on a personal level

I think you need to reflect on what went wrong. Matter of fact is that you were bottom 10-15% and you will need to make material improvements in any next job to get ahead in those. You seem pretty structured, smart and driven so no doubt you have the internal capabilities to do so — but I think you can only get there if you admit to yourself why things failed, take responsibility for this and then learn from that

Sorry again for the unfortunate chain of events and good luck


This is kid is already wiser than most kids who stay on and progress at MBB.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.

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