Our ‘A Week in the Life’ series focuses on industry insights from Cantabs as they intern in numerous sectors. Make sure you stay updated either via Facebook or our mailing list.
I’m interning at McKinsey & Company, a large management consulting firm based in central London. The placement gives penultimate year students the chance to do exactly what you’d do on the first year of the job as a business analyst, just for the summer. Interns get staffed onto a project and join the team of consultants in assisting clients in a variety of different ways. What does a typical day look like? A typical day for me involves: meeting my teammates in the morning at breakfast in the McKinsey office; heading over to the client office in London; doing a team check in to set out tasks for the day; starting on our tasks; talking to the clients and each other regularly, especially if anyone has any issues or things to think through; having a team lunch; having a team problem solving; having a meeting with the client; doing some more individual work; doing a team check out to confirm what we’ve done and need to do; and heading home or meeting up with friends for dinner in the city. But between the interns, there’s no typical day! Every project is really different from each other, and some interns aren’t based in London – of fourteen of us, only half are, with interns off in Rome, Munich, Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg and Sicily. The variety of experience is huge. How did you hear about this internship? At the start of second year, I realised I wanted to do consulting, and McKinsey was pretty hard to miss. As one of the Big Three, on any career website for consulting it came up, and I also knew a couple of people who had applied/worked there, so I gave it a shot. Talk through the application process. What did you find difficult or perhaps surprising about it? I really enjoyed the application process. It was pretty rigorous, starting with a problem solving test sat in London (after passing the CV screening), then two rounds of interviews, the first with two and the second with three interviews. But it was very accessible – before the first round of interviews, they invited us all down for a case study workshop in their London office, and I had an interview ‘buddy’ from the firm who rang me to do a practice case with me as well as answer any questions. These both definitely surprised me, as I felt like the company wanted me to succeed. The interviews were all around case studies, so it required a lot of case study prep, but the experience was very positive for me. Did you need any particular skills for the placement? No hard skills, just soft ones like communication, sharp analysis, ability to problem solve, and being able to work in teams. Any degree background is totally fine: we have a few historians, some economists, some scientists, and nobody has any real advantage in terms of experience from their studies. What was the highlight of your week/internship so far? As I write this, I’m on my way back from a company retreat for the interns and their business analyst ‘buddies’ in the firm – a definite highlight. They took us to a hotel in Devon, and it was a weekend of unlimited eating, drinking, relaxing, and various fun activities. How much networking/socialising opportunities are there? We’ve had tonnes of social activities, with drinks every Friday, various dinners, a BBQ, lots of football events, and of course the weekend away. All of them allow the interns to socialise with each other and also with people who have worked there longer. The quantity of free food is slightly terrifying – people like to joke about the ‘McKinsey stone’, due to the free breakfasts and lunches in the office and constant team meals, as well as free drinks. What have you learnt from your internship? In a few weeks, I’ve learnt a lot about soft skills, in terms of how to harness them and develop them further. I’ve also learnt some harder skills, such as on excel. And a lot of it is also just understanding consulting and McKinsey better. What have you found surprising or unexpected? I’ve been surprised how social it’s been, with constant activities going on. I’ve also been surprised how quickly you become part of the team, even just being there for the summer and being brand new – I’ve still been trusted with significant work of my own to do, and feel like I’m contributing. What advice would you give to someone else looking to gain experience in this sector? A lot rests on the interview process, so prep hard on case studies, as well as thinking about personal experience examples for competency questions. Practicing with friends is really helpful. Beyond that, you just have to apply to internships and be yourself.