How do I think about McKinsey compared to my other options: for example, investment banking and private equity?
There are three things we advise you to consider and ask yourself:
- What do you want to learn?
- What are your professional development goals and values?
- And, finally, what choices do you want to have available to you?
Your learning during the first couple of years in an investment bank will be very deep – and very narrow. You will demonstrate complete mastery of a few core skills in financial modeling: likely with more specificity and rigor than any other environment. The tradeoff is that this is all you will learn. At McKinsey, your learning will be less deep in financial modeling but you will acquire a much broader set of skills: from performing quantitative analytics to leading organizational change, to implementing operational improvement, to name a few.
Secondly, think about what you value in terms of professional development and lifestyle. Professional development and the staffing process at McKinsey is about developing your skills and expertise as well as helping you grow into a leader – not just filling a need on the client side. When you join McKinsey, you will have a Development Group Leader who is committed to your growth by helping you define a thorough and clear set of professional development objectives. You will have mentors to guide you through your professional decisions. You will have a team learnings to determine your lifestyle at work. Anonymous surveys track your team's well-being and help make sure that the team is adhering to lifestyle commitments.
Thirdly, consider your long term options and choices. One of our principals, a former partner in a private equity firm, says: “Over the long term, it all depends on what you really want to do. If you want to make investment decisions, you can do that best in a private equity firm or hedge fund. Generally, however, you should not have any illusions about what junior professionals do at private equity firms. As an analyst or associate, it's a tough role, you generally crank lots of models, and don't make the major investment decisions until you are more senior.”
Many McKinsey partners focus their practice on private equity work. Those who choose to leave us find that being at McKinsey is a great path to becoming a successful investor in private equity. If that is what you want during the course of your career, you will find that McKinsey is a good place to develop the required skills. Equally, if what you want is real skills in operations and strategy, or real expertise in a set of industries, you will get that faster at McKinsey than anywhere else.