Since joining McKinsey, I haven’t stopped learning, even in the soft skills department – and I am a trained psychologist!
I first considered consulting as a professional option while studying occupational and organizational psychology, but I resisted the pull for some time, instead leaning towards a career in research. The plan went up in flames after I realized I preferred tasks and conceptual thinking to writing. All of a sudden, consulting made more sense than counselling. I was sold, and I have no regrets.
Interestingly, it was not difficult to join the ranks of consultants in the least. McKinsey offers a business bridge to new hires with no background in economics. The learning curve was very steep, and I was ready to hit the ground running when my first project started. Also, some people might think that consultants need to be economists. They need to be, first and foremost, analytical – and with all due respect, psychologists can be at least as analytical as economists.
The best of both worlds
My career plans may have taken an abrupt turn, but I did not have to give up my past interests. After all, I teach a mindfulness program here at McKinsey! We’re actually just scaling up to the rest of Central Europe, and I think I can reach people who might otherwise never practice meditation this way. My plan is to integrate consulting with mindfulness on a much deeper level, though. We’ll see where this path leads me.
For now, I’m learning to combine my old ways with the decisive, top-down attitude business situations often call for. While revising a loan performance monitoring system on a recent project in Bulgaria, I purposefully allowed some of my “60-minute sessions” to go for up to 4 hours. Not everyone would agree, but I think it was time well spent. I managed to build enough trust and commitment to fall back on when asking the organization to implement some changes. In many situations, however, the more direct, less probing approach is the better option. I have seen some senior consultants navigate this thin line with amazing skill, and that’s what I want to learn too.