What do you enjoy most about your job?
The things I enjoy most about my job are the people I work with and the intellectually stimulating environment they create.
We are presented with challenging and complex client problems, where there is no standard solution, so we rely on the energy and creativity of our people to work together with our clients to come up with a solution or methodology. The firm has put a lot of effort into bringing together bright people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to make this possible.
I also enjoy the unprecedented access to senior members of staff, clients and projects you receive. Throughout my time here, I have been exposed to leaders in various fields, including debating an economic model with one of the world’s leading economists or discussing the best ways of growing a business with a CEO of a £billion company.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
At the beginning of any role, there will be many occasions where you have to learn new and complex things very quickly. This can be quite stressful. Therefore, it is very important to discover the wide support network early on. It is never as stressful when you know where or who to turn to for advice and coaching. This support network takes many forms, ranging from colleagues who may have relevant experience, the company’s Knowledge Team, or materials on the firm’s intranet.
The amount of knowledge available is vast, and using it effectively is a very important skill to ensure your stress levels are kept within healthy limits and you succeed professionally.
Is there a work/life balance?
There is certainly a work/life balance, although it will inevitably vary depending on things like the nature of the client case, its phase or travel requirements. There will always be more intense periods when we prepare for important client meetings, but equally there are quiet periods, especially in between cases, when you are not even expected in the office.
Another way of making it work for people is an initiative that BCG developed recently together with Harvard Business School, which is aimed at making one’s workload as predictable as possible, to make sure personal commitments are met without difficulty.
What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome these?
Working with clients in difficult and often pressured situations requires an ability to understand people, their ideas, views and concerns profoundly and quickly. It is not something you can learn in a classroom, it is through constant practice. I continue learning this through coaching from my managers and reflecting on and sharing my experiences with my peers (mostly very informally).
What ‘soft skills’ have you found useful?
Listening to people and hearing what they say is perhaps one of the most important skills, this often gets overlooked when thinking about your professional career. Whether it’s your client, manager or teammate, making an effort to understand what they mean makes your life a lot easier.
Any advice for the interview process?
The interview process is designed to be a two-way street, enabling the firm to learn about the candidate and the candidate to learn about the firm. This is why I think it is very important to behave as naturally as possible, as opposed to trying to act based on various perceptions on what a candidate should be saying and doing during an interview with a consultancy firm. This would help you understand the interviewer better, form a much more accurate impression of the firm and understand whether it is the right opportunity for you.
That said it is still worth preparing for your interview. Attending events on campus is probably the best way of learning about a firm, the work they do, the work environment, as well as how the interviews work.
I would also certainly recommend taking every opportunity to chat to employees outside your interview (there are always plenty of people around to talk to) – they can give you a candid perspective of a recent graduate on what life as an Associate or Consultant is like.