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Consulting Analysts: Avoid These 3 MAJOR Mistakes

Everyone was new once. For many of you, that first day is still to come.

In this blog post we have compiled some things that lots and lots of young analysts do. Some are avoidable if you can get your ahead around them. Others you will probably notice yourself doing anyway. Hopefully you can avoid a few of these in your first few weeks!

1. Feedback

The biggest issue that most young consultants face is dealing with feedback. After every project, you will receive a report from your manager, and at some firms like Bain, a performance card from your peers and juniors. Of course this is meant to be productive and it is. It will count towards your promotions, internal networking and personal development.

However, these are always very direct. Whether thats because it is a multiple choice exercise – i.e. you were Excellent, Good, Average, Bad – or your colleagues are just blunt, this will hurt everyone at some point. Compared with university, this is much harder to take. You are likely to be trying just as hard at each project, and the feedback might not match your own estimation of how things went.

Learning to be gracious about this is difficult. You want to show that you understand and plan to change, without implying that you are already past it. Equally, you don’t want to seem conceited by suggesting that you ‘saw this coming’. Obviously you didn’t, or you wouldn’t have acted the way you did.

What you want to do is say thanks a lot and crack on, good or bad feedback. Preferably, make some sort of logical steps to improving on where you want wrong, but don’t be too faddish with this. You don’t need logical steps to fix your slide formatting, for example. If you work with the same colleagues on another project, make sure to check-in on how they felt you progressed in a certain area, in even seek projects which you think will be particularly positive learning processes.

2. Corrections

In your first few years you will write an unbelievable number of Powerpoint presentations. These are hard to get right at first, but you will speed up. However, it will almost never be to your manager’s liking the first time around.

These are often 50+ slides and have to be perfect. Consultants stress over these. In some ways, they are right to do so as this is their bread-and-butter. On the other hand, it very rarely has any impact on the project they are carrying out.

At some point as an analyst, that presentation that you thought you had perfected will be questioned by your manager or the client. It might be the formatting, which is retrievable, or worse, the content.

DON’T be defensive. If they say its wrong, it probably is. If they have the wrong end of the stick, maybe point it out. Worse still, don’t say that you saw the mistake but didn’t think anyone would mind. This is one of the silliest things you can do as a consultant, reflecting negligence on your point and condescension towards others in that you don’t think their standards are very high.

You are likely to have to re-do big portions of presentations at the very last minute. Except this graciously. Bankers do it all the time. Whether you thought it was your very best work or not is not a reflection on you, but a reflection of where you are on your learning curve. You may be thinking it, but do not say ‘surely this is fine?’

3. Networking

Lots of newbies get so caught up in their day-to-day work, they forget to engage with the firm where they are working. You can do this in lots of ways, but it is crucial that you build a relationship with the people in your office as soon as possible. Definitely do not only focus on people who you think can help you or whose projects you want to be a part of. This will be obvious and make you look silly.

Don’t feel weird asking more senior consultants to coffee. Take the opportunity to ask them about what they do, how you can get involved, their past experiences etc. If they are half-nice they will accept. Remember, no stupid questions!

In the meantime, just make sure to be as friendly as possible. Whether that’s the receptionist or CEO, just focus on being likeable and respectable. If you’ve got those two things in the bag, then you can show people what you can do. Without them, you won’t make very much progress.

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  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.