Consultant at McKinsey & Company, Rory Finnegan, Talks About How to Pursue a Career in Consulting

"Hi everyone! My name is Rory Finnegan and I'm currently working as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company in the New Jersey Office. I graduated from UVA in May 2018 with a degree in English (Poetry Writing). My favorite involvements at UVA were through Greek leadership, the literary/arts communities, and the Lawn."

Meet Rory Finnegan
Hi Rory, thanks for being here today! I was wondering what made you decide on an English degree and how you feel it's helped you with consulting?

"Great question - and one that I get a lot! It's definitely not the typical path to consulting. I knew going in to college that what I loved most was reading and writing, so an English major was the natural choice for me. But I had no clue what I wanted to do post-grad until third year, when I started learning more about consulting through networking events and info sessions.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying to go for a consulting job with an English degree unless you've taken quantitative classes or have leadership/team experiences that make you stand out. That being said, there are plenty of liberal arts majors in the consulting industry who bring a very different (and equally important) set of skills and ideas to the table. It's helped me so far in terms of communication; I can write an email to my team or the client really well, I can create powerpoint slides with a clear message and story, and I also have a different way of brainstorming then, say, a business major would. And the other stuff you need to do this job well? As I'm (still) learning, it's easy enough to pick up, so I don't feel that far behind my quant-minded, Excel-wizard colleagues!"

Could you talk a bit about the internship search process? For example, when you were applying to intern positions what did you first talk about to demonstrate your interest in consulting to Oliver Wyman and other companies?

"I was very careful to consider what sort of skills consulting looked for: problem solver, leader, good teammate, creative thinker, good with people, quantitative experience, etc. Some of these things I had - like leadership, and creativity. These weren't hard to sell. But I did not have solid quantitative experience or really any business knowledge, so I had to get creative. I had worked with budgets through extracurricular involvements, and gained some exposure to business through my marketing internship.

I also pitched my English major in a creative way - I talked about how studying English involves problem solving. I compared going through lots of data and synthesizing it to pull out what's important (something you have to do often in consulting) with reading a really long book and having to write a meaningful essay on it. For an English class, you have to be able to synthesize and pull out key details from a book to write a good essay. It was a bit of a stretch, but with my leadership skills and good communication I think they (somewhat) bought it. Also - as long as you can complete a case interview, you're demonstrating that you have the quantitative skills needed to be a consultant.

Being able to explain why you want to do consulting if you come from a non-traditional background is important, too! I talked a lot about my interest in the creativity and problem solving that happens in team rooms on projects, and how I loved working with people."

How do you recommend studying for case interviews? And what is your general advice for recruitment in consulting?

"I started off by getting two books that had been recommended to me - "Case Interview Secrets" and "Case In Point". I read "Case Interview Secrets" all the way through, and used "Case In Point" just for the practice cases inside. The best way to study for case interviews though is to practice a ton. I reached out to everyone I knew at all the firms and asked them to run cases with me over the phone - most people are more than willing to help when it comes to cases!

I also practiced with the 10+ friends I knew going through the recruiting process. There were 2 or 3 friends who I scheduled weekly hour-long sessions with to force myself to practice. Your peers can help you more than you think - I probably ran over 50 cases by the time I was interviewing for full time positions, and so I felt very comfortable with the process.

Other advice: list out all of your involvements on a google doc or other note taking software and then underneath each involvement, use the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method to write down what you did for each involvement. By physically writing this down and thinking about problems you faced in extracurriculars/internships and how you solved them, you'll be much more prepared to answer behavioral interview questions.

Networking also definitely matters when it comes to getting the interview - it shows you're putting in the effort to learn about the company and get to know people there."

I was wondering which sort of consulting do you do mostly? Also are there any opportunities for freshman at McKinsey? If not, how would prepare for my application?

"The reason I joined McKinsey (and chose consulting specifically) was because I wanted to get a broad range of experiences and exposure in the business world. At most of the big firms, you get the opportunity to serve clients across sectors and industries. I'm excited (and hoping) to do public/social sector work, retail, operations, and marketing work in the near future!

As for opportunities, I don't know if there are any opportunities for freshman at McKinsey specifically - I'd recommend reaching out to the McK recruiters at your school to see (if you're at UVA, you can find the recruiter name on Handshake). But I do know McKinsey specifically offers a program for rising juniors so definitely check that out next year!

As for preparing for future consulting applications, I'd recommend you try to build a compelling story for yourself - whether that's through the courses you take, the extracurriculars you're involved in, or the internships you have. Try and do things that interest you and that expose you to leadership, team opportunities, and serving others. Leadership, working as part of a team/with other people, and doing work that "serves others" (aka anything analogous to helping a client) are key components to being a consultant. Try and give yourself experiences that will lead to making you a better consultant if you're set on that path! If you're not - and I wasn't until my junior year - make sure you have reasons for doing what you did, and then reasons why you'd prefer consulting over, say, marketing (like I realized after my second year internship) to more effectively sell yourself to recruiters."

I am a sophomore and am interested in consulting and was wondering if you had an internship after your second year of college and whether it was in consulting? Would love to hear any advice you have on finding an internship when you're still a sophomore!

"Thanks for your question - it's awesome that you're thinking far ahead already. I did have an internship the summer after my second year, but it wasn't in consulting. I worked for a small marketing company (it was 12 people) in Northern Virginia. It taught me a few key things that I later used to indicate my interest in consulting. First, that I didn't want to work for a small company (even though it gave me the opportunity to experience all parts of the company and exposure to the CEO, etc). Second, that I didn't want to work in marketing (at least not right after undergrad). I used these to help craft an argument for "Why consulting?" that included wanting to work for a bigger firm that gave me exposure to a wider breadth of clients, and wanting to solve more problems than just those related to marketing.

Advice that I have to find an internship after sophomore year: leverage alumni networks through your school and apply to a LOT of things. I got connected to the marketing company through HackCville's alumni network. The CEO was a UVA grad and wanted to hire from her alma mater - alumni from most schools are often more willing to read your email or look at your resume or, yes, hire you. Don't be afraid to ask professors or older friends to connect you. And don't be afraid to just send a cold email!

Would love to hear about the differences in your experiences working for Oliver Wyman and McKinsey, are the firms really different or somewhat similar?

"Onto similarities/differences between OW and McKinsey: OW felt more finance oriented. I discovered during my internship that finance projects weren't what I was interested in, so that's one of the main reasons I made the switch to McKinsey.

OW is also smaller - they don't have as many offices or employees. Both firms have offices around the world, but McKinsey has more and in more locations. In terms of the actual project experience though, I get the sense that most firms are pretty similar with this.

How do you like living and working in NYC?

"I love answering this question because I couldn't recommend it more. NYC is great because there is always a cool thing (or twenty) to do. The food is awesome, the nightlife is awesome, there are lots of young people here from colleges all over the country and world.

One of my favorite things to do is just walk around and explore - it never disappoints. On the fun scale, it's definitely a 10. However, it's incredibly pricey. I wasn't considering other cities so can't compare it to living anywhere else, but cost of living is quite high. I try to balance out the cost of my rent by cooking a lot and doing free or cheap activities around the city. Highly recommend the email newsletter "The Skint" if you're interested - they send out an email every day with a long list of free and cheap things to do all over the city."

What is it like to travel 4 days a week for work?

"So far, it hasn't been that bad! I've heard people get tired of it after a few years (and I believe that) but it's pretty fun right now. The difficult things: not being able to see friends Monday-Thursday, and having to wake up early on Monday to catch a flight.

But there are perks - I believe all of the firms cover your expenses for the duration of your travel. It's also really cool to see new places (I'm staffed in a fun international city right now). Finally, the hotel and airline points add up...I'll have enough pretty quickly to cover full vacations for next year."

What is your favorite part about your job and what do you find most challenging about it?

"My favorite part so far has been the people I get to work with. I'm currently on an international team, which is decently common at McKinsey. I love getting to know people with such different backgrounds! My start class is also really fun - so the social aspect has been a great bonus to working in consulting.

What I'm finding challenging is actually another thing that I do enjoy: I'm learning a TON. It's difficult to show up at the client site every day and realize I know only 10% as much as they do about the specific company and the industry. It also means I have to do a lot to catch up and to make sure I'm contributing value. But I also love that I'm getting exposure to an industry I knew nothing about before. I get the sense that this is going to be the norm for projects going forward as well, so I'm both nervous and excited for all the learning I have to do!

What is it like work on a team that travels and is together all of the time during the week? And do you have any thoughts on preparing yourself to work well in groups during college?

"If you're a people person (and I am), it's definitely fun to be with a team all the time. It keeps me motivated to get my work done and it means there's always someone around to answer questions or offer help. One of my team members is definitely more introverted, so she spends more time in her hotel room at night cranking out work instead of still all with the team. There are definitely ways to get people time and alone time so I like that! We also go out to dinner together at least once a week, and have team events every few weeks (we're going to an NBA game in a few days).

A few thoughts on preparing yourself while still in college: take classes that involve group work, and join clubs where you have to work with other students or faculty (better yet, take on a leadership position and learn how to manage a group of peers)."

And finally what's your favorite thing you've read recently?

"I've gotten into audiobooks because they're really easy to listen to on the subway! I'm currently listening to a David Foster Wallace biography called "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself". Before this, I listened to "Sapiens" (which is a history of humankind) that was really interesting."
NOVEMBER, 29 / 2018