Finance or Consulting?: A perspective post-MBB internship

Explore a comparative experience as a consultant in finance and why a career in consulting can play to your gained financial skills.

Candidly, I’ve never explored finance roles, nor do I have an interest in doing so. I can appreciate the creativity that comes from building diverse models, crafting hypothesis’ to ensure quality positions or supporting the aspirations of your team, client or firm; but at the end of the day, (again, restating for me personally) it’s too engrained in a box that rarely goes beyond your area of focus. 

What do you do with this? ✨ Consulting ✨ more specifically focusing on an MBB firm. This satisfies my own personal interest in learning as much as possible across various industries and focuses (more commonly known as functions) while also developing the same MSOffice skills that seemingly are so engrained in the world of finance. It can also be noted that in my most recent studies I had the unique opportunity to work in the finance practice in various capacities.

This past summer, I had the unique opportunity to explore one of these firms; McKinsey & Company (aka “the Firm”) out of their Toronto office (one of four in Canada: Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver being the others within the Canadian practice). This gave rise to the start of a wild summer chocked full of rich, diverse and challenging experiences further supporting a push to return post graduation. 

Now, you might be thinking, “Sean you’ve never done finance and are drawing conclusions about something you can’t critically compare”. This is fair, though, my specific area of focus while at the Firm being in financial services. This experience gave rise to a number of supporting functions often coupled between finance and consulting roles; usually where there is one, the other coexists in some capacity.

Takeaways for those looking at either (on why I’d pick consulting…though I’m definitely biased so consider this your disclaimer)

1. Selective work-life balance

Even as an intern, being in control (to some extent) your work-life balance, and when you can have ‘free time’ is emphasized more critically. While you may have certain instances that the midnight oil is definitely putting in overtime, this is very much on a case-by-case basis and as an intern, you’re time spent after hours is often minimized by your team. It also allows you more time to explore things like networking internally, attending events and activities of interest, or working on skill development in an adhoc capacity.

2. Wider array of people in your environment

In my current intern cohort, not everyone is in business school. In fact, of the undergrads in the Toronto office, a good portion of them are not in a defined “BBA” or “Commerce” program. They also hail from a diverse set of lived experiences, diversity affinities (visible and not), and have a unique motivation for being at the Firm. This means you bring something new to the table in very conversation and this standard of having a varying perspective carries all the way up throughout the organization. My Engagement Manager spent time in investment banking, my Partner spent time as a corporate lawyer, another Business Analyst graduated from McGill with an Arts degree, another recently joined from the Milan office. All of this is very normal and never seized to inspire and amazing given that every conversation came from legitimately every angle imaginable.

3. Diverse learning; in an accelerated manner

There is never a shortage of work, activities to attend, sessions to learn in or people to talk to. Additionally, working in a feedback driven environment ensures that you learn very quickly, make changes to your working norms on a daily (maybe even hourly basis), and prioritizes a 365’ view of the project you’re working on (essentially by the end of the project you have a solid understanding of the industry, how it operates, etc.).

4. Travel…even as an intern

You’re not treated as an intern but viewed as a full-time staffer. Travel to client sites, other offices, for conferences is a norm at the Firm during your summer. Travel is a huge component of consulting and a number of interns get to do this on a weekly basis.

5. Choice in focus

You get to outline your interests, needs and deal breakers when it comes to staffing. This ensures that you can either have control over where you want to explore, or leave it to the professionals in the staffing office to find you something interesting that they think you might like. This goes to show that within the Firm emphasis is placed on making sure you have an enjoyable experience and you’re not stressed about learning something completely left-field or well beyond your comfort zone.

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