MBA candidates who interned at McKinsey share how you can stand out during the 10-week program and land a 6-figure job

  • McKinsey & Company is a management consulting firm that's notoriously hard to break into.
  • Last year, McKinsey and other consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Co. were forced to make their summer internship programs virtual in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • Insider spoke with two former summer associates about what life was like at McKinsey during their virtual internships, and how they made the most out of their experiences.
  • While UCLA MBA candidate Katie Solomon spent the summer working on social impact case related to COVID-19, Ikenna (Ike) Enwere, a business student at Wharton, collaborated with McKinsey's digital and analytics practice. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Securing an internship at McKinsey is a great way to land a full-time job. 

It's an opportunity to work with consultants and showcase why you'd be a great addition to the firm. But it's also an extremely competitive program. Applicants have less than 1% chance of successfully landing a full-time offer. Now, those odds may be even lower because of the tight job market caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortunately, the consulting industry is among the top two fields that turn internships into full-time positions. Firms have a 38% conversion rate for interns who become full-time employees, according to a 2017 LinkedIn report. The pandemic prompted consultancies to show an even greater commitment to recent graduates, as a roster of well-known firms extended full-time offers to thousands of students before their internships even started.  

But before you can think about joining full time, you have to be successful during the program. Insider spoke with two MBA students and former McKinsey interns, Katie Solomon and Ikenna (Ike) Enwere, who shared how they succeeded during the program and landed full-time jobs.

Solomon and Enwere completed their internships virtually. The program was 10 weeks total, although it ranges from six to 10 weeks. It's unclear if McKinsey will be hosting virtual internships this year, or if they will return to the office. 

Here's how Solomon and Enwere made the most out of their internships. 

Work with as many different people as possible

Ike Enwere.Courtesy of McKinsey & Company

Both interns had concerns when they learned that internships would be virtual and shortened. They both weren't sure what kinds of projects they'd be working, or whether they'd still get to work with clients remotely.

But they were both pleasantly surprised by how hands-on the program was.

Enwere, an MBA and master's of public administration student at Wharton, said he worked in McKinsey's digital practice. He collaborated with an entry-level associate who coached him throughout the summer, and he reported to an engagement manager, partner, and a research expert on the team. 

"I spent the first couple of weeks shadowing my associate and listening in on meetings," he said. "And when you're working virtually, you have to be very intentional about checking in on progress."

Solomon, an MBA candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said her interest in the firm stemmed from her passion for working in government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. During her internship, Solomon worked on a project related to coronavirus pandemic response.

She worked directly with an engagement manager and joined in on team meetings and client meetings everyday. A senior partner routinely organized problem-solving sessions, in which the team would discuss client solutions and research, she said. 

Solomon's communicated with peers via Zoom, Slack, and email led the team. She said she successfully built relationships with colleagues using these tools. 

"I felt supported and that I was being challenged," she said. "I went to bed every night with such a tired brain, and that is such a good feeling. I really don't feel like I've missed out on anything." 

Communicate with your manager about taking on bigger projects

One aspect of McKinsey's internship program that stood out to Enwere was the option to work on cases separate from his project work for the summer, he said. 

The firm's digital and analytics practice hosted a "Racial Equity Hackathon," during which over 600 employees participated in a series of learning courses and another 200 competed to develop a plan to help foster racial inclusion and equity in society. Participants were divided into teams, and the three finalist ideas are now being piloted and considered for scaling, a company spokeswoman told Insider. 

"It was really powerful for me because the firm showed that it values its Black employees, and it also recognizes its responsibility and power to drive positive change in society-at-large," Enwere added. 

Enwere's team was very supportive of him participating in the hackathon, he said. He took time every Thursday and Friday to join in on the program's learning sessions about race. 

Make time to network with your peers

Make sure you maintain the connections you made during your internship, Enwere said. 

Summer associates normally tag along during their team's Uber rides to the airport or during coffee breaks in the office, but remote work has made it harder for everyone to talk about anything else other than client work, he said. The business school student recommended that future interns be intentional about making time to form relationships with senior partners and other interns at the firm. 

"It's not just about project work," Enwere said. "Your internship experience should also be about networking, and trying out things that sparks your interest. Maintain that communication with your team and you'll have a much more rewarding experience." 

Interns can set up recurring 15-minute meetings with a colleague to discuss anything unrelated to work. You can also take advantage of virtual happy hours and fireside chats that are organized by the firm, he added. 

Solomon also attended coffee chats with partner Q&As hosted by McKinsey. And these events allowed everyone a chance to get to know their senior colleagues on a more personal level. It allowed everyone to be more vulnerable and open about their struggles, she added. 

"I would encourage interns to do the same — to be willing to share themselves, be their full selves, and just be open about who they are and where their passions lie," Solomon said. 

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