Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leaving McKinsey - when to start "search time"

Paid "search time" is a benefit McKinsey provides to departing consultants.  Bain offers a similar package called "transition".  In this post I'll explain...
  1. Definition of search time
  2. How search time is calculated
  3. Search time rules that will help inform your decision on when to go on search

What is "search time"?

For those unfamiliar with the concept, I'll begin with an explanation - strangely the Firm does not promote this during recruiting even though it is an incredible benefit.  When you decide to leave McKinsey, you don't just quit, you go on search time ("go on search"), during which you...
  • Keep getting paid!
  • Continue to be covered by benefits
  • Do NOT have to do any client work
  • Maintain use of your Firm laptop and mobile phone
  • Still get access to Firm resources and additional access to search and alumni tools like the McKinsey Alumni Job Board (which is extensive and full of compelling job opportunities with employers who value McKinsey experience)

How much search time do I get?

I was never able to get a straight answer on how your search time is calculated, so I'm cobbling this answer together from my personal experience and information from colleagues who also went on search.  Your best bet is to get the actual answer for your specific situation from your Professional Development (PD) Manager or HR.  If you're reading this and have additional and/or different information, please let me know!

My understanding is that you get:
  • Four (4) weeks
  • Plus two (2) weeks for each year at the Firm
  • Plus three (3) weeks if any of your search time occurs in December
  • Search time ends as soon as you accept a job offer
The third point above is the one I'm least sure of and about which I have received conflicting information.  One anecdote that seems to support this is when an EM asked about going on search in November, was told he would have 13 weeks of search - after deciding to wait until the next year, he was informed in January that he'd have 10 weeks of search time.

In either case, the Firm gives you a generous amount of paid time off to transition out of the Firm, find a new job, and decompress!

When should I pull the trigger?

Each consultant's situation is unique, so only you can decide what's best for yourself.  But, here are some important factors to consider when making the decision, with the caveat that any of these policies might have changed since I left the Firm.  Check with PD or HR for the official, latest information:
  • Irreversible:  Unlike PowerPoint and Excel, you cannot hit ctrl+z to "undo" this decision - make sure you're certain you want to leave
  • Next job:  As mentioned previously, your search time ends as soon as you accept your next job.  Keep in mind that many employers will want you to begin very soon after extending you an offer. 
  • 401k:  You will still receive the Firm's contribution to your 401k for the year as long as you are an active employee of the Firm as of December 1 (this might have changed and I'm not 100% clear if being on search counts as being an active employee - again, please check with PD or HR)
  • Bonus:  Your annual bonus will be pro-rated based on the non-search time you were with the Firm.  I've heard conflicting things regarding this:  (a) you have to work through a cut-off date (I've heard July 1) to qualify for your pro-rated bonus and (b) you get your pro-rated bonus regardless of when you leave the Firm
  • PTO:  You can extend your search time by the amount of PTO you have (you use up search time before you dip into your PTO reserves) or you can cash out the PTO you have left if you accept another job
  • Title:  My understanding is that if a prospective employer contacts McKinsey to confirm your job title, McKinsey will only confirm the highest designated or elected title.  (e.g., even if you've been working in an Engagement Manager (EM) role, if you have NOT been designated an EM, McKinsey will not confirm your title is Engagement Manager)  So, if you're close to being designated, you might want to consider waiting until it's finalized.

Good luck with your decision! 


  1. How can I access "McKinsey Alumni Job Board"? Can you please give me the link and access details? Thanks a lot for the great post !

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