The Cons to a Life in Consulting

While a consulting job at McKinsey, BCG and Bain has numerous benefits, there are of course a few downsides worth preparing for as you enter the world of a top consultancy.

Creating a work-life balance can be challenging

The client’s success is the top priority for consultancies. The team often does all they can to create the best outcome, naturally leading to long work hours. Twelve hours per day of high-intensity work can be expected.

When you couple this with travelling to and from client sites every week, finding and maintaining a balance between work and home life can be tough. Monday mornings involve a very early start. Depending on how far away the client site is, Monday morning travel can involve a taxi, train, plane, or a combination of the three. Client sites can also be in difficult to reach locations, such as shipyards or industrial estates on the edge of cities.

Although Fridays might feel slightly more relaxed because you’re not on site, they can often be one of the most important days of the week as you consolidate work and prepare for the following week. Although firms discourage consultants to work on the weekends, you may occasionally put in a couple of hours on Sunday evenings to get ahead of the week.

You often won’t see the impact of your work

A common gripe for consultants is not seeing the impact of their work on the client or seeing their recommendations come to fruition. This is because the client implements the recommendations after the consultants have left and the short nature of projects means there isn’t enough time to get too deep into implementation. However, some projects will include implementation as part of the scope and top consultancies such as McKinsey have even developed specialized implementation functions that focus on supporting clients to put recommendations into practice.

Consultants ultimately act as advisors, where they input into decision-making but are not responsible for making final decisions or acting on those decisions. It’s understandable that some consultants leave the profession when they get the itch to “do stuff” rather than simply “advise stuff”.

You’re in a high pressure environment

A number of factors unique to consulting can make the day-to-day feel very high-pressured. The problem you’ve been asked to solve by the client is likely to be of high importance with a short timeline. The bar is set very high in top consultancies, which means you’re given feedback on your work at regular intervals and a high level of excellence is always expected. The up-or-out review process also increases the pressure on consultants to perform well, even when the project is over-scoped, the data is unreliable, or the client keeps changing their minds.

Consulting is full of extreme highs and extreme lows and the high-pressure environment contributes to this feeling of extremes when things appear to go a bit wrong. Despite all these challenges, management consulting is still one of the most sought after professions. Many people find that the benefit they get from a couple of years of consulting far outweigh the cost.

You can learn more about the pros to a life in consulting in this post.

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