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 working life balance as a consultant is challenging due to long working hours and travel requirements.
- Consultants typically proffer solutions to client’s problems and may not be a part of the implementation, thus depriving them of the satisfaction of seeing the ensuing impact.
- Consulting requires you to work in a high-pressure environment.
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.
Consultants mostly work on projects with a hybrid mix of 1 – 3 days at the client and the rest primarily remotely (from home) or sometimes from the office. This makes finding and maintaining a balance between work and home life very 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.
Even for remote projects not requiring travel, there is still little work-life balance due to the weaker barrier between work and home life and the typical push to use travel and office times as productive hours as well.
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 from working on the weekends, you may occasionally put in a couple of hours on Sunday evenings to get ahead of the week.
This work-life balance can be taxing for consultants, particularly for those with families or children.
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. It also doesn’t help that consulting projects require work with different clients, requiring you to establish credibility and trust constantly, which introduces additional pressure unlike at a typical job.
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 outweighs the cost. CaseCoach also takes a detailed look into the best parts about being a consultant at Bain, BCG or McKinsey.