In consulting, we talk about work-life balance. In fact, this is a fallacious notion that consultants would love to subscribe to. Really … we would!
In recruiting sessions at Universities, e-mails from other prospective consultants and grad students, other management consulting websites … it is funny to see/hear/listen to comments like this
I know that the Management Consulting profession is both glamorous and lucrative, but the stories of extra-ordinary personal sacrifices abound. Can you please comment on the lifestyle of a management consultant, in view of personal sacrifices, and professional and monetary rewards? This would be helpful to not only my own decision-making, but also to many of my cohorts. Thank you.
My first instinct to anyone trying to get into consulting would be to run unless you have a strong sense of self yet you’re ready to supplicate and prostrate yourself to the 3am deadline.
Success in consulting has less to do with the ability to “make sick decks” and much more with
- The ability to seek out self serving social situations
- Socialize with “Type A” personalities, who have generally have nothing else but their work life to define them.
- Turn a blind eye to other people’s drinking in the name of “stress relief”
- Master the ability to make “sick decks” on a whim – there I said it
- Be willing to create a need where there is really none … yet understand that the client who hires you to create work is also part of the cycle. They also have bosses to impress and bringing you on ensures that the perception of the problem is much greater than it is.
- Understanding that “work-life” balance is what you make it. Senior Executives/Partners will run you to the bone, unless you are willing to push back reasonably. In fact, most of them will respect you, if you know how to push back. This is a very, very important skill not only with them but also with clients.
- Be a smart self promoter – not a completely shameless one. For many consultants, they forget that they are self promoting to other self promoters … the aroma of bullshit can be pervasive and salient.
- Use words like “pervasive” and “salient” in everyday conversation.
Note – I didn’t stress on “hard work”. Work by definition is hard … if work were fun, then it wouldn’t be called work. Very simple .
You’re dealing in a field where you’re liable to consider a 60-hour work week as the norm, if not a light work week. 80-100 hour work weeks during a system “Go-Live” is standard, expected and you will get dinner and lunch just to work through that time. As the joke goes, if you can remember the name of your dog/wife/dinner at the end of the week, you must not have worked hard enough or concentrated enough.
Additionally, there is an even stupider side of the equation – actually bragging about this nonsense – sort of like “the macho factor”. You will actually hear conversations where consultants will like to brag about going to sleep at 3 am and then getting back to work at 7 am and they are completely proud of this and don’t recognize how little value it truly carries. This is a job – you work and work hard, but at no point does a 2hr nap/sleep break should be glorified unless you cured cancer, saved “Private Ryan” or delivered a fetus – making “sick decks” doesn’t qualify.
So for now, work hard, collect your hotel/airline points … at some point, you will have work life balance.