5 things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Into Consulting

We speak with management consultants every single day – consultants from top tier firms, boutique firms and everything in-between. So we frequently get to hear from consultants on what they think some of the ‘Pros & Cons’ of getting into consulting are, and are always intrigued by how many similarities there are.

Most of us know the cliches associated with management consulting, but we wanted to share with you the top 5 things consultants themselves say they wish they knew before they got into consulting.

We are often pretty unpopular people!

Not everyone is impressed by consultants, and many people don’t want us around. Employees of the clients we work for have a number of issues with us being there, ranging from “I can do this myself”, “Your presence here makes me look incapable” to “You are too expensive and are likely eating into my bonus”.

These (and many other) concerns can make it really hard for consultants to build good relationships with people they have to work with on a daily basis. In a way that is difficult to understand for people who work a ‘regular’ job. In addition to this, this resentment can manifest itself in ways that make consultants lives even harder, like withholding data you might need and even making (unfair) complaints about you and your work to their superiors.

That the travel is 10% glamorous and 90% exhausting

One of the big attractions of consulting, especially to millennials is the lure of frequent travel. Sure, there are some great stories of consultants who traveled the world in their first 5 years of consulting and had a project on every continent. Newsflash, this is the exception and not the norm. For the majority of consultants, ‘travel’ means weekly travel on a Monday and a Thursday, to and from one location, probably somewhere remote and unappealing within your own country.

Now, don’t get us wrong, it makes for an interesting life and the points are great (many people pay for their annual vacation entirely with points collected during the year), but it can be exhausting. A 4am alarm on a Monday and getting home at 11pm on a Thursday night takes its toll, and means a lot of time away from home and minimal time with friends and family.

We mustn’t forget the 10% glamour though. Most consultants will have a great training retreat or project in a fun, cool location, or an international project with a few trips to Europe or Asia. And if we’re lucky we might even be able to tag a weekend away onto the end of – so it’s not all doom and gloom!

That I would learn SO much in such a short period of time

There is a saying that 1 year in consulting is the equivalent of 3 years in industry. This doesn’t mean you will feel that you have worked the equivalent of 3 years (although that may be true also) but rather that the depth and breadth of experience you gain and exposure to various facets of business would take 3 years if you worked with 1 single firm in industry.

Most consultants agree this is very true and something they didn’t expect going into consulting. While we are typically specializing in a particular industry or business area / service line, we are still able to gain exposure to a variety of projects, work with many different business leaders and get access to a great deal of projects, data, business issues etc.

Sure, it is exhausting and we usually work long hours to get all this great experience, but most consultants we speak to agree that it’s very much worthwhile and opens a lot of great doors for them when they decide to leave consulting.

That saying no to friends and family will be a frequent occurrence    

There are lots of opportunities to socialize as a consultant. The stereotype that consultants enjoy dining at nice restaurants and drinking, quite a lot, isn’t completely unfounded. However, for many people, time spent with colleagues and co-workers isn’t a substitute for the personal life you would like to have with your family and friends outside of work.

Consultants are often required to work at weekends, in the evenings, occasionally asked to pull all-nighters and even sometimes required to cancel vacation plans (all consultants know at least one person this has happened to). Saying no to work is usually not an option, and if it is, it can be quite the career-limiting move. However, saying no to friends and familyis an option, and moreover…is frequently the option you will have to choose.

You need to be very confident with the unknown…

Consultants are required to develop themselves into experts in a specific area. We know that it’s why clients pay for us. However, experienced consultants also know that they will rarely work on 2 projects which are the same, which requires the ability to be able to walk into / be thrown into an unfamiliar situation, and own it.

This requires some serious confidence in your abilities (or in some cases lack of abilities) in what you are about to undertake, which for most people can be a fairly intimidating and frightening situation. Rarely do consultants have all the information they need or prior experience doing exactly the same work previously, and often they have a client who doesn’t know exactly what they want either.

So being comfortable with this level of ambiguity and the ability to handle the unknown with ease is a critical skill, and one which consultants already have, or in order to survive… pick up very quickly.       

 

Originally Published by She Is Fierce! partner TheConsultantLounge.com

 

Read Other Articles From Our Partner TheConsultantLounge:

HOW TO BE A CONSULTANT AND A MOM
3 LESSONS FROM MY FIRST 6 MONTHS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR – WHO HAPPENS TO BE FEMALE

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