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10 Truths About Life as a Management Consultant

Management Consulting. The job that makes soon-to-be MBA’s salivate. While the job provides fantastic opportunity and the work is intrinsically rewarding, it does come with a price. Here are ten truths I have learned about Management Consulting in my 15 years in the field.

THE BAD. (1) You are a foreign operator Make no mistake about it; you are a foreign operator in the often unfriendly territory. You are on-site because something is wrong, and you are expected to fix it. While there will be plenty of people who happily seek your counsel and expertise, there will also be those who try to sabotage you at every turn.

Be strong, be honest, be transparent, and be careful.

(2) People will resent you Let’s face it, you’re smart, but you’re not omniscient. The ideas that you are presenting, which people are so excited about, are likely the same ideas that the full-time people around you have been pitching for years. As a consultant, this tendency can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can get the ball rolling; on the other, people will resent you.

(3) You will lack a support system Unless you are in a large engagement, life as a Management Consultant can be lonely. You will be judged solely based on client feedback and chargeability, and personal growth is left mostly in your own hands. Seek out and maintain a stable peer group with whom you can have an honest conversation, and who you trust to provide honest feedback.

(4) You are easily disposed of If budgets get tight, if you say something to offend someone, you can be walked out at moment’s notice. There is no HR policy and process in place to protect you; there is no advocacy, only a short walk straight out the front door. If you spend much time in consulting, this is likely something you will experience at some point in your career. It is humbling, a little humiliating, but rarely personal.

(5) Travel is not glamorous Remember the old movie that depicts the exciting life of a traveling business person? It’s not. Sure, if you travel often, you will get upgrades and perks, but the free cocktails and extra legroom do little to offset the delays, rude and disgusting passengers, and general time-suck that comes with air travel. You will go through this ritual two or more times per week, every week.

THE GOOD. (6) People will listen to you (and you will improve their lives.) People who want to get better will listen to you and make genuine efforts to improve. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of consulting: the opportunity to make the lives of others just a little bit better. Be it solving a complex problem, removing complexity from the process, or creating an energetic work environment, the opportunity to influence is endless.

(7) You can have a positive impact on organizational behaviors People are watching you: be the change you want to see. Trust, transparency, and open, honest communication are all things every company can get better at, and as a consultant, you have the power to make the connections to make these things happen.

(8) You will have flexibility When you work, where you work, how you work: as long as you deliver value, it’s up to you. One of the best parts of my time in Management Consulting is that I have yet to work the week of Thanksgiving or the two weeks around Christmas. All of that time to rest is undoubtedly a great way to close the year!

(9) You will gain a ton of experience in a short amount of time Many of your peers in the industry will spend several years in the same position, in the same company, doing the same job, with the same people. Not so with Management Consultants. You will have the opportunity to work with all levels of leadership, across many industries, solving a wide of array of problems. The more experience you gain, the more point of reference you will have, and the more effectively you will be able to work your magic.

(10) All of those rewards points Yes, travel is a drag. However, it does have its rewards (and they come in the form of points!) When you fly several times per week and spend more nights in a hotel than not; the points stack up quickly. The result? You never have to pay for a vacation again! Want to fly first class and take a luxury European holiday? You can, and it won’t cost you anything out of pocket! On top of that, if you show brand loyalty, most will reward you handsomely when redeeming points. For example, on rewards stays, Hyatt comps valet upgrades your room and usually offers some check-in amenities such as a pastry tray or charcuterie board.

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