Management consultants often have to manage fluctuating workloads, depending on the number of projects they are working on. Projects can range from a few weeks to several years, and it is possible to plan ahead for the busiest weeks, allowing consultants to have some control over the balance between work and life. Although it may be difficult to achieve a daily or weekly work-life balance in the consulting environment due to deadlines, striving for a broader balance can be beneficial. The Human Resources department may try to reinforce and improve work-life balance, but managers can undermine it due to unrealistic expectations about workload and availability, as well as standardization practices that make consultants feel unable to back down. Boutique firms tend to fare better in this regard, with only 67% of consultants working beyond their contracted hours.
To mitigate the detrimental effects of long consulting hours and the lack of balance between work and private life, many companies have invested heavily in policies. In intensive strategic consulting firms, the health and well-being of employees is usually monitored weekly, while this is less common in other consulting firms. Although consulting firms may project a positive image among their advisors, employees' mental acuity and physical health may not always be up to par. Improving project resource management can help plan and monitor workloads more easily, preventing burnout. Kristina Kang, a senior change management consultant, shared her insights into what it's really like to work in the field. Clients often expect consultants to adapt to their own work culture (e.g., 80 hours a week in banking or working on weekends), be always available, and travel abroad for meetings.
We discussed what the title of “consultant” means, the paths you can take to enter the industry, the skills you need to succeed, and what you can expect to be paid when starting out. Between customer demands, project deadlines, cultural norms, and people's eagerness to achieve achievements, long hours of consulting are expected and accepted. Depending on the firm, applicants may have to take tests before submitting their application or during the submission process. At other consulting firms, people may join as an analyst first, then as a senior analyst, and finally as an associate consultant. At its core, a consultant is an expert in something who helps other people or organizations. It is a customer-oriented role that requires pushing the ball uphill at times.
The typical path for consultants is to work at a large consulting firm for two years before moving on to something else such as working in a startup company or internally in a large organization. For those considering entering the field of consulting, it is important to understand that achieving a good work-life balance is possible but requires effort. It is important for consultants to set boundaries with clients and managers in order to maintain their own mental health and well-being. Additionally, it is important for consultants to take advantage of any policies that their firm has implemented in order to ensure that they are able to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.