Consulting often has high turnover rates, meaning that you may experience more co-worker changes when working in consulting than you would expect when working as an employee in a company. This can make it difficult to develop working relationships with your co-workers. A job as a consultant may seem like an ideal career option, especially if you like the idea of being your own boss. Choosing projects that interest you and setting your own schedule certainly seems attractive, but consulting has some drawbacks that should be considered before starting to advertise your services.
Long working hours can be the norm, especially if you're trying to impress a new customer. If working 9 to 5 is important to you, hiring may not be the best career option. When a deadline approaches, you are expected to complete the work on time, no matter how many hours you must work to meet the deadline. The Consultancy Links website notes that if your job requires frequent meetings, the only time you'll be able to complete real work is outside of normal business hours.
Another disadvantage of being a consultant is that you'll simply have to work long hours. I've been a consultant for 25 years and I'm here to tell you that it's not what you think it is. In the late 1990s, I reluctantly began my career as a consultant. I found a job at Price Waterhouse after finishing graduate school, and it turned out that I really liked consulting.
That said, there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't be a consultant, but to be fair, there are plenty of reasons why you should, too. To start, let's talk about the positive aspects of being a consultant. First of all, as a consultant, it means having a big impact on organizations. Working internally in an organization and having the same skills will give you an advantage in the internal team.
If you're an external consultant with the same skills, you're the expert. Which companies usually hire consultants because they want to go through some kind of change and seek guidance and advice. Through this business transformation, they need a coach. As a consultant, you'll influence the functioning of large, massive, and influential organizations around the world.
For example, many of the clients we work with at Third Stage are for-profit companies that produce great resources. Others are non-profit organizations that promote society and government entities that help people. There are many indirect end results that are beneficial within this position and career. Most of the problems that consultants are asked to solve are very challenging, but rewarding.
There are complex problems that need to be solved, most of the time at work. Constant learning about new industries, the way companies operate, and operational, organizational and technological dynamics will give an advantage to the competition. It really is a space where mastering it never closes the circle, but having the experience and working with all kinds of people helps a lot. Being a consultant will often lay the foundation for success in any career you may pursue after consulting.
If you've helped some leading organizations around the world solve complex problems, you'll be much more marketable and attractive to other companies. There is a possibility that in the future you will no longer want to be a consultant. Traveling is exhausting, stress is overwhelming, and long hours get you stuck, whatever the case, background matters. Now, if you're intrigued by emerging technologies, like me, it can be fascinating to learn consulting.
As I mentioned before, you are constantly learning about new industries, businesses, and cultures. Whether it's artificial intelligence, data analysis, robotics, machine learning, or ERP systems, you're forced to constantly learn in order to have that knowledge and improve your skills. Being at the forefront of technology and understanding how technology works in complex organizations is very important to grow as an effective consultant. I just talked about some of the good aspects of consulting, however, there are also a lot of drawbacks and risks associated with this career path.
First of all, it's a lot of hard work. There's also a lot of pressure that comes with the job. Customer demands can reach you and if you're not prepared for that, or if you don't want to work hard, it won't be a good fit for you. If you truly value lifestyle or work-life balance more than professional exposure and long-term growth potential, then consulting isn't the right choice for you.
If you've watched my videos for some time or delved into my YouTube channel, you've probably seen me talk about some of my experiences working for large system integrators. One drawback, in my opinion, would be the big consulting firms in the sector. If I were to summarize what some of those challenges go back to, many of them are political, especially for larger consulting firms like Deloitte, Accenture, KPMG, and Capgemini. There is a deep-seated political dynamic that can be very unhealthy and stressful.
What was the case for me. That was the main reason why I left the biggest consulting firms. They usually focus on protecting large revenue streams with large customers and projects. When so much money is at risk, a lot of unhealthy political dynamics are generated internally within the consulting organization.
No matter how irrational it seems, whenever a customer has a problem, it becomes your problem. As a consultant, there are high expectations. Customers have some kind of problem that they don't feel they can solve on their own, so they hire you as a consultant. For example, organizations trying to implement new technologies don't know how to implement them.
It's not because consultants don't know how to implement technology either, but because there are internal political struggles and a sick culture. There are broken operating processes and bad things in the organization, that's not necessarily your fault as a consultant, but it becomes your problem because now you have to figure out how to solve this problem that you didn't create and over which you have little control. A lot of consultants really struggle with that dynamic. I always try to set expectations with the consultants we hire, saying that if you want to be a good consultant and you want to be effective, you should think about how you can be a better therapist for your clients.
Ultimately, the value of consulting is to listen to and understand your client's problems. One of the main keys to success is what I often call the finesse of consulting. It's more an art than a science. That's the soft skill of consulting.
When I started my career as a consultant in my early twenties, there were a lot of things I didn't know. There are still a lot of things I didn't know, but I knew even less back then. One of the ways I overcame that lack of knowledge and experience was by really mastering my finesse and knowing how to ask questions, read customers, and become a kind of chameleon that can effectively adapt to different situations. These social skills are something, they are very difficult to teach and, if you don't have them, it could be very difficult to master or develop them.
It's like trying to teach someone how to be a good singer. They can practice, learn to read music, etc. It's all well and good to have the hard, tangible technical skills and the understanding of business processes, but do you also have those soft skills? If you lack interpersonal skills or if you don't show them, you may want to reconsider a career in consulting. Now, the last disadvantage I'll point out here is the fact that, for many larger consulting firms, the pace of progress is very slow.
You must prove a certain seniority before you can move up within the organization. In fact, I became very impatient, especially when I was in my early twenties, early in my career, and I felt that I could do much more than I was allowed to do at one of the big consulting firms. If you're looking for one of these huge consulting firms and value the rapid rise, make sure you really think about that dynamic. Big consulting firms are designed to ensure that no one fails on the project.
They've really mastered this whole science of bringing in college graduates who don't know what they're doing and putting them in a position where they can't fail. Part of this assurance process is holding back the upward movement of employees. Big tech companies will ensure that you move up only after you're 100% ready for the next step in the process. If that's something that doesn't sound appealing or if you value challenging yourself, the good news is that there is an option.
You can go to a smaller or mid-level consulting firm. The challenge, of course, is that if you don't have consulting experience, it's going to be harder to get a job at one of those firms. This is something to consider when considering a career in consulting. All of this begs the question: Is consulting right for me? Honestly, it just depends (said like a true consultant) on your personality and your goals.
If you like to work hard, have those social skills that help you be an effective consultant, you like to learn, you are interested in different types of businesses and problem solving, consulting could be a great career. However, if you like predictability and stable work environments more, then consulting may not be a good career for you. Consulting can be a challenging career path, however, if you have the right skills and attitude, it can be a lucrative career option and an opportunity to work for some of the largest firms in the world. If you're prepared to work hard and learn through different processes and businesses, have the ability to manage a fast-paced work environment, and love problem solving, don't think twice.
Consulting is the right career option for you. On the other hand, if you value standardization, consistency, and are attracted to predictable workdays, consulting may not be the best option for you. Working as a consultant usually involves traveling a lot and working long hours project to project. It's common practice to work overtime to meet strict deadlines or manage extremely demanding projects.
If you want to pursue a career in consulting, then you must have a lot of passion for your work and enjoy working outside of working hours. However, around the world, major companies are realizing the importance of work-life balance and are increasingly offering a more enabling work environment. Consulting often involves working long hours, dedicating extra work hours to traveling a lot, dealing with demanding clients, and working within tight deadlines. However, you gain experience working on several systems and learning quickly.
If you enjoy a constantly evolving work environment and learning from new industries, consulting is an excellent option. For professionals with the required talent, consulting can be a rewarding career that will not only provide them with the opportunity to work with some of the largest firms in the world, but will also offer them new and exciting professional adventures. Amid the intensity of hiring for consulting, few stop to think about what it will really be like once they have achieved their mission of joining a top-tier consulting firm. With their eyes set on the prize and with a unique focus, many overlook the details of what days 1 and 300 will be like.
I'm included in this category, and I only really realized what was in store for me once I walked through the office doors. Overall, it's been a phenomenal experience. However, I wish it would have been clearer exactly what to expect once I signed the full-time offer letter. So, after 10 months of my career at BCG, I'm here to tell you what are the 3 best and the 3 worst aspects of consulting life.