Today’s topic is whether management consulting is a right career choice for you. It’s become quite controversial especially after the release of an American TV series House of Lies. So, I thought I share with you my own observations and perhaps you can relate with my experience and decide for yourself whether it’s something you want to explore.
First things first, let me introduce myself. This is Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting in our strategy consulting domain. I am also the founder of The Career Mastery, and Landing Interviews Guaranteed free training program. I am 35 years old and have spent around seven years of my life in management consulting. I am not just any management consultant, but one of the really good ones with consistent awards and promotions under my belt. I work for PwC Consulting but also worked with McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, KPMG, Strategy & (Formerly Booz, now a subsidiary of PwC) many times in our joint projects. Alright, let’s move on…
I am sure you have already encountered a management consultant with a $1,000 suit, striding around the airport with his fancy laptop bag with a swagger that indicates that he has just finished creating The Earth and is on a very important mission to create a new planet. He is evidently extremely busy and constantly on call with his subordinates, and perpetually uses sophisticated words such as; proliferate, enablers, drivers… The reality is that they exist and somehow they have developed such an ego that is unmatched. I’d like to think they are in minority though. Although I have been in management consulting for the past decade, and my career flourishes from year to year, I was lucky enough to segregate myself from people like these and use any opportunity I had to ensure that no-one is promoted with this attitude. If you ask what these people actually do, they will most probably say that they solve the most important problems of corporates and governments and develop visions for future. Wow… What a statement!
In reality, we do just about anything… Last year alone, I delivered over 32 projects. I have done everything from strategy benchmark assessments for a regional Ministry, to a project management and PMO set up for a large corporate, alongside a vision analysis for another corporate, to a strategy implementation. Ultimately, top management consulting firms do basically everything that a management personnel in a large company does. The only difference is that we may do it better as our employers have accumulated centuries of experience and methodologies to be a bit more efficient and solution oriented when it comes to solving problems or maximizing opportunities. The other difference is that my job and team keeps on changing every two weeks to six months and that I may be engaged in up to five projects at a time where as a typical management personnel in a company stays there for quite a while.
If there is one thing about my profession that I hate the most, it would be the traveling. Traveling is not as fun as you may think! After years of repetition, hotel rooms become dungeons. If you are in your twenties, it is not difficult to find the motivation you need to keep going and pushing, but once you hit your thirties, things become really difficult. You are probably married, perhaps with kids. Your priorities in life change dramatically; you simply want to spend more time with your wife and kids.
However, the irony is that nice employers will keep sending you all over the world so that you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy all of the perks that come with a six figure management consulting salary. Worst of all is that there is no end to it. You can never say I will work so hard until I become a partner. Everyone works very hard. Here I have to make a distinction. I understand everybody works hard in their own jobs. However, working hard at management consulting jobs usually means; working incredibly fast, smart, efficient, effective, and under constant pressure for 12 to 14 hours a day while managing multiple projects at a time. By the time you get home, you are carrying a pulp in your head instead of a brain. Juniors work hard to prove themselves, managers to get a shot at being a partner. Even if you become a partner, your workload and travel frequency doesn’t really diminish. You can’t say that “once I am a partner, I won’t be traveling as much.” That is simply not the case. Partners work as hard as anyone, if not harder. They are extremely driven, only to add more value to clients… million dollar profit share also helps!
However, there is a positive flip side to this coin as well. I love consulting. As a character, I am easily bored at work. If it’s a project which lasts for more than three months then I itch for a change. I can’t imagine myself working for the same company in the same function, even with a different seniority, for more than two years. That would be the ultimate torture for me. I am sure I couldn’t survive. My motivation would disintegrate, and I would either get fired or resign for another role in a different company, only to find myself in the same situation again after two years. That’s just one of the great perks of being a management consultant.
Another perk that I highly value is when we occasionally do “good work.” One of my recent clients was a regional ministry of social affairs. We created incredible programs that benefited hundreds of thousands of needy people. With the benefit of hindsight, I am proud to say that I was of one of the five people who developed that program, implemented it along with our government client, and successfully rolled it out to beneficiaries. We touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. We made it possible because we came up with efficient models to ensure that it was financially sustainable to allocate such funds. Not many people can say that they have touched the lives of others in such a way. Those beneficiaries have no idea who we are, but we helped them massively. They don’t need to know. I know. And, that’s more than enough.
Of course, not all of our client engagements are like that. We may also end up delivering work for some evil corporation that will acquire a poor SME to break it into pieces, fire everyone without any compensation, and sell the IP rights. It is what it is… Disclaimer; I have never engaged in such a project nor have I ever heard my employer delivering such projects. Alright, now the disclaimer is out of the way and my job is still safe, let’s continue…
Another perk that comes with the job is the prestige. Everybody looks up to consultants, especially to the ones that work at big firms. Working for a big consultancy firm is like getting a job insurance for life. Once you are a management consultant at a big firm in a good position, you will most likely never be unemployed again. It’s usually just a matter of picking the best offer. Getting those offers is usually down to just responding to weekly emails from executive recruiters.
Never having to worry about being unemployed ever again, even if the great recession episode two plays out – which I suspect will in a couple of months; who wouldn’t want that kind of insurance? If your management consultancy plans work out, then you will find yourself very much at the top of the food chain. You may find a lesser paying job, but you will always be the preferred candidate, at least on the resume. But again, at what cost?
So, what do you think, is management consulting right for you?
If you think it is, and if you want to take your career to the next level and work for large multinational companies or management consultancies, then I strongly recommend you sign up to my 3-day video training course at Landing Interviews Guaranteed. It’s entirely free and is guaranteed to take your career to the next level once you are done with the program.
Until we meet again, I’d highly appreciate if you share this article with your friends who are considering a consulting career. Let’s spread the awareness.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
Photo Credit: Bigstock