First off, there is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a management consultant in the Big 4!
Depending on the type of project and type of consulting, it will be different.
For example, you might be in the office or at a client site; your days will be very different. In this post, I want to bring you a 9-5 of what a management or strategy consultant gets up to on an average day.
Who you have as a manager will also dictate the order of your day to an enormous extent. Unless your firm is highly regimented, your day will largely run at their discretion.
By and large, you will be at a client site during the week. Depending on your firm that could be all 5 days, although some firms like to have everyone back in the office on Friday.
Consulting firms do this to encourage networking, office morale and general time spent face-to-face. This is also a pleasant perk that usually guarantees you Friday evening out of the office.
Here we go…
A Day In The Life Of A Management Consultant In The Big 4
One of the great parts of consulting is the morning. Making the most of the hotel’s resources is usually a very nice start.
Again, depending on your firm and on the project, you will mostly stay in a hotel nice enough to have a pool and gym.
Make the most of these!
Most consultants don’t pay for gym memberships because they travel so much, so remember, you won’t have access to these on the weekend.
Next, breakfast. This will hopefully be a buffet that speaks for itself.
Then you will almost certainly hop in a cab or local transport option if available and head to the client. Don’t forget your essentials!
The division of work between morning and afternoon depends on your manager.
Most Engagement Managers, Project Leads and Project Managers will spend half the day directing analysis and the other half having meetings.
For the sake of simplicity, lets say that your manager likes to have meetings in the morning. First of all, this will be a team meeting, probably at 8:30.
It will brief you on the day ahead and remind you where you left off last night.
Next, some members of the team will either present to the client or provide some sort of update call on the project’s progress. This might be an extensive run-down of the project’s status or just an update to say things are ticking over nicely.
This sort of meeting usually takes quite a long time. Consultants tend to use specific jargon that needs explaining and both sides often have a decent array of questions.
Once this is done you regroup and plan the rest of the day.
Either this will take you through to lunch, or you might be able to sneak in a bit of Excel work beforehand.
I should mention, that I found this Youtube video a great introduction to how the day of a consultant pans out:
Lunch options usually depend on the stage of the project. The client often provides a nice spread towards the start, but this tails off, especially if things aren’t going well.
In the afternoon you get down to your bread-and-butter consulting work. If it is a data-heavy project, this will be dominated by work on Excel. You can get ahead of the game with Excel here.
This sort of work should be punctuated with updates from various team members about how they are getting on.
Unless you are using a Google Doc or working on very different parts of a project, any updates will probably effect the work of the other team members.
The afternoon bloc might also demand a period of ‘data gathering‘. If the firm is unprepared for the consultants’ arrival they may not have assembled what you need. Worse, they may not know if the data exists or where it is.
Data gathering could also be speaking to employees and making sense of what the firm is like.
If you are doing a project relating to management, as some firms like Humatica specialize in, then this part is crucial.
More broadly it is always worth getting a feel for the firm from top to bottom. This will be vital if the project objective is general.
If increasing profit is the goal, you may not know where to start your hunt for improvements.
Here’s another real-life consultant sharing their daily experiences in the following video:
In all honesty, you will probably still be working in the evening. This is definitely a negative but it does have one perk. Free dinner.
Almost all firms provide some sort of budget for employees on a project and so dinner can be ordered out of that. At the top firms, there won’t be a daily budget, but you can simply order a meal under £20 at any point in the office.
At the end of the project, or at some rather social firms, the day will end with a team meal that comes out of the project budget. DO NOT miss these. If your manager is half nice these can be pretty big bills.
On a normal day, the real grind starts after dinner. Getting through the last couple hours or last 4/5 hours can get pretty tough.
This is when you earn your stripes.
Luckily most of the time, you won’t be kept in unless there really is work to do – that’s left to the bankers.
It’s worth noting that consulting hours vary from country to country. Most of the time they are extremely long.
However, in some European countries, and especially the UK, they may only be a little longer than your average 9-5.