Is A Career in Consulting Worth It?

Will B

A running joke in the consulting industry says that new entrants can gain between 5-7 kgs in their first three months until they learn to control themselves at hotel buffets.

But putting all the free food – and jokes – aside, is a career in consulting really worth all the effort and money that goes into qualifying in the first place?

If you have a liking for business operations, a knack for problem-solving and data, value independence, and interacting with top talent, consulting might be worth it for you! If you’re in it just for the money, prestige, and perks, you could eventually burn out.

What Are the Benefits of a Career in Consulting?

Here are 4 great benefits of pursuing a career in consulting.

Consulting Offers an Avenue for Continuous Learning

On the job, there won’t be two days that are the same. So if you’re looking for a cushy repetitive job where you clock in and out at 9-5, this isn’t for you. 

However, this field offers consultants the opportunity to gain diverse experiences on the job. You’ll likely end up working on a wide variety of projects spanning different industries and geographies while also learning how a business operates. You’ll also get to build valuable personal and people skills such as communication, leadership, flexibility, problem-solving and critical thinking.

A former McKinsey consultant in a Quora response to a question asking whether consultants truly enjoy working in this field answers, “Yes, I did…For many people, life isn’t about being easy, it’s about making an impact. I joined McKinsey to have an impact on people within organizations…At my back, I had years of tried and tested McKinsey ideas and solutions which I’d use to teach and train clients and then work with them to overcome the issues they were facing.”

A Consulting Career Guarantees You a Higher Income

Consulting as a profession offers an excellent opportunity to earn more than your peers working in other industries. According to Glassdoor, the average consultant’s salary in the US is $90,490 annually. Many organizations also offer incentives such as bonuses and profit-sharing schemes to give employees additional motivation to perform well. 

In fact, just the entry-level salaries for consultants start at around $70,000 in the US (Payscale). 

Consultants Get To Network With The Bigwigs

As a consultant, you’ll be interacting with the top brass of the client organization. As a result, you will have access to the company leaders such as CEO’s, CFO’s, and managers, who hold key decision-making positions within the organization. This will allow you to forge long-lasting relationships which can eventually help you grow professionally as well as lead to lucrative future opportunities. 

Consulting firms also provide employees a chance to participate in trainings, conferences, and seminars which is a great way to network with senior executives and other professionals in this field.

And if you’re working in the Big 4 or the Big 3, your bosses could even become mentors!

Consulting Offers Great Opportunities to Advance Up the Career Ladder

Firstly, most consultancies reward their best performers through promotions and pay raises. And secondly, many consultancies now offer competitive packages to retain talent by paying them better than competitors.

Apart from this, there’s a clear hierarchical structure in consulting firms that provide its members with upward mobility. From an entry-level analyst to moving up as an associate and then manager, and later growing to become a junior and then senior partner; this field provides good growth opportunities. At the upper echelons of this profession, a partner or a director at a Big 3 or Big 4 can expect to draw in between $500,000-$1,000,000 annually.

Here’s a YouTube video by Mika Kim, a former consultant at a Big 4, talking about why a consulting career was worth it for her personally. 

What Are the Drawbacks of a Career in Consulting?

While some people may find these advantages attractive enough to consider taking up a career in consulting, others might not agree. Here are some reasons why they think so:

60+ Hour Work Weeks Are Commonplace in Consulting

The standard eight-hour workday is almost non-existent in a consulting career. According to a 2018 Forbes article, MBA’s working for Goldman Sachs clock in a whopping 86 hours a week on average while those at JP Morgan and McKinsey work 72 hours a week.

Cut-throat Competition for Entry into Consulting

There is fierce competition among graduates at leading business schools for jobs at top consultancies such as Bain & Co, Accenture, Ernst & Young, BCG, KPMG, PWC, and others. As a result, candidates need to work extra hard to stand out amongst the crowd.

Once in, there’s no chance to relax! The up-or-out nature of this career path means that you need to demonstrate your worth and get a promotion or eventually leave the firm. 

Consulting is High-stress Job With a Risk of Burnout

Consulting is a high-stakes profession that comes with a lot of job stress. Emphasis is placed on billable hours and the general culture is to praise employees for the hours they put in. A Quora response by a former Big 4 management consultant mentions that a joke at Deloitte was ‘Partners eat their young’. 

The long hours take a toll and also contribute to the high attrition rate of this field. Additionally, there’s a lack of control over one’s downtime as a client request could come through at any time. Burnout is common and many consultants choose to leave the profession after a few years. 

Lack of Stability and Work-life Balance in Consulting

Due to the nature of the industry, consultants often travel extensively. They spend a lot of time away from home thus losing out on precious family time. Consultants are also expected to be always ‘on’ making it difficult to find a clear separation between personal and professional life. 

In addition, the lack of stability makes it hard to plan ahead and juggle multiple responsibilities, especially for those with children. 

You might have watched the video by Mika Kim above talking about the pros of a consulting job. In another video, she provides an insight into the volatile nature of the job and about when consulting might not be the ideal choice for you. Watch her take below: 

So Is Consulting the Right Fit for Me?

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons and why you’re looking at consulting as a career before deciding if this is the best option for you. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering a career in this industry:

  • Will I thrive in a fast-paced environment? Am I flexible and open to change?
  • Do I enjoy being around clients? Do I like meeting new people? Are my social skills strong enough to interact well with them?
  • What type of people am I attracted to? Am I drawn towards helping people solve problems or solving them myself?
  • Can I handle pressure?
  • Do I enjoy being constantly busy?
  • Would I be willing to work long hours? How much do I value work-life balance?
  • How much do I like traveling? Will I still be able to maintain a normal routine even with constant travel?
  • Have I considered alternatives?
  • What am I looking to get out of a consulting career?

Answer these and you’ll – at the minimum – have a general idea of whether consulting is the right choice for you. 

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