Consulting Lifestyle: Is it Glamorous?

Will B

From the outside, working in management consulting is very glamorous. The firms are known all over the world and there is an enormous amount of prestige that comes with it.

However is this really true on the inside?

Consultants have to travel an immense amount and spend a lot of time “off-site”. In this article, we run through what we think are some positives and negatives of life on the inside of the consulting industry

Travel

This is definitely the biggest lifestyle constraint for consultants. Whatever firm you work for, you are likely to spend a lot of time travelling to client sites and staying at nearby hotels.

For the most part this is ‘glamorous’. You may well have a buffet breakfast included at a nice hotel and it will be well kitted-out with gyms and pools etc. At the better firms, your longer flights will almost certainly be upgraded to business class.

While this seems mighty exciting, for most consultants it doesn’t stay that way for too long. Being away from home and your family is jarring and can become a tough lifestyle. In addition, the areas where consulting projects take place are not always that nice. It may be the case that there actually isn’t anywhere nice to stay near the industrial estate where you are working. Even if there is, there might not be a whole lot of nice things to do with your spare time.

Whether you are concerned about the travel or not, we highly recommend our consulting essentials to help you settle in.

Wages

Compensation is an important part of any job’s glamour. For most consultants, your pay is unlikely to be as high as many people outside the industry estimate it to be. It is not unusual for people to consider consulting and investment banking to be in the same wage bracket.

They are not.

Consulting wages are significantly lower, although this is also reflected in the hours. Of course, that isn’t to say that its not a fantastic wage in the grand scheme of things. The big bucks in consulting firms arrive when you become a Partner and Senior Partner when you are paid in company equity.

It is worth noting that in real terms, wages differ immensely between countries. If you use LinkedIn’s salary tool, it is clear that the difference between America and everywhere else is huge. Say the average firm pays an analyst about £40,000. That could be as high as $100,000 in some US cities which vastly outstrips any difference in living costs. Furthermore, where this fee drops off at the smaller firms in Europe, it is likely to remain high at the second tier in America. Deloitte and co. are considered to be much closer partners of the Big 3 than they are in Europe and this is reflected in their wage structure.

For more info on exactly how much consultants in different countries earn, have a look at Kevin Worner’s video here.

Office Off-Sites

These are definitely pretty glamorous. An off-site is when a company takes all of its employees from one country, or from multiple countries, on a day or weekend trip.

These are great fun. They are all expenses-paid ‘jollies’ in great places. This is one of the great rewards of working in consulting. For many people, it trumps the fact that wages are lower than in other financial services.

There is also a less than glamorous downside of these trips. At most consultancies, these are also internal networking trips. You will be expected to meet and socialise with everyone there, rather than to make the most of it with your office buddies and anyone else you get on with! This is often a criticism of junior consultants, that they fail to make the most of this networking opportunity. Of course, for some consultants, this opportunity is a glamorous thing in itself, to meet lots of successful people!

Internal support

Last and definitely least.

This is rarely considered by most people and probably for good reason. At a consultancy there is a wealth of internal resources and support to draw on. You can get in touch with your office or any other office almost 24/7. As we highlighted, at McKinsey for example, you are encouraged to call anyone within the firm at any point.

This is cool and feels special more than anything else. It won’t be something that anyone envies you for, though! It probably makes people feel important more than it is glamorous in the traditional sense. With time, it certainly becomes less exciting as, all of a sudden, it is you being called on for advice all of the time!

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