What is it like to be a Management Consultant? 5 Things to Know
As a college student and hopeful future millionaire, I’ve often considered what careers would make me the most money. The different ways that companies operate has always been among my interests, so I thought... what about management consulting? That sounds easy, and I could probably boss everyone around. A quick google search reveals that the median pay for a consultant is about $85,000. Not too shabby! But having a position isn’t just about the pay. There are so many other factors that go into what could make a potentially good career. I mean, what does a consultant even do? What’s the work like? What are the negatives? In my journey to learn the answers to these questions and more, I have reached out to professionals in the industry, entered a student-run consulting competition, and completed my own research. Of what I have read, been told, and experienced, here’s what it’s like to be a consultant...5 things to know!
Consultants Help Businesses Solve Problems
In essence, management consultants help firms solve specific problems to ensure continual growth. Often times, consultants will help firms achieve greater efficiency and refine their work processes. Of course, that can mean different things-- “Helping firms solve problems” is pretty vague. But that’s the catch with Management Consulting: consultants often have a variety of responsibilities. According to Bain & Company, one of biggest names in the consulting industry, working for them can mean taking on a lot of different hats. “Maybe you need to trim costs. Maybe you need to spend more to innovate. Maybe you need to expand to exploit economies of scale. But whatever you do, you will have to do it better than the competition.” Consultants can also deal with public relations, advise on organizational structure, mergers and acquisitions, or anything business related! In my own experience consulting for a local restaurant, my team honed in on a specific goal: increase the amount of college students choosing to eat at the restaurant. Once we established a clear goal in mind, we designed a strategy that would not only be effective but also work in conjunction with the company’s overarching goals and strategies.
2. How do I become a Consultant?
The simple truth is that there is no single concrete way to work in the industry. Consultants come from different walks of life, but firms prefer sharp, observant, business people, with good common sense. College graduates are often recruited straight out of school. In an interview with The Guardian, Stephen Isherwood, head of Graduate Recruitment at Ernst & Young explains “There are three things we look for: bright people who have the practical intelligence to solve complex problems; people who work well with others; and drive. There can be tight deadlines and pressure, so people must be prepared to work long hours.”
3. Consultants Make Good $$$
As stated earlier, the median pay for a Consultant is about $85,000. But that’s just the median! How much could I earn at the low end of the scale? Or the high end? According Payscale.com, a worker in the industry can make anywhere from $56,000 to $140,000 a year. However, one should consider that there are also many ways to make money in the industry. A person could choose to work for an already established firm, of which there are many. Titans in the industry include McKinsey and Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Deloitte. A good friend of mine was recruited straight from school by Deloitte to the tune of over $60,000 a year. If someone really wanted to dive head first into the consulting world, they may even consider going into business for themselves. Which is a popular choice with startups, running a consulting company can offer a different experience and opportunities than working for a company would. It is also possible to focus on a specific area of expertise to share. Perhaps your talent is creative work, you could help companies organize and execute advertising campaigns. It is in the way that we see management consulting or just “consulting” can take a lot of different forms.
4. Traveling for Work is Common
Perhaps, you’ve dreamt of being paid to lay on the beach and a kind worker brings you a drink made in a coconut…*sip*... ahhh, it’s delicious. While consulting work really isn’t really a day at the beach, you should know that Consultants do travel a lot for work! The Guardian says “ The broad span of consulting work makes it an attractive career, offering a variety of projects, challenges and opportunities for personal development. This might involve working all over the world with multinational clients, even if you don’t join one of the big firms.” You may be required to run back and forth to New York or Massachusetts, two of the biggest hubs for consulting firms. After telling me a story of how he was once summoned by a client to fly from New York to California with two days notice, a professor mentioned that it’s important to always be ready for whatever happens.
5. Consulting is Hard Work
Obviously to the right person, working as a consultant can seem like fun, rewarding, work...and it is! But that’s not the whole story. Being a consultant is like any other job; it can require lots of long hours and bring work related stress. Even while consulting just for fun, I’ve found the experience to be taxing. In my work, the true source of an issue is rarely apparent without a fair amount of consideration being taken. Once I have identified the issue, deciding exactly to do about it is a whole different process in and of itself. Then once the strategy part is figured out, it all comes down to the execution, which can include the bulk of the labor. Bain and Company warn, “strategy consultants are not die-hard workaholics, but it is not unusual for a consultant to work 55-60 hours a week, with highs and lows. Keep that in mind if your lifestyle requires a lot of personal time…”
Management Consulting offers a challenging, dynamic, environment that can come with a “work hard, play hard” attitude. Long hours in discussion with your team, traveling to different places, and meeting new people, all while wearing a “happy face” can seem daunting. If up to the task however, there is world of opportunity just over the horizon. Consultants enjoy good pay, a rewarding career, and a chance to always be learning. If this all still sounds good, then a career in management consulting could be right for you!
“Management Consultant Salary.” www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Management_Consultant/Salary.
“What Is Strategy Consulting.” Management Tools - Mission and Vision Statements - Bain & Company, www.bain.com/offices/brussels/en_us/careers/top-management-consulting.aspx.
King, Mark. “How to Get into Management Consulting.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Mar. 2012, www.theguardian.com/money/2012/mar/16/how-get-into-management-consulting.
Leaman, Alan. “What Does a Management Consultant Do, Exactly?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 July 2013, www.theguardian.com/careers/what-does-management-consultant-do.