Work-life balance is often times one of the biggest determining factors in what job or role you choose to do – and is a primary question for potential consultants.
Do you wonder about work-life balance in consulting? One person says it’s amazing, frequently eating at fine restaurants and jet-setting every other weekend. Another says they just work, work, work! What’s the truth? Can you build a sustainable lifestyle while working as a management consultant – and could it work while having a family? Is it at least a better work-life balance than banking?
Jenny Rae gives you the inside look at the work-life balance you can expect while working at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, and other management consulting firms.
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Work-Life Balance: Does it exist in consulting? – Transcription
Today I’m going to address a couple of myths about consulting work-life balance. This is something that consultants bring up all the time in their marketing pitch.
But really, you have to understand the context of where they believe their work-life balance comes from. In relation to whom do consultants have balanced work lives? Then – you also have to understand the lifecycle of a consulting project, in order to understand how to debunk the myth of consulting work-life balance.
Work-Life Balance Truth For Consultants
Here’s the myth: consultants have work-life balance. And here’s the truth: consultants do not truly have work-life balance…especially on every given Tuesday.
But compared to banking, which is how they mostly compare it, consultants do have a more balanced lifestyle.
Consulting Project Cycles
And here’s why…because the projects are generally pre-determined. They are at least 6-8 weeks long, unless you’re doing a tiny due diligence project. And over a longer period of time, you know 6-8 months in advance when your crazy weeks are going to be.
PSA – they’re generally going to be just before your major deliverable, so at the mid-term and at the end of the project – so you can know that you will not have a life at all during those periods.
Consulting Compared To Banking
In banking, in contrast, you’ll have a totally different situation. A deal will come up on a Thursday, and your weekend is shot. A deal will come up the Wednesday before Christmas…goodbye Christmas. So anything that you were planning on doing, you have to completely re-write.
Those kind of urgent situations don’t happen in consulting. So that’s why consultants say they have work-life balance. If they fill in the blank, what they mean is, “we have work-life balance compared to bankers, who have zero work-life balance whatsoever.”
Consulting Work Patterns
Then the second piece is just understanding that work-life balance isn’t something that happens on a daily basis. Every day that you go into the office, you will not have it. Some days are going to be hard days.
In general, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and half of Thursdays are going to be hard days. Fridays…that day, you have work-life balance. Saturdays, you’re rarely working in consulting. Sundays, generally you’re getting ramped up for the rest of the week. So understand that your work-life balance will feel really different on a Monday or a Tuesday than it will on a Friday or a Saturday.
In addition, over the life of a project, you’re going to have a totally different pattern of work-life balance. On the first week of a project, your life is going to feel amazing. You’re going to go to a kick-off meeting, you’re going to have an opening dinner with a client. You’re going to be asking lots of questions, you’re going to be doing no material work.
Then you’re going to start cranking on some data, you’re going to work on some things – but in the second week, you’re doing your laundry. You’re walking your dog. You’re having a three hour lunch with a friend that you haven’t caught up with in a little while. And you’re going on vacation during those weeks of a project.
So in general, over the course of your consulting project, the first and the second weeks, you’re going to feel like you have a lot more than right before some of those major deliverables.
The myth of consulting work-life balance is that you have it all the time, and it’s the type of field that you go into to build a sustainable lifestyle. In reality, you have cyclical work life balance in management consulting. It’s better than banking, it’s not every day of the week, and it’s not every month of the year. But in general, it is a lifestyle where if you’re able to manage it, and able to dig in sometimes, and rest really well when you’re off, you can sustain for some period of time.
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