Why go into management consulting: 11 reasons
Management consulting, along with financial services, is among the top choices for most MBAs, other graduates, and even experienced professionals. This is despite the fact that the image of management consulting is not always positive. As some people say “management consultants take your watch and tell you what time it is”.
You may be thinking about making the switch to management consulting, but may not be sure if you are clear on why go into management consulting vs. pursuing other attractive career paths.
You may also be trying to figure out how to answer a possible consulting case interview question, “Why Consulting?”
I am here to share with you my 11 reasons why go into management consulting. Hope you will find it helpful.
Why I ended up joining a consulting firm
I came across management consulting by chance. My close friend was a management consultant and he used to tell me how interesting his work was. He routinely regaled me with stories about the client issues, analyses and impact they were having.
He also shared with me interesting books and articles, and forced me to take a more structured approach to my thinking.
I remember him warning me how difficult it is to get in. The outstanding grades one needs just to get invited for interviews, as well as case interview skills on estimations, brainstorming and hypotheses, plus the stamina and alertness required to successfully handle rounds of interviews.
Moreover, even once you are in, the work can be tough, especially when deadlines are approaching. This results in many people leaving management consulting to get a better work-life balance. The churn in consulting is very high.
I remember he sometimes would not sleep 2 days in a row, working 48 hours straight. Of course, this was not necessary and was driven by the study partner who wanted to prove to everyone how exceptional he was by working all-nighters and expecting the same from his team.
Still, he seemed to like the work very much.
So, despite all the negative information I really liked management consulting and committed to joining a management consulting firm one day.
When I finally got in, it was just as great as I expected it to be, if not better.
In the very beginning I was a business analyst so you could not be more junior than me unless you were an intern or an administrative staff. However, the work was interesting.
I worked with mostly amazing colleagues and eventually, after a lot of hard work, had exposure to very senior executives of large international organizations.
I would meet and even wine and dine with billionaires, present to the top political figures and travel internationally as part of my job.
11 reasons why go into management consulting
Overall, I would recommend management consulting as I think it is a great platform to start one’s career. And for many, it is a great platform to build one’s career.
So what are the key reasons why go into management consulting?
The answer is different for each person. I can’t speak for everyone but below will share with you what were the reasons why I chose management consulting and why I still love the work.
1. A wide variety of driven and intelligent coworkers.
In management consulting you always work on different engagement teams for different clients. You are a part of a massive organization with many exceptional people at each level, whether it is at the level of a business analyst, associate, engagement manager or associate principal. Working with so many people introduces a lot of diversity into your life and makes work more interesting and exciting.
It also allows you to build a network of individuals within the firm that you truly like, respect and trust. Those are like-minded individuals who are after similar goals to yours.
Moreover, you learn a lot from people you work with. And this is important because, after all, people say you are an average of 5 people you spend the most time with.
If you are driven individual, you may feel demotivated and isolated if you end up working outside of management consulting as the quality of your colleagues in most cases will not be as consistently high as in management consulting.
2. Your reputation reflects your performance.
This benefit is the result of benefit number one. If you are good, it will be well known in the firm. Because you work with so many different people, no one person can damage your reputation or take credit for your work, the situation which is more likely in other careers.
It does happen a few times, but it eventually evens out and is usually not so damaging. The culture does not permit it.
For example, if you join a bank after your MBA you will likely have one boss who may try to put as much work on you as possible and to give you as little credit as possible so he or she (and it is usually he) can keep more credit for himself.
Moreover, there is some envy involved. Many managers and senior executives in banking really had to work through the ranks to get the role you received by securing an MBA. There is a lot less of this in management consulting so you tend to be with more like-minded people.
3. In management consulting you have more control over your development.
If you are proactive you can get yourself onto the engagement which will allow you to develop the skills you want to develop.
Moreover, in management consulting you are the product of the firm. It is in the firm’s best interest to keep your skills level up to date and help you build yourself up as a professional.
In fact, this benefit is one of the most alluring when it comes to management consulting. I cannot think of any other line of work readily available to MBAs and other graduates, or even to experienced professionals, in which organization will be as incentivized to invest in your professional development.
You are in a relationship where both partners want to see the other succeed.
4. Management consulting culture is exceptional.
Consulting firms tend to have positive environments focused on developing people, with approachable leadership. It comes back to the organization’s view of you as an asset, not just as a resource. We spoke about this in an article Consulting vs Banking: 4 Key Differences. Hence, a lot is invested in your professional development and the organizational environment is usually more supportive.
5. You get to see the world.
The extent of this depends on the things like the management consulting firm you join, your efforts to network within the firm (so you know when opportunities to work in exciting places arise and people know that you are available and have the necessary skills to be picked for those opportunities), and your luck.
However, on average, you will get better opportunities to travel and see the world in management consulting versus in other organizations.
I remember when I was just starting out my career before my MBA. My friend wanted to cheer me up and invited me to tag along on a weekend business trip.
I was sitting in an airport catching a flight to a nearby city where my friend was attending a conference. We were in an airport cafe and I distinctly remember thinking that someday I want to live a life which will allow me to travel to different cities, countries, and cultures. This was before I realized I wanted to be a management consultant.
Fast-forward about 2 years, I was working for a large consulting firm, I was at the very same airport, at the very same café, catching a plane with an engagement partner to go to another continent where our client planned to build a new business.
6. You get to test-drive different jobs.
In management consulting you will end up working on various engagements, which often will be very different in nature. You will likely end up working on projects in different industries and even in various geographies.
You may be doing a study to enhance customer satisfaction for a media client, prior to being staffed on an engagement for a banking client helping them to determine if they should target a new segment, which may be followed by a study for a large retailer that plans to enter an emerging market.
Think about the exposure this level of diversity of work brings to your life. Especially if you are a young person who just graduated and not quite sure what you are passionate about.
During one of his last presentations, Steve Jobs said “It’s the intersection of technology and liberal arts that makes our hearts sing.”
Being exposed to so many projects in various industries is such a wonderful opportunity to try out things and see if you can find something that, in words of the legendary Steve Jobs, makes your heart sing.
After all, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why”.
Many people never discover why they were born. I think management consulting can help you find what makes your heart sing.
7. Consultants get a lot of perks.
You accumulate a lot of air miles, which you can use for personal travel. Your cell phone cost is usually covered by the company. You can expense meals, travel and accommodation when you are out of the city on consulting engagements. Management consulting firms have well-oiled administration machines and onboarding teams that help consultants stay on top of everything.
8. Management consulting is known for its output-driven culture.
In management consulting the output you deliver is more important than face time. You usually have the flexibility to work remotely when needed as long as the work gets done.
When you are working from the client’s offices, the face–time culture becomes more important but still not to the extent it is abused in banking and other some industries.
9. Higher job satisfaction.
I worked in management consulting and worked outside of consulting and can say that a significantly higher proportion of my management consulting colleagues found their jobs interesting versus my colleagues in industry.
In fact, I only knew one person during my days in the industry who seemed to enjoy his job, or at least he told me he did. But he was in his role for a few months and he was in a coveted leadership position which probably any driven person will find interesting, at least for a while. Even I would find it interesting.
You also more likely to feel you are doing meaningful and impactful work. As Kevin Coyne (a former McKinsey worldwide strategy practice co-leader who leads a number of FIRMSconsulting programs such as The Consulting Offer II, How to Solve Big Problems, How to Become a McKinsey Partner etc.) mentioned in one of his interviews: “People don’t hire consultants to solve easy problems. Why would they pay our ridiculous fees?”
10. It makes negative elements that are common in any job more tolerable.
It is interesting how when you enjoy your work, negative things are more tolerable. I remember my project team landing in a different country for a series of meetings only to discover that our baggage was lost, and as a result we had no business clothes for our meetings.
Moreover, the airline had no idea when they could return it.
On another occasion, I found out around dinner-time that I had to write a business case that was due the next morning. I knew I had to pull an all-nighter. That was not what was stressing me out. I felt I needed more time and the time I had would be insufficient.
There was also a time when I was driving to a meeting on a highway in a storm at around 6.30 in the morning and was not able to see anything and yet was still driving since I had to get to an important meeting.
Those types of experiences would be highly painful in a job you hate or don’t care about. Yet those painful experiences exist in any job.
At least for me, management consulting work is so interesting most of the time that I was driven by an adrenalin rush during those difficult situations. So it was not pure logic or a sense of obligation that was driving me to suffer through those experiences, as it would be the case if you hate your job.
I actually had the energy to do difficult things. I had an internal drive, in addition to logic and a sense of obligation, which made these experiences significantly less painful.
11. Management consulting vacations are more relaxing.
As a consultant you can time your vacations so it takes place between engagements and you can completely disconnect from your work for 2-4 weeks. Comparatively, when I was working in industry, I never actually had a vacation.
When I was on vacation I was still “required” to check my emails. If there was a crisis I had to fix it. I basically worked remotely and whatever work was not done while I was away accumulated, which resulted in coming back to mountains of work in addition to already extremely heavy day to day workload.
Final thoughts on why go into management consulting
Management consulting is a good choice if you would like to learn a lot and are not sure which industry excites you the most. It’s a bonus if you are willing to be in a service job where you always have to be nice to clients who don’t have to be nice to you, can deal with uncertainty and lack of routine and willing to work harder than people do in average jobs.
I hope you found 11 points above on why go into management consulting helpful. My view is if you have a good enough profile to try out management consulting, go after it. In the worst-case scenario, you can stay for 1-2 years and learn a lot. In the best-case scenario, you will find a career that is so much better than most other alternatives available. You will find a career that will accelerate your professional development and your search for what makes your heart sing.
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