Is Management Consulting Right For You As a Career Path?
Many hopeful graduates fresh out of college are ready to jump right into the exciting world of management consulting. Everything about the job benefits are alluring; high pay, the opportunity to travel, exposure to many different industries and business models, the chance to work with many different kinds of leaders, flexibility and freedom are among some of them. It is so easy to get swept up in the grandeur of finally being able to stand independent in the world with a good job and a passion for work.
That’s great. No one is try to squash that dream, but, as many things go, the line between reality and fairy-lit fantasy is thinly drawn. Not all Business majors are going to flourish as management consultants simply because, like all jobs, having the qualifications, or “the smarts”, to do something doesn’t mean you should.
Here are some things to consider when trying to decide if management consulting is right for you:
Management consulting is not your typical 9-to-5 desk job. It’s much like a doctor’s; you could be relaxing at home one moment and then having to spring into action the next, off to fix some huge, taxing issue. It’s flexible in the sense that you don’t always have to wake up at a certain time, do a certain thing, and be done by a particular time. But, it is a job, and there’s no coming and going as you please. Consultants are expensive as they are generally experts called in to solve a problem a company is having. That’s why landing a permanent (or permanent enough) gig is difficult. But, when you are needed you can’t just decide to go on a vacation with your family or on a trip with your friends. Flexible as it may be, there is also the chance that it will cut into your personal life. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t like to be on call, then management consulting may not be for you.
This may not come off as a shock, but in management consulting one must always be on stand-by to give a summary of some project or comment on the progress. This job is all about making connections, interacting with people, and being ready to collaborate with anyone. You may be on a large team of other analysts all with the same goal or working on solving separate problems, but collaboration is inescapable. The field of consulting demands people who are hands-on and engaged in the seamless execution of a newly-implemented strategy and dedicated to finding the root of a certain issue. Eloquence in words is necessary, as well as eloquence in actions. Fumbling of any kind is read as incompetence and that’s a red flag for clients. This isn’t suggesting that introverts or naturally anxious people are just out of luck. The key is practice, practice, and…more practice! Internalize your work and be ready to give elevator pitches at any moment.
The reasons why companies need a consultant are because something within their own system is failing them, disallowing any sort of forward progression, or posing a hindrance to overall or department-specific activities. The consultant’s purpose is to latch onto to the problem, magnify it, and create a strategy to prevent and/or eliminate it. In order to do that, one must familiarize his or herself with something called System Think. It is basically being able to weigh the relevance and place importance on certain parts of something relative to its whole. It is being able to see the big picture while also identifying all of the smaller parts that make the whole machine function as it does. It is really a multi-tasking job. Career in management consulting is definitely not all butterflies and rainbows. While company staff are focusing on the consequences whatever unknown problem is causing and looking at it from their very biased perspectives, a consultant should be able to take those separate pieces and fix them together to see the big picture. From that point they should be working on figuring out how the smaller picture is affecting the big picture and that may lead them to an answer, or at least jump start their journey into coming to a sound conclusion. Consultants are detectives at the core. If you are going in this thinking you won’t have to be a good problem-solver and that the company will simply provide some numbers and all you need to do is plug them into some graphs and make a few powerpoint slides, you need not apply.