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Down On Consulting

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Down On Consulting [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 15:29
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edit by rhyme: Stickied, seems appropriate...

I've been thinking all along that I would like to work in consulting after school, but the more consultants I talk to, the more I think it may not be for me. Literally every single one of them that I have talked to has absolutely no social life and no significant other. The worst part is that they don't seem to recognize that as a serious problem or void in their life. More like they just see it as a funny sort of side-effect of working in consulting, like, "Oh yeah, one thing that kind of sucks is I don't have any friends other than the concierges at the hotels that I live in."

Does consulting attract people that don't have anything going on with their life besides their careers, or am I reading too much into what the five or six people I have talked to have said? In other words am I just dealing with a small sample size of people who have no social lives?

Is anybody else struggling with this? I really think I can kick *ss in school and land a consulting gig at a good firm, and I think the work would be incredibly interesting and challenging, and I would enjoy travelling and the lifestyle, but only up to a point. I just don't think I could handle 80 or 90% travel. I know some places like Bain apparently have much less travel so I think I could handle that, but in general I just don't think I could deal with hardly ever seeing my girlfriend or other friends.
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Re: Down On Consulting [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 16:30
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johnnyx9 wrote:
I've been thinking all along that I would like to work in consulting after school, but the more consultants I talk to, the more I think it may not be for me. Literally every single one of them that I have talked to has absolutely no social life and no significant other.


Hey now! Thats crap. I have a fiance :) So do many consultants!

Quote:
The worst part is that they don't seem to recognize that as a serious problem or void in their life. More like they just see it as a funny sort of side-effect of working in consulting, like, "Oh yeah, one thing that kind of sucks is I don't have any friends other than the concierges at the hotels that I live in."


That is kind of true - but its a bit of a self selection. The thing is you do make friends in consulting, it's just that your friends tend to be the people you work with. It kind of has to happen that way because you are out to dinner with these people 3, 4 times a week. You have breakfast with them one a week, maybe twice. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your girlfriend. You develop a completely different circle of friends than those you had before - your friends all work in consulting. You grow accustomed to the week being about work and the weekends being about friends and family. It's not easy mind you - not seeing people you like for 4 or 5 days straight, but its manageable.

In short, you just end up with a new circle of friends - your old ones still exist, but you now have a whoel new group as well. If you are in a serious relationship however, don't underestimate the stress consulting can put on it - being gone 5 days a week only to be around Friday evenings, Saturday and half of Sunday is not conducive to an especially warm relationship. Something to consider. Some people manage it well, others don't. It seems to work well for people who have other things in their lives - girlfriends who also work for consulting firms, wifes with kids, etc. The girlfriend or signficant other with no kids and a normal 9-5 job - she'll have a harder time adjusting.

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Does consulting attract people that don't have anything going on with their life besides their careers, or am I reading too much into what the five or six people I have talked to have said? In other words am I just dealing with a small sample size of people who have no social lives?


You are partly right. Consulting does tend to work best for those people who are unmarried, no kids, but many married people do it too. There are upsides to consulting - if you are unstaffed many firms let you sit at home - this can give you, at times, four of five or more days with your family. It's virtually free vacation. Many consulting firms let you live anywhere in the US - including in cities where the cost of living is low - I knew a guy who lived in the outskirts of Denver but got paid a NYC salary. His wife and kids lived a very posh life and he had a great home and a comfy job - despite pulling down only about $150K. You also typically get more vacation with consulting firms - four paid weeks, and some even have more lax policies (take what you need, minimum 4 weeks) - and with all those miles and points, a lot of people take free vacations every year. Don't forget some of the other cool perks. Staffed somewhere neat? Dont want to fly home? You can fly someone out to you instead. Want to fly somewhere differnet for the weekend? Say Aspen to go skiing? Go ahead. You have to be comfortable being a suitcase warrior, but there are some awesome perks to it. I know a guy who would take 1 weekend a month and go somewhere different - every single month. In two years, the guy had been to Aspen, Vail, Colorado, whitewater rafting in wyoming, hiking in cali, etc.... - he lived a pretty cool life.


Quote:
Is anybody else struggling with this? I really think I can kick *ss in school and land a consulting gig at a good firm, and I think the work would be incredibly interesting and challenging, and I would enjoy travelling and the lifestyle, but only up to a point. I just don't think I could handle 80 or 90% travel. I know some places like Bain apparently have much less travel so I think I could handle that, but in general I just don't think I could deal with hardly ever seeing my girlfriend or other friends.


Take Bain's thing with a grain of salt I think. A lot of consulting firms talk about work life balance and reasonable travel schedules, but so far, I know of none that truly deliver that promise. At least, not with any real consistency.

Let me know if you have any questions....
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 16:42
Hey rhyme:

What are the hours like?

How long is a project?

Any negatives with consulting, that hasn't been stated/isn't obvious?
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Re: Down On Consulting [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 16:45
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rhyme wrote:
stuff



Man, you make consulting sound great.

One thing I can't give up is working out and sleep. 4-5 days a week, I need 1 hour to workout and 8 hours of sleep per night. Well, maybe not 8 hours, but 6 at a minimum 1-2 nights a week.

Is this possible?
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 16:50
This surely hits the heart of my latest concern.
I do love the work but not the time away from my family...
But if they let me live anywhere in US, I think I can deal with the 90% traveling.
I just need to live close my wife's parents. She will be all right, and I won't feel bad at all. :lol:

To be honest, because of the extensive traveling that MC requires, I thought about another career, Corporate Finance, which will let me go home every night.. :lol:

(IB is just too much for me. :lol:)

"FAMILY FIRST" Adam Sandler -Click-

Last edited by died4me on 15 Mar 2007, 17:00, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Down On Consulting [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 16:51
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gmatclb wrote:
rhyme wrote:
stuff


Man, you make consulting sound great.


Are you being sarcastic? Cause I'm trying to make it sound balanced. If its sounding great, then I need to talk more about what sucks.

Quote:
One thing I can't give up is working out and sleep. 4-5 days a week, I need 1 hour to workout and 8 hours of sleep per night. Well, maybe not 8 hours, but 6 at a minimum 1-2 nights a week.

Is this possible?


Yea, six to eight is definetly possible. Six is probably more the norm. No real reason to think that isn't possible. The workout is possible too - a lot of consultants do it. You kind of have to because of all the chinese food and steak you'll eat. Imagine eating out 4 or 5 days a week.... you ingest a ton of calories if you aren't careful. It isn't easy to do, but people do it.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 17:00
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kidderek wrote:
Hey rhyme:

What are the hours like?

How long is a project?

Any negatives with consulting, that hasn't been stated/isn't obvious?


Loaded questions that require a lengthy answer.

Keep in mind that consulting can be a lot of a different kinds of consulting - IT consulting, strategy consulting, financial advisory consulting, accounting, legal advisory, strategic sourcing, turnaround bankruptcy consulting, forensic data consulting ("find out who knew what when"), etc. They are all going to be a bit different in focus, and all going to be vary with each firm. Obviously, the ones you know - McKinsey , Bain, BCG, BAH, etc tend to brand themselves as "strategy" firms, but if you are interested in management consulting, keep your mind open to what areas you want to go into. One of the key downsides to MC is that you risk becoming a jack of all trades, but a king of none. What I mean is that MC is great for learning a little about a lot, but not a lot about a little. You won't develop the same deep industry knowledge that corporate paths will take you. If you know what areas interest you the most, then consider branching out beyond meerly the traditional McKinsey, Bain, etc lists to more specialized consultantancies (LECG for instance does economic consulting, primarily anti trust related work. A niche, but an interesting niche). If you have no clue, then the broader consultant road might make more sense.

The life of a consultant will largely be dependent on three things: (1) The quality of the partner and project (2) Whether the project is fixed bid or T&E and (3) Whether or not the client demands 4-1 or 5-0, and honestly I guess there's a fourth - luck. So lets talk briefly about this. First, quality of project and partner. The culture of a firm and culture of your engagement partner can drive a lot of the experience. Some are very hands off, some can be very hands on.

For instance, I once had a partner who showed up on site maybe once a
month - it pretty much left the rest of us more relaxed, less concerned and able to live semi-normal lives. On another project, the partner would routinely show up every week, and without fail, the director would have us all running ragged until midnight preparing some deck for the guy.

Then there's the issue of whether or not a project is fixed bid or T&E. Fixed bid projects are projects completed for a set fee - say $2MM regardless of whether or not the firm staffs 4 people, or 8 people for 1 month or for 10 months. Good practice case study for you: If profit is decreasing and revenue is fixed... what do you control? :) Not surprisingly, a fixed bid project creates an incentive for the partner to staff as few people as possible and have them complete the work as quickly as possible. It's a squeeze your staff mantra. A T&E project, by comparison, will be driven by time and expense. Thus, the partner now has an incentive to staff as many people as possible for as long as possible - instead of rewarding effeciency, the reward is now on inefficiency. Thus you stretch your staff. I'm not suggesting that companies do this intentionally - obviously they try to do good work - but it helps to understand what the driving motivations might be. So whats better, a fixed bid project or a T&E? Depends on your point of view. Fixed bid will end sooner, but you'll work stupid hours. T&E will drag on longer, but your hours might be slightly better (though not much). That leaves the issue of 4-1 or 5-0. 4-1 projects are Monday to Thursday onsite, Friday offsite, and 5-0 projects are Monday to Friday onsite at the client. Most consulting firms I know "strive" to be 4-1, and some (see Bain) even go so far as to claim as little as 1 to 3 days onsite at the client. (take it with a grain of salt. the key word is strive). A 4-1 project can be a lot more pleasant than a 5-0er. You get back Thursday night and (depending on the firm) work from home on friday or go into the office. Either way, Friday, by comparison, becomes an easy day. You leave early then, maybe 4, and you ahve plenty of time to go out to dinner with friends. A 5-0 project, on the other hand, can be a lot more taxing. For starters, you might be flying out Sunday night rather than Monday morning. Combine that with only getting back into town Friday evening at 8 or 9pm (or later) - meaning you've lost your friday night - and you literally have about 48 hours in town before you catch another flight.

In other words: A lot of the good and the bad about a project is ordained before you ever set foot there.

And as for luck? In early 2001, after rolling off a project and ending up on the bench, I took some time to go to Vegas with some friends. Sitting at the Bellagio pool (which btw, if you ever do vegas, Bellagio is the only place worth staying. No one under 18, not even with parents, allowed. Makes for a very nice poolside atmosphere with no kids) I spent and afternoon enjoying the hot summer sun while sipping mojitos and caipirinhias. When I returned to my hotel I saw I'd missed a call. Checking the voicemail I heard "... this is staffing... we haev an opportunity for you for six months in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil... please call us..." I frantically called back.... "Oh, sorry we didnt hear back so we staffed someone else. We have something for you in Princeton, NJ".... and thats what I mean by luck (or in my case, a lack thereof).

Hours vary a lot. Expect at least 12 and up to a lot more. On one project, work ran from 7.30am to 10pm or 11pm at night, 4 days a week, and 7.30am to 5pm Friday. Plus three to four hours on Saturday or Sunday to catch up for Monday. It was so harsh I eventually quit. It had a 1 hour commute each way on top of those hours, so I was literally sleeping maybe 5 to 6 hours a night maximum, and working or driving to work or home from work the other 18. It was boderline banking hours, just without banking pay.

So, the day to day activities can vary a lot, but its basically a lot
of:

* Data crunching, excel work, market analyses, research
* Lots of meetings and phone calls
* Putting together decks
* Convincingly navigating industries neither yourself nor anyone on
your team knows anything about (but pretending you know more than the
client)
* Learning to work with senior mgmt at clients

So a bit more about the hours, just in interest of full disclosure:

Your monday will end late, there's no excuse for it not to, especially if you flew in that day. Expect to leave at 7, check in at hotel first, dinner at 8. Could also be 8, dinner at 9. Dinner, more likely than not, will be with your team. Get used to it. The rest of the week will follow a similar schedule, breakfasts at 7.00am, client at 8am or 8.30am, (never later), leave around 8 or 9pm, sometimes later, sometimes dinner with your team, sometimes dinner in your hotel room. Often late nights, and lots of experience coping with delayed or missed flights.

So what's good about MC?
* It's a great way to "try before you buy" - lots of industries facing
lots of diverse problems. If you have no clue what vertical you want
to bail out in, MC is a good way to try and discover that.
* Lots and lots of miles and hilton points and hertz points. Some road
warriors take entire vacations for the cost of food and taxes.
* Change to be staffed in really cool places - eg Rio
* Don't be surprised if clients approach you about jobs once you've
been on the project for a while

So what's bad about MC?
* Don't underestimate the travel. It gets old. fast.
* Jack of all trades, king of none syndrome
* The hours can be harsh depending on what you are used to - expect 12
at least.
* Quality of the work and interest level of the project can vary a
LOT. Some are fun, some suck. Some are short, some aren't.
* You are pretty much hated by every employee the second you arrive and you can count on about 90% of them not wanting to help you. There's three reasons for this: 1) You make them look bad by being there, 2) You get paid a lot more than they do and 3) Consulting firms often make the client employees pull data sets, find contracts, etc - then use all that in their presentations to mgmt and give no credit to whoever the poor sap was that gathered all this stuff was.

Last edited by rhyme on 15 Mar 2007, 17:15, edited 1 time in total.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 17:12
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Oh and as for length of a project... it can vary tremendously. You might get staffed temporarily to a project for one month or two - maybe even two weeks in some cases where they just need a body. Other projects can drag out six, seven months easily. Many will last a year. Some last more than that - I know one girl staffed to Goldman for over two years.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 17:19
rhyme, thanks for the incredibly insightful post.

I am considering MC after B-school. Can you comment on the exit opportunities for, say, an associate who's been an MC for 2-3 years. How often do people leave MC for a specific industry and do business development type of stuff there? Also, I heard that you get to "have your pick" if you hail from the likes of McK. Is that true?
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 20:17
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gmat_newb wrote:
rhyme, thanks for the incredibly insightful post.

I am considering MC after B-school. Can you comment on the exit opportunities for, say, an associate who's been an MC for 2-3 years. How often do people leave MC for a specific industry and do business development type of stuff there? Also, I heard that you get to "have your pick" if you hail from the likes of McK. Is that true?


I wish I could answer this well. The truth is, I'm not sure what things look like 2-3 years post Associate MC.... I know people who left, but all were in IT, and moved on to roles like Proj Mgr, Lead Architects, etc. One left and went into a PM role for Orbitz then for Us Cellular and then back to consulting. The rest of them stayed in consulting and just hopped around firms. It's important to keep in mind too that none of these people worked for companies as prestigious as McK, so who knows what the exit options from there might be. As for McK= having your pick - yes, thats what I've heard too. I really don't know how true it is. I suspect its partly true, and partly inflated.

I know thats not a good answer, but the truth is, I just dont know what the exit opportunities from a top tier mgmt consulting firm might look like.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 20:25
rhyme wrote:
gmat_newb wrote:
rhyme, thanks for the incredibly insightful post.

I am considering MC after B-school. Can you comment on the exit opportunities for, say, an associate who's been an MC for 2-3 years. How often do people leave MC for a specific industry and do business development type of stuff there? Also, I heard that you get to "have your pick" if you hail from the likes of McK. Is that true?


I wish I could answer this well. The truth is, I'm not sure what things look like 2-3 years post Associate MC.... I know people who left, but all were in IT, and moved on to roles like Proj Mgr, Lead Architects, etc. One left and went into a PM role for Orbitz then for Us Cellular and then back to consulting. The rest of them stayed in consulting and just hopped around firms. It's important to keep in mind too that none of these people worked for companies as prestigious as McK, so who knows what the exit options from there might be. As for McK= having your pick - yes, thats what I've heard too. I really don't know how true it is. I suspect its partly true, and partly inflated.

I know thats not a good answer, but the truth is, I just dont know what the exit opportunities from a top tier mgmt consulting firm might look like.


Back home I've always bumped into ex-MCs at the then hot industry. Eg: I was job hunting around 1999 when the dotcom industry was having its glory days. All the managers / directors, etc. I run when interviewing were former McK, BCG, Booz Allen types who were then working for these startups. Some of these startups made lots of money. Some even survived the bubble. So I guess that time around they had their picks.

And I've heard some other stories of McK types transitioning into quite good corporate positions (director levels and up) while in their early to mid-30s.

I don't know the exact position these people had before quitting, though.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 20:36
I believe transitioning into Director level roles is likely a reality for any top MC firm.... but like you said, I doubt its 2 - 3 years out.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 20:43
This should be a sticky in the company profiles forum.

Awesome information.
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 [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2007, 21:26
rhyme wrote:

Then there's the issue of whether or not a project is fixed bid or T&E. Fixed bid projects are projects completed for a set fee - say $2MM regardless of whether or not the firm staffs 4 people, or 8 people for 1 month or for 10 months. Good practice case study for you: If profit is decreasing and revenue is fixed... what do you control? :) Not surprisingly, a fixed bid project creates an incentive for the partner to staff as few people as possible and have them complete the work as quickly as possible. It's a squeeze your staff mantra.

I've seen a few Fixed bid projects in my company, and boy they were through hell. 20 hours days arent uncommon (weekends included). I'm currently in a T&M project and its chill. :)
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 03:30
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I had a crappy flight yesterday and decided that I wouldn't want any job where I have to fly every week.
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 05:21
pelihu wrote:
I had a crappy flight yesterday and decided that I wouldn't want any job where I have to fly every week.


It does get old. The number of flights where you get stuck in a crappy economy seat, delayed on the tarmac by 2 hours, canceled due to rain... etc.
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 05:41
rhyme wrote:
pelihu wrote:
I had a crappy flight yesterday and decided that I wouldn't want any job where I have to fly every week.


It does get old. The number of flights where you get stuck in a crappy economy seat, delayed on the tarmac by 2 hours, canceled due to rain... etc.


Don't these MC travel Business Class/First Class always?
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 05:47
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haddy74 wrote:
rhyme wrote:
pelihu wrote:
I had a crappy flight yesterday and decided that I wouldn't want any job where I have to fly every week.


It does get old. The number of flights where you get stuck in a crappy economy seat, delayed on the tarmac by 2 hours, canceled due to rain... etc.


Don't these MC travel Business Class/First Class always?


Not in my experience or in the experience of my friends at BAH, Accenture, etc. You buy economy class tickets, and use status to try and upgrade. Alternatively you can sometimes use the 500 mile vouchers, assuming of course, that there is space. Sometimes, depending ont he client you can reimburse the actual straight upgrade ($150). I don't know of anyone who travelled first class - ever - and our firm spent money like it was going out of style. Maybe with the likes of McK things are different, but I know of no consulting firm that actually buys business class seats for their staff. The only possible exception to that might be if you have an international flight.

I've got some friends at Deloitte, BAH etc... I'll reach out to them and find out for sure, but like I said - no one in any of the firms I worked for every bought business class seats.
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 06:05
Rhyme - Thanks for all the info, lots of food for thought. This should definitely be a sticky.
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 [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2007, 06:39
rhyme,

Do you know anything about in house consultants?
  [#permalink] 16 Mar 2007, 06:39
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