Myths of a job as a graduate management consultant
1. 'Consulting is just basic common sense.'
Most consulting engagements require a mix of junior and senior consultants. A junior role will largely involve research into market structures and dynamics, competitor strategies, customer needs and suchlike. Basic common sense mixed with good logic is key to this role. As consultants progress, lessons learnt from one industry can then be applied to another, and sensible and insightful conclusions can be drawn from the information gathered about client businesses and markets. Consultants also develop analytical expertise such as financial modelling, a tool to help clients understand the financial implications of their potential future actions.
2. 'All consultants do is get people sacked.'
If a business is struggling then cost cutting and associated redundancies may be a necessary step on the way to recovery. However, consultancy is as much about making a business more successful as cutting costs. The vast majority of my engagements have been about growing revenues - my work has included identification of new markets and opportunities, and evaluation of existing company revenue streams and new company business plans.
3. 'Consultants work crazy hours.'
It's important to meet deadlines and clients have to come first. As a deadline draws near you have to be prepared to put in the hours and evening plans can sometimes go out the window. Effective time prioritisation allows you to maintain a good work/life balance. It's worth taking time to get to know the ethos of a firm you're thinking of joining because some have the mentality that leaving when the bell rings means you don't have enough to do. Others take the view that consultants work late when the work requires it, but it's not expected every night of the week.
4. 'A career in consulting means you're always travelling.'
This very much depends on the consultancy, with operational consultants typically spending more time on client site than strategy consultants. At Credo the vast majority of our work is led from the London office. When our consultants are working away from home we try to enforce a policy of coming back to the office on Fridays. This way Credo consultants are in regular contact with colleagues and very rarely spend a weekend away from home.
5. '‘Consultants are overpaid.'
I don't think this will upset too many budding consultants out there! Consultants generally develop a high level of business knowledge very quickly, enabling them to take on early responsibility. This does not come without hard work and a willingness to make some sacrifices. A successful consultant can certainly expect decent take-home pay, although I'd say it's fair pay for the work we do.