“I’ve seen it again and again in my consulting: Most teams are too large to be innovative, despite their leaders’ best intentions.”

Patrick Lencioni, Writer

Pros and Cons of Working in Consulting

advantages and disadvantages of being a consultant

You consider working in consulting? While it can be quite interesting and also a pretty valuable experience as I know from my own personal consulting career, being a consultant can also be exhausting and implies many other problems.

In this article, I show you all the pros and cons of being a consultant so you can better decide whether a consulting career is for you or not.

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Advantages of Being a Consultant

  1. You can learn many different skills
  2. Consulting allows you to build a powerful network
  3. You get responsible tasks from the beginning
  4. Perfect if you like to travel
  5. You learn to work with latest technologies
  6. You can work in project teams
  7. Consulting allows you to see many new things
  8. You can work with many different clients
  9. Continuous training
  10. You can work with other motivated people in consulting
  11. Consulting teams support each other
  12. You work on demanding projects
  13. Good for your CV
  14. You learn how to deal with stress
  15. Consultants can earn pretty good money
  16. Great exit options
  17. You can work on many different projects
  18. Consulting never gets boring

You can learn many different skills

One important advantage of being a consultant is that you can learn many different skills in a rather short period of time. Since you will work on many different projects, you will have to develop your skills further every day.

Otherwise, the success of your work will suffer quite a lot and your bosses will not be happy with you at all. Hence, you are literally required to improve yourself every day.

While this can be exhausting, it also gives you the opportunity to optimize your skillset, which makes you also more valuable when you finally exit consulting and go for a nice corporate job.

Consulting allows you to build a powerful network

Many people also work in consulting due to the strong networks they can build there. In fact, consulting is probably the best place to build networks since most of the people you meet there will work for other companies after a few years. If you keep in touch with those people, your chances of getting a great corporate job afterward will be pretty high since contacts always matter in the job market.

Networks can not only be great to optimize your career opportunities, they can also be quite helpful to stay up-to-date regarding the latest developments and how to react to certain situations like financial crisis times.

You get responsible tasks from the beginning

Another benefit of working in consulting is that you will get responsible tasks already at the beginning of your career. In many project teams, people will rely on you to do your work and if you don’t do it properly, the whole project may be at danger to fail.

While this can cause significant pressure, it can also be quite interesting to get this kind of responsibility early on and you can also learn a lot from it.

Perfect if you like to travel

Consulting is also great for people who love to travel since you will often work in cities other than your home town. For instance, while I worked in consulting, I left my home town every Monday morning and come back on Thursday evening.

Whether you like this or not depends on your individual character. For me, it was pretty interesting to travel and to work in all those different environments and staying in pretty nice hotels has been a plus as well 😉.

You learn to work with latest technologies

Another upside of being a consultant is that you also learn to work with latest technologies. Consulting firms always have to sell you to clients to make money. However, they can only do so if you have the skillset clients demand today.

Hence, consulting firms have to spend significant amounts of money to equip their employees with latest technologies. In turn, you will learn how to use these technologies and can always stay up-to-date with the latest technological trends.

You can work in project teams

Consulting also enables you to work in different project teams. While you are working on a project together with your project team, everybody usually leaves the office at the same time. This means that nobody is left behind and that everyone supports each other to make a project successful.

Consequently, you will typically also experience a nice team spirit within your project teams since you will push through difficult times together.

Consulting allows you to see many new things

Since every project is different, you will also see many new things in a rather short period of time during your consulting career. In fact, when I worked in consulting, I often had no idea about the field I had to work in.

While this can be quite stressful and also exhausting, it can push you to the next level since you learn how to deal with uncertainty and how to manage yourself to still get decent results.

Hence, if you are a curious person who loves to see many new things and are also flexible to adjust to unforeseen things, working as a consultant can be the way to go for you.

You can work with many different clients

Being a consultant also provides you with the opportunity to work with many different clients in a rather short period of time. In fact, most of my projects only lasted for a few months from start to finish and after completing one project, you will usually work on projects for a different client.

While this implies that you will have to be quite flexible since you will have to work with new people on a continuous basis, it is also more interesting in my opinion and you will also learn how to deal with different characters who often have far more experience than you do in the respective field.

Continuous training

Hiring consultants is often quite expensive for companies and companies are only willing to pay the daily rates if those consultants have pretty decent and valuable skills. Therefore, it is crucial for management consulting firms to train their employees on a continuous basis so that they can fulfill the high requirements of their clients.

However, this is not only beneficial for the consulting firm, it can also be quite valuable for you since you can build significant human capital over time and also become more valuable for companies once you leave consulting.

You can work with other motivated people in consulting

People who work in consulting usually are quite motivated and aspire to a demanding career. Consequently, the drive of your colleagues will be rather high. In turn, if you surround yourself with motivated people, chances are that you will become quite motivated and ambitious yourself.

In fact, we are always the average of the 10 people closest to us and since you will spend plenty of time with your colleagues at work, you will adapt many of their characteristics over time.

Therefore, you and your colleagues can push each other to the next level and if you work with motivated and ambitious people for a longer period of time in consulting, chances are that you will become really good at what you are doing.

Consulting teams support each other

While consulting can be pretty stressful from time to time, consulting teams usually support each other during those difficult periods. This means that you will not only work on your workstreams when things get stressful, you will also support your colleagues if needed.

This also implies that you will get support in case you get into trouble from your team. This feeling of community can be quite valuable since it can mentally support you and let you push through different periods.

You work on demanding projects

If you work in consulting, you can work on really important projects that are crucial to set up clients for success in the long run. In fact, many companies trust consulting firms that much that they almost blindly rely on their opinions. However, this also implies that if you as a consultant make the wrong decisions, this could also greatly harm a company.

While this might be too much pressure for some people, others love to have this high level of responsibility and to work on those important projects.

Good for your CV

Another advantage of working in consulting is that it can just be pretty valuable for your CV. In fact, many companies love to hire consultants due to the fact that these consultants have seen how processes work in many different companies and firms always want to know how their competitors do things.

Consequently, you often don’t have to worry too much in case you want to quit your consulting career sooner or later since many companies will just be waiting to hire you.

You learn how to deal with stress

Since you will work on many different projects and often have no idea how to do the work at the beginning, being a consultant can also be quite stressful. While many people may consider this to be a negative thing, it can also help you to grow in character and to learn how to deal with stress.

In fact, everyone of us has difficult periods in life sooner or later and if you learn how to deal with stress early on, you may be better able to handle it once life hits you with full power.

Consultants can earn pretty good money

Another upside of being a consultant is that you can simply earn quite a lot of money from it. If you stay in consulting for longer, your salary will rapidly increase over the years. In fact, in many consulting firms, you can double your income after 5 to 7 years.

Hence, if you want to earn really good money from your job and aspire to a fancy lifestyle, consulting is definitely one of the most promising ways to get there.

Great exit options

You can not only earn pretty good money in consulting, also your exit options will be pretty decent. While it will often take you 10+ years to get promoted to a management position if you start and continue to work in the corporate world outside of consulting, many senior consultants can just switch with as little as 3-5 years of experience and get the same position in the corporate world.

Consequently, consulting can also greatly speed up your career, at least if you understand the game and act according to it.

You can work on many different projects

When you work in consulting, you will also have the opportunity to work on many different projects in a rather short period of time. In fact, most consultants will only stay on one project for a few months and then move on to the next one.

While this requires a great level of flexibility from your side, it also leads to a state where you learn how to adapt to different people and different environments and this is crucial for success, not only in consulting but also in the corporate world.

Consulting never gets boring

If you work as a consultant, chances are that you will never get bored. In fact, there are so many things going wrong and your mood will change quite rapidly.

However, this also implies that your consulting job will never get boring and you will always be surprised by what happens in the next days and weeks 😉.

Disadvantages of Being a Consultant

  1. Pressure in consulting can be high
  2. Strict deadlines are a problem
  3. You will be pushed to your boundaries
  4. Consulting can imply working long hours
  5. You may be away from home during the week
  6. Being a consultant can be lonely
  7. Some people develop mental issues
  8. No real work-life balance
  9. Problematic in case you have children
  10. You have to represent the company
  11. Many of your colleagues will leave
  12. Insecurity regarding what comes next
  13. Great swings in workload
  14. Unsatisfying outcomes
  15. Success greatly depends on the project manager

Pressure in consulting can be high

Apart from the many advantages of being a consultant, there are still many issues related to this career path. For instance, one important problem with working in consulting is that the pressure and the stress related to it can be enormous. Many times, you will feel overwhelmed and will not know what to do or how to manage huge workloads in a rather limited period of time.

Many people are simply not made for a career in consulting due to those high stress levels and are just better off working in a normal corporate job.

Strict deadlines are a problem

In many consulting projects, strict deadlines can be a problem. In fact, many times, projects have to be finished at a certain point in time and close to the deadline, the workload for consultants can be significant.

Hence, especially if you are a person who likes to work continuously, but doesn’t like to work too much on few specific days, chances are that consulting is also not the right career path for you.

You will be pushed to your boundaries

In general, if you work as a consultant, you will often be pushed to your boundaries. While this can be a good thing since you will learn a lot, it can also be quite stressful and exhausting and in severe cases, stress can also lead to all kinds of health issues. Thus, make sure to have the stomach to deal with your own limits before deciding for a consulting career.

Consulting can imply working long hours

Another disadvantage of being a consultant is that you will simply have to work long hours. While you will usually only work 40 hours in a corporate job outside of consulting, 50-60 hours are actually rather normal when you work in consulting. It can be even more in projects with strict deadlines.

Consequently, consulting is not a 9 to 5 business and you should be prepared to work long hours most of the days. Therefore, if you are a person who loves to have plenty of leisure, being a consultant will likely also not make you happy in this regard.

You may be away from home during the week

Consulting also implies a lot of traveling. While some people enjoy traveling to different cities or even countries for their consulting projects, others get really annoyed over time. For me, it was exciting to travel to different places first. However, over time, I got really tired with it and just wished I could have stayed in my home town for the whole week instead.

Hence, if you are a person who needs his familiar space and doesn’t like spending your time away from home, consulting may also be problematic for you.

Being a consultant can be lonely

While you will have plenty of tasks to do during the day, being a consultant can also be quite lonely, especially in the evening. Most of the time, you will stay in a hotel away from your home town and will not have too much company. Of course, you can meet up with your colleagues or with other people you get to know over time.

Yet, it will still not be the same as hanging out with friends you already know for many years. Therefore, there is plenty of anonymity and loneliness related to working as a consultant and you should make sure that you can deal with these feelings so that you don’t get disappointed later on.

Some people develop mental issues

Another downside of being a consultant is that rather sensitive people often also suffer from mental issues like burnout or depression. The continuous stress and the high workload are simply too much for many people and if you don’t have a strong character and know-how to deal with those issues, chances are that you will get sick sooner or later.

No real work-life balance

Even though consulting firms often claim that they offer decent work-life balance for their employees, the opposite is the case most of the time. In fact, there is no real work-life balance in consulting. Either you are willing to put in the work and work long hours or you will simply be advised to leave the company pretty soon.

This is just the nature of the game. If you work on projects with a strict timeline, there is simply not too much space for work-life balance since the project would not be finished in time if everyone left the office at 5 p.m.

Problematic in case you have children

Especially if you have children, being a consultant can be extremely challenging. Since you will often have to travel, you will not see your kids too often during the week and have to rely on your partner to do all the work that comes along with having children. In the long run, this can also seriously hurt your family life since your children will miss you and your partner will get quite annoyed and disappointed.

In fact, cheating and divorce are quite common for consultants and you should make sure that you are willing to risk your family life for your career before deciding to work in consulting.

You have to represent the company

Many consulting companies are also quite eager to protect their image. In fact, you will always have to follow a certain dress code while you work at a client’s office. This can be quite annoying, especially if you don’t like wearing a suit at all.

Consequently, if you rather want to dress casually and don’t care too much about representing your company in a decent manner, a consulting job may also not be the right way to go for you.

Many of your colleagues will leave

Even though you will often have a great time with your colleagues from your project teams, these colleagues will be gone pretty soon. In fact, most people leave consulting within the first three years. This also means that you will lose many good friendships and you will have to adjust to a changing environment on a continuous basis.

Especially for people who don’t like change and need the same people around them, this can be quite challenging and if you are one of those people who don’t like change, consulting will not be for you at all.

Insecurity regarding what comes next

The consulting world is also characterized by a significant level of insecurity. In fact, you will never know what comes along the next days or weeks. I even had occasions where I had been told to fly to a different city in two days without any knowledge of the project and the people I would work with.

In general, if you work as a consultant, you will always face a high level of insecurity and if you don’t have the mental power to deal with this, insecurity can really eat you up in the long run.

Great swings in workload

Consulting is also completely different from a 9 to 5 job. While you will have some days when there is almost nothing to do, you will also have times where you will drown in work. This can be quite annoying, especially if you have made appointments with your friends in the evening and have to cancel them rather spontaneously since you have to finish a presentation or other consulting work.

Consequently, being a consultant also means handling those huge swings in workload and you need to develop a high level of patience and accept the long working hours that might come along with it.

Unsatisfying outcomes

Some consultants are also not happy with the project outcomes at all. In fact, in many cases, consultants will not even see the end results of their work since they will be gone pretty soon and have to work on new projects.

Thus, the long-term effects of their work often remain unclear and it can be pretty unsatisfying to never see the true fruits of your labor.

Success greatly depends on the project manager

From my experience, the success of consulting projects greatly depends on the manager who is responsible for the respective project. While you can have a rather easy life when you have a good project manager leading your team, the opposite can be true if you have a manager who can’t organize himself and doesn’t have any leading qualities.

Consequently, it can be pretty annoying if you work for a project manager who can’t organize himself since the project will be doomed to fail due to that in many cases.

Top 10 Being a Consultant Pros & Cons – Summary List

Being a Consultant ProsBeing a Consultant Cons
Consulting can let you grow in characterBeing a consultant can be lonely
Consultants have a pretty decent salaryYou will be away from home on a regular basis
You have good exit optionsStress can be enormous
Being a consultant can accelerate your careerHigh workload in consulting
You can learn many different skillsWorking in consulting can lead to mental issues
Consulting provides you with a strong networkMany people quit after a while
You get the best trainingClients can be quite demanding
Strong support within consulting teamsSome project managers are pretty bad
You can travel a lotGreat level of insecurity
You will learn how to deal with stressConsulting can be problematic for family life

Should You Work In Consulting?

As we can see from the previous analysis, there are many advantages and disadvantages to being a consultant. For me, even though it had been quite demanding, I really liked my time as a consultant and especially for the first few years of your professional life, consulting can be a quite valuable experience.

Sources

https://hbr.org/1982/09/consulting-is-more-than-giving-advice

https://managementconsulted.com/tips-for-new-management-consultants/

https://www.firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/best-piece-consulting-career-advice-give-younger-self/

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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