Why Consulting is Hard: An Expert's Perspective

Yes, life as a consultant can be stressful. And stress can have a lot of negative consequences, both private and health-wise. Above all, there aren't many positions in major consulting firms. The reason for this is simple: in a single consulting project, the “hard yards” that analysts don't take so much time.

If you compare it to a law firm or an investment bank, its basic cases or M&A projects require a large number of staff hours. And that's just to carry out their most basic work. Literally, they need to hire so many graduates to do proofreading in a law firm and calculating numbers in a bank. I've been a consultant for 25 years and I'm here to tell you that it's not what you think it is. In the late 1990s, I began my career, begrudgingly, as a consultant.

I found a job at Price Waterhouse after finishing graduate school, and as it turned out, I really liked consulting. That said, there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't be a consultant, but to be fair, there are a lot of reasons why you should too. To begin with, let's talk about the positive aspects of being a consultant. First and foremost, as a consultant, it means having a big impact on organizations. Working internally in an organization and having the same skills will give you an advantage in the internal team.

If you're an external consultant with the same skills, you're the expert. Which companies usually hire consultants because they want to go through some kind of change and are looking for guidance and advice. Through this business transformation, they need a coach. As a consultant, you will influence the functioning of large, massive and influential organizations around the world. For example, many of the clients we work with at Third Stage are for-profit companies that produce great resources.

Others are non-profit organizations that promote society and government entities that help people. There are a lot of indirect end results that are beneficial within this position and this career. Most of the problems that consultants are asked to solve are very challenging, but rewarding. There are complex issues that need to be solved, almost always at work. Continuous learning about new industries, the way companies work, operational, organizational and technological dynamics will give competition an advantage.

It really is a space where mastering it may never be closed, but having the experience and working with all kinds of people helps a lot. Being a consultant will often lay the foundation for success in any career you may pursue after consulting. If you've worked helping some leading organizations around the world solve complex problems, it will be much more cost-effective and desirable for other companies. There is a possibility that in the future you will no longer want to be a consultant. Traveling is exhausting, the stress is overwhelming and the long hours overwhelm you, whatever the case, background matters.

Now, if you're intrigued by emerging technologies, like me, it can be fascinating to learn about consulting. As I mentioned before, you're constantly learning about new industries, businesses, and cultures. Whether it's artificial intelligence, data analysis, robotics, machine learning or ERP systems, you're constantly forced to learn in order to have that knowledge and improve your skills. Being at the cutting edge of technology and understanding how technology works in complex organizations is very important to grow as an effective consultant. I just talked about some of the positive aspects of consulting; however there are also a lot of disadvantages and risks associated with this career path. First of all, it's a lot of hard work.

Work also involves a lot of pressure; customer demands can reach you and if you're not ready for that or if you don't want to work hard it's not going to be a good fit for you. If you truly value lifestyle balance or work-life balance more than professional exposure and long-term growth potential then consulting isn't the best option for you. If you've watched my videos for some time or have delved deeper into my YouTube channel then you've probably seen me talk about some of my experiences working for great system integrators. A drawback in my opinion would be the big consulting firms in the sector. If I had to summarize the origin of some of those challenges many of them are political especially for larger consulting firms such as Deloitte Accenture KPMG and Capgemini. There is a deep-seated political dynamic that can be very harmful and stressful. What was my case? That was the main reason why I left the larger consulting firms; they are generally focused on protecting large sources of revenue with large clients and projects.

When so much money is at risk a lot of unhealthy political dynamics are generated internally within the consulting organization. No matter how irrational it seems every time a customer has a problem it becomes your problem. As a consultant there are high expectations; customers have some kind of problem that they don't think they can solve on their own so they hire you as a consultant. For example organizations trying to implement new technologies don't know how to implement them; it's not because consultants don't know how to implement technology either but because there are internal political struggles and an unhealthy culture. There are broken operational processes and things that go wrong in the organization which is not necessarily your fault as a consultant but rather it becomes your problem because now you have to figure out how to solve this problem that you didn't create and over which you have little control. A lot of consultants really have problems with that dynamic; I always try to set expectations with the consultants we hire saying that if you want to be a good consultant and you want to be effective then you should think about how you can be a better therapist for your clients. Ultimately the value of consulting is...

Rós Kimberl
Rós Kimberl

Avid travel lover. Evil travel trailblazer. Incurable zombie trailblazer. Subtly charming internet fan. Professional bacon maven. Wannabe music buff.

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