Should you go into management consulting? Maybe.

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A couple of days ago, someone shared this John Oliver video with me. In it, he shows all the ways McKinsey is a terrible organization. Not a minute in and I was already thinking about that management consulting blog post I always wanted to write.

When I talk with people that just finished University a lot of them wonder if it's the right place to go. Of course, by the tasty recruiting videos, it looks like the absolute perfect place for your typical graduate. The reality is a bit more nuanced.

Attention to detail. That was the thing that struck me first. From manically aligning elements on a slide, to someone going meticulously through my email signature to ensure everything is as it should be. If you're the type that struggles with detail you'll probably suffer a bit. Truth is, attention to detail is generally something most working environments admire, and strive for (or maybe they should).

In a way, management consulting feels like an extension of a University. Everything is pre structured, everything is pre defined. Even before you get your hands dirty, you'll know exactly the path that you're expected to follow, and how fast you're expected to follow it. Up or out, that's a good summary of the approach. If you're not being promoted, then you should probably get out. Naturally, most people stay 2 years and leave. In any case - a structured and defined environment is where many are able to learn at their best.

What I miss the most is by far the people. I know - I sound just like a propaganda boy. But there's nothing I enjoy more than being the dumbest in the room. Most people in these places are driven, motivated, and hard-working. You'll meet the smartest people you will probably ever work with. Like in the military, you'll make long lasting bonds over traumatic experiences (e.g., long nights, tough clients). You'll build a network of great people - with whom you'll stay connected for the rest of your career. I certainly did.

But it's not all rainbows and unicorns.

Let's start with the thing most people fear. The hours. Yes, the hours are long. I generally don't dislike long hours. With an important premise: I have to be doing something I really enjoy. But in these firms, the hours are not long because they need to be. The hours are long because you want to show your client (and your firm) that you are always available. Sure, this means working longer hours - but less intense hours. For some, this will look like an absolute waste of time - why the hell are we here? It's not about doing the required work. It's about being there. Or worse, it's about showing that you were there.

Soon, you'll realize you don't really have choices. You don't get to decide what projects you work on. You don't get to decide what business area you specialize in. You don't get to decide when and where you work. You don't get to decide what dinners, events, and gatherings you go to (a common strategy to work a bit less). If you have no clue what you want to do - this is great. You just need to go along. If you know what you want to do - this becomes problematic.

Which brings me to my last point. Management consulting, from my experience, is a mix of a University and Military Service. You are not rewarded for thinking differently. You are not rewarded for exploring things others have not. Your innovative way of solving a problem is a risk, rather than an opportunity. For those who just want to do work, this is great - you don't really have to think about it. For the creatives, that want to spend time in things they like, and want to solve problems in crazy ways - this can be painful.

Is management consulting for you? I have no clue.

My experience was positive. Until it wasn't. It can be great step for those of us who have absolutely no idea what they want to do after university. It's an opportunity to see a lot of different things - with a smart bunch of people. For those who know exactly what they want - it might feel like a slow down. For most of us, it's a mix.

In any case. At least now you know what you're getting yourself into.

I sure wasn't. But I can't say I regret it.

Disclaimer: This post is highly biased towards my experience. As it should - this is MY blog after all.

November 8, 2023
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