My good friend Shang explains consulting:
Sometimes I sit around trying to figure out how to explain consulting to my friends. Sure, it’s about providing strategic advice to various clients in all industries. When it comes down to it, consulting is a client-oriented service, and one that works with tight deadlines and intellectually demanding work. It’s not intellectual in that I’m inventing a new computer or a new vaccine or writing a new scientific postulate, but it’s intellectual in that one day, I could be ramping up to become expert in calculating the costs to a shoe store, and the next day, I’m talking heart disease with cardiologists, all with an aim at understanding the business that it can support.
This is why consulting is such an unpredictable lifestyle. Luckily for me I’m not on traveling cases, but some weeks – like the last 2, I’d never have to buy groceries because I order in dinner all the time, and I also never see my roommates because I cab home around bedtime. Some weeks I get to go home (almost) like a regular workperson at 6:30 ~ 7:00 PM. On average, especially during fall / winter when caseload was heavier, I worked until around 10 or 11 PM every day. Sometimes I want to play all weekend because I haven’t been able to do so all week, but then I run the potential of exhausting myself as well, and I sometimes take hermit weekends to sleep in and clean my apartment.
Coming away from 10 months of doing so I think I’m doing a much better job at managing my time. I’m able to estimate how long I can finish a piece of analysis and I also know when to push back on a consultant / manager when a piece of work is just going to take too much time and add little value to the slide pack.
I still wish I had more time to get in touch with friends. I’m really bad about phone calls, I’m even worse at running 9 – 5 PM errands such as dry cleaning and postal mail, but I’m using Gchat more on light work days. I still send out an absurd number of emails each week. And yeah, I still pursue photography – not as a career, but as something that keeps me sane
In addition to having an unpredictable lifestyle, the work itself is very unpredictable. One day, I’ll be using an Excel model to forecast the future of the PC industry, the next day I’ll be at Safeway trying to figure out women’s shampoo, and the day after that I’ll be cold-calling analysts to try to tease out what sorts of competitive moves my client needs to worry about.
I’ll say one thing about it, “Management consulting is never boring.”