Many of you asked us this question: What do management and strategy consultants do on the job?
Here is what a typical week looks like for most consultants complete with illustrations! Hopefully this gives you an idea about what to expect on the job. It is written from the perspective of a junior team member, e.g. 1st year hire out of undergraduate or 1st year MBA hires.
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Typical week of a strategy consultant
Pack my bag for my four day trip. The typical packing lists includes: 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, one sport jacket, socks/underwear, gym clothes, sneakers and toiletries. Grab early dinner and hit the bed before 10pm.
- 4:30am: Wake up to my 4:30 alarm. Get ready for my 5:00am limo pick up to the airport.
- 6:00am: Catch the 6am flight with many other fellow consultants. These flights are always full of frequent travelers and having status with an airline helps immensely with grabbing overhead space for your roller board (Consultant’s never check bags!)
- 6:30am: Go through my schedule for the week. Close out any open emails from previous week. Schedule any additional internal and client meetings to finalize the week’s schedule. If done before the flight lands, grab a few hours of more sleep – I will most likely need it later in the week.
- 8:00am: Flight lands at the client’s city. Adjust watch to the time zone. Depending on the commute, grab a rental car or grab a cab/limo to head over to the client.
- 10:00am: Catch up with other team members on the week’s schedule, tasks, deliverables and client meetings
- 11:00am: Finalize the interview guide for the clients interviews on Tue
- 12:00pm: Lunch with team members
- 1:00pm: Work on the market sizing model for the project. Outline hypotheses, analyses, assumptions and data needs for a discussion with my project manager
- 3:00pm: Discuss the model overview with project manager and refine the approach
- 5:00pm: Continue building out the model, catch up on emails
- 7:30pm: Head out to dinner with the team
- 9:30pm: Check into my hotel and call significant other
- 11:00pm: Hit the sack after a long travel day
- 6:00am: Wake up early. Check email, look at the daily schedule. Call room service to have breakfast delivered at 7am.
- 6:15am: Head over to the gym
- 7:00am: Breakfast and get ready
- 7:45am: Meet the other team members at the hotel lobby, hop into the rental car and head over to the client
- 8:30am: Arrive at the client. Check in with the team on the days activities
- 9:00am: Interview clients about the project and gather details of the current go to market model, how they model market size, segments and attributes
- 11:00am: Type up interview notes and document follow ups, send the notes to the project manager
- 12:00pm: Grab a sandwich from the client’s cafeteria and eat while reading news and answering personal emails
- 1:00pm: Develop a detailed data request for the model I outlined yesterday, send the data request to the client’s data contacts
- 2:00pm: Team check in call about the project status, we get to go around the horn to discuss where we are on our workstreams (the piece of the project every person owns), discuss next steps, answer questions from the project team and the firm’s partner(s) in charge of the project
- 3:00pm: Start drafting my section of the client presentation for Thursday. Begin with writing an initial storyline for my slides (also called horizontal logic) and start drafting the content of each slide
- 5:00pm: Check in with the project manager. Provide update on the model development. Share and discuss the draft presentation, see how my section fits into the overall message. Take notes to update the draft
- 7:00pm: Head over to the hotel and order room service
- 8:00pm: Continue to refine the model and get ready for client meetings on Wednesday
- 11:00pm: Turn in for the night and get some rest
- 7:00am: Get up a little later than usual, head down to the hotel restaurant to grab breakfast with a few team members. The partner in charge flies in for the day. Brief the partner about today’s meetings and project status
- 9:00am: Meeting with the client about project status. Review project plan, deliverables, upcoming meetings and emerging findings. Client project manager comments on scope, and provides updates from the executive sponsor of the project
- 11:00am: Clients start to send data based on my data request from yesterday. I do an initial scan of the data, do some diagnostic analyses for completeness and errors. I see a few gaps and need explanation of the data columns. I shoot an email to my client contact and schedule a meeting to go over these on Thursday
- 1:00pm: My team mates are heading over to the cafeteria, I order a salad and continue to crank on the market model using the data I received
- 4:00pm: My project manager stops by, we discuss the initial insights from the model. He asks me to start summarizing these in the slides we drafted earlier for the client meeting tomorrow morning
- 8:00pm: I complete intial draft of slides for tomorrow morning. Team orders dinner to the client site and we continue to work on the presentation
- 10:00pm: We review the slides with the partner, discuss the overall messaging and write an executive summary. We send the presentation to Kinko’s to pick it up tomorrow morning
- Midnight: Go to the hotel and crash
- 6:30am: Wake up, feeling tired but pumped due to the client executive sponsor meeting
- 7:30am: Grab a coffee and croissant from the hotel lobby. Run over to the Kinko’s to pick up the printed decks (presentations)
- 8:00am: Review the presentation with the team and discuss speaking roles and messaging
- 10:00am: Meet with the project executive sponsor. The partner and project manager present the content. I jump in with comments related to my section of the presentation. The meeting goes well and the team is in a great mood post presentation
- 12:00pm: Grab lunch with the whole team and debrief from the executive sponsor meeting
- 1:00pm: I meet with the data analyst from the client who sent me the data yesterday. We talk about the details of the data, agree on a few follow ups and additional data s(he) will send me early next week
- 2:00pm: I catch a ride with my team members to the airport. Zoom through the security only to find out that my flight is delayed. I fire up my laptop and catch up on email and schedule meetings for next week. Quick phone call to significant other letting them know that I will be late
- 4:00pm: Hop on the flight. Do a little reading and snooze a bit to catch up on sleep
- 8:00pm: Arrive home, have dinner and watch a little TV. Enjoy sleeping in my own bed after 4 days of travel
- 7:00am: Wake up and jump on a few conference calls related to recruiting and practice updates
- 8:00am: Get ready and head over to the firm’s swanky downtown office. Most weeks, Friday is the only day I get to go there
- 9:00am: Check in with the project manager on the week and tasks/goals for the next week
- 10:00am: Coffee with my mentor. I bring him up to speed on how my project is going, work/life balance and development needs. We discuss which practices and industries I am interested in and agree to line up my next project in those areas
- 12:00pm: Lunch with my office colleagues, we get to learn about each other projects, travels, firm news and gossip
- 1:00pm: I talk a prospective candidate who is a student at my alma mater about my experience as a consultant and the firm. He is highly interested and says he will send in his application in a few weeks. I ping recruiting team and let them know about my conversation
- 2:00pm: Prepare and file my expenses for the week. Submit receipts and expense report
- 4:00pm: Clean up the model I have been working on and send the latest to the project manager for comments
- 5:00pm: Book travel for next week
- 6:00pm: Join office colleagues for happy hour!!
Most of you would argue that there is no typical week for this job, and I would agree. This is just an illustration of what you might expect. The travel will vary widely depending whether your project is in your own city or not. Some client work, e.g. private equity due diligences, require very little time on client site and are mostly done in your on office whereas others are high level of interaction with clients, e.g. implementation oriented projects or program management (PMO). Nevertheless this post should give you a good sense of what to expect as a junior level hire.
Let us know what you think! Is this similar to your routine?
There are many others who have taken the time to describe the typical work of a consultant, you may want to check the resources below as well:
- Forbes article about the Typical Day of a McKinsey BA Good depiction on what typically happens in any given day
- Economist Article: The life of a young consultant – PowerPoint Rangers This is a bit more pessimistic view
- Working w McKinsey Blog: Day in the life of a consultant: Great post with good insights on typical day of a McKinsey consultant
- Official Bain Blog: No such thing as a typical day: This is a fairly detailed and well-written post from the official Bain blog about the typical day of a Bain consultant, definitely worth a look