Management consulting is a no doubt a demanding career choice. You will be expected to work long hours, meet deadlines, deal with changing client priorities. In addition to client work, consultants are expected to recruiting efforts, contribute to the firm’s knowledge capital and be good firm citizens. Then, there is travel. Chances are you will find yourself in the air many weeks in a year. You will deal with flight delays, weather, live out of your suitcase and be away from friends and family for a significant amount of time. As a consequence, it is easy to let the consulting lifestyle to take a toll on your health and relationships. Many see this a price to pay in exchange for the experience you gain on this jobs, the pay and the perks. We (and many consulting firms’ leadership team) disagree. You can manage your consulting career as well as enjoy your life. It will definitely require you to be proactive and make an effort but there are many things you can do to have a reasonable work life balance during your consulting career.
Here is the secret for a better work life balance in consulting:
- Make your priorities known to the others in your project team: You may want to work out in the evening before dinner, you may want to avoid work on the weekends, you may be training for a marathon, you may want to work from your home office on Mondays. Whatever your priorities are, make sure you discuss them with your teams. If they do not know what they are, they cannot accommodate you. You would be surprised at what options you can create for yourself by discussing with your team
- Book your personal commitments on your work calendar: If you want to work out at a certain time, or have a dinner with friends and family, etc. you should book those personal commitments on your calendar. Many people at the firm will have demands on your time and will book your calendar. If you want to control your time, you need to reserve it. You may still need to accommodate last minute team or client requests but this approach will help you keep most of your commitments
- Book and communicate vacations well in advance: Similar to other commitments, booking and communicating vacations in advance helps your keeping them and helps the firm better manage their staffing. Since most of the junior staff move from one project to other, knowing your vacation schedule lets the staffing managers and mentor navigate your staffing situation to coordinate with your vacation schedule. This is particularly important prior to starting a new project that could overlap with your vacation
- Take advantage of the work life balance related programs that your firm offers: Many firms have taken steps to introduce options for achieving a better work life balance. These range from going part time for a period of time, taking sabbaticals, externships/secondments at other companies, taking rotations in internal roles. Learn about these options and consider using them to deal with life events and changes in your circumstances
- Be flexible and good karma will help you: Despite all your efforts, there will be time where you need to bite the bullet and make sacrifices on your life with a consulting career. When it is absolutely necessary, show flexibility and your colleagues will appreciate it. Many demands of the job as a management consultant depends on the shifting client priorities. Do this on an exception basis and avoid making it a bad habit. The good karma that you get from showing flexibility will pay back in multiples
Here are a few great articles for on the topic to check out: