Consultants: they love to hate their job

 

Consulting firms in the UK did rather well in an article published in The Metro last week. It highlighted a survey by Glassdoor that revealed three of the big consulting firms are in the top ten best places to work. Accenture came in at fourth place — behind only Google, John Lewis and Microsoft — and Deloitte and PwC snuck into to the top ten in ninth and tenth place respectively.

Without wishing to sound unduly cynical, I was quite surprised by this result. After all, consulting is a tough job. I know – I’ve been one. You’re forever balancing client requirements, managing myriad stakeholders and demanding partners. Often consultants will be the last ones in the building, working late into the night, periodically waving their arms around to keep the office lights on. Once you’ve done your day job at the client, there’s often internal work to do, or after hours meetings back at base. And to top it all, there is ever-present threat that your next project could just be a three year finance transformation in Scunthorpe.

Of course, there are some great perks. At the big firms you’ll get the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting projects around – projects that make headlines and boost careers. And the near-constant showering of drinks and canapés will certainly lighten the load for some consultants at the end of a long day. When you ask consultants what they value the most about their firm, more often than not they say it’s being around intelligent and entertaining colleagues that keeps them going when times are tough.

Wanting to get behind the story, I conducted some fairly unscientific ‘grassroots research’ with a bunch of friends who are still consultants one Friday night in December to see what they thought. Of course, the research could be affected by mulled wine consumption, so it’s unlikely to be conclusive.

The initial reaction was to question the sample of respondents. “Who did they ask? Maybe they only spoke to John Smith in Operations – his blood bleeds green dots / purple-orange / in chevrons.” Some responses were flat out denial of the results, unprintable here. “I cried nearly every day in 2013 when I worked there,” came one response. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” said another, cryptically.

While we cannot be certain of who exactly was surveyed by Glassdoor – disillusioned consultants working on ERP implementations in Newcastle may not have been contactable, consultants in swanky London head offices were perhaps more so – one thing yours truly has noticed about management consultants is this: they love a good moan.

Consultants, particularly junior ones, are masters of the ‘humblebrag’: “I’m just totally maxed out at the moment, but when I was presenting to the CEO last week…” “I really can’t be bothered with this dinner with the managing partner tonight – oh, you aren’t invited?” “I’m working 17 hour days at the moment, but I can’t tell you why – it’s for a top secret, really important new client; it’s need to know only.”

Secretly, they love the pressure and the prestige of working for a globally recognised brand that is guaranteed to make their CVs stand out from the crowd. They love to feel important, to feel they are vital to the success of something. Ultimately, the good parts outweigh the bad – and if it all gets too much, they know they can leave and get a well-paid job in industry. What’s not to like?