Overwhelmed – ‘the moment you start feeling comfortable with something, you’re expected to do the next, harder thing’
The steep learning curve of the first 1-2 years in management consulting is rather unparallel. You will be given responsibility and visibility from day one and will be expected to raise to the challenges you are faced with. Naturally, that means that you will almost always feel stretched to the maximum of your abilities.
Learning – ‘before you know it, you’ll be able to handle situations you never thought you could’
As an entry-level consultant, you’re like to go through multiple projects, topics, industries, countries, clients and teams, all within the space of a few months. This diversity, combined with the different types of responsibility you’ll be given, we’ll enable you to learn a lot in a short span of time. You’re likely to surprise yourself with the knowledge and skills you will have gained just a few months down the road. Keep that in mind to carry you through the tough times.
A hiring mistake – ‘all of a sudden, I was definitely not the smartest person in the room. I thought I was a misfire, that everybody was brilliant and I just got lucky’
Management consulting firms tend to be filled with high-achievers and that can be intimidating at first, especially if you come from a non-target school. However, you’re soon going to realize what a great learning opportunity that is - you are likely to learn more from your colleagues than from the projects themselves. Some will become your friends, while others will be your long-term mentors and go-to experts.
Having fun – ‘lots of fun moments with the team, late at night or during team dinners, we bonded in days as if we knew each other for a lifetime.’
Most consulting firms are adept to the ‘work hard, play hard’ life philosophy and you are likely to bond strong friendships that go beyond the confines of work. Travelling, meeting new people, and encountering strange new situations will all come with their share of fun.
Stressed – ‘I got a bald patch during my first project from too much stress’
Stress is an inherent part of any adjustment period (a few tips on how to minimize it below). A high level of perceived responsibility combined with a low level of skill is likely to make you feel unable to deliver, expected to do what you cannot do or what you deem to be beyond doing. From there you can slide down a vicious circle of concern. When stress is getting the best of you, reach out openly to your more senior colleagues. All of them have gone through similar struggles and they are there to help you.
Pampered ‘what got to my head a little bit, as an entry-level consultant were all the perks and the ''consultant life'' of door-to-door travel and stays abroad, and fancy dinners’
Indeed, there is a certain glamour to the consulting life – the business upgrades, the traveling, the prestige of the job, etc. The bad news is that you’re likely to get used to all these benefits really fast (also known as hedonic adaptation) and you’ll soon become the grumpy guy in business class who is too busy finishing his slides to enjoy a glass of prosecco.