Do you have time to eat and exercise?

Boston Consulting Group consultinglife Lifestyle
New answer on Jan 29, 2021
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 27, 2021

Hello everyone!

I will soon be joining BCG and one of the reasons I am extremely anxious about starting a career in consulting is the lack of work-life balance. I enjoy exercising, cooking my own meals, getting my 8 hours of sleep- these are all things that help keep me sane and happy- and I feel like all of it will go out the window as soon as I start in consulting. I've lived a life full of sleep deprivation, sacrificing everything (including health) for my studies, and in part thanks to that, I am now soon to be graduating from a top Ivy League school. With that being said, I don't want that kind of tiring draining lifestyle. People tell me that for the first 2-3 years, it's worth it to work non stop and get that strong start to your career, but is it really worth it?

Also, how do you manage to live healthily while in consulting? And don't you feel that after a certain hour you are just brain dead?

Another thing I was wondering is whether with remote work there is more time to do things, like workout?

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Ian
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replied on Jan 27, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

You should be mentally prepared to tough it out, but you should also not let this scare you or dissuade you from taking this fantastic leap in your career! People make it work...

BCG in particular tries to emphasize some form of work-life balance with their personal KPIs. We were always "forced" to stick to our personal KPIs, of which we had to set 2-3 (i.e. go to the gym 3 times a week, tuck my kid in 2 nights a week, have dinner with my partner on Wednesday). The extent of this varies by office (I pity you if you're joining a German office, but rejoice if you're joining an Australian one).

I will tell you, it will be very hard to be able to accomplish all 3 of your goals (exercising, cooking your own meals, and 8 hours of sleep) consistently. This is especially true if you are on a travel case and/or a tough project.

If I were you, I would forgo the cooking your own meals (except on weekends of course). With a sizeable per diem budget, you can sign up/subscribe to all kinds of healthy meal delivery services

Also, yes, you are brain dead. It is not an effective way to get the most productivity out of your employees.

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Anonymous A on Jan 27, 2021

Thank you! The subscription service is a great idea, I had not considered it. Did you feel like you loose a lot of sleep? (The cooking and working out, I feel that I can make it work with the subscription plans and doing a bit extra on the weekends, but sleep I need to function haha) Also do you work and eat or do they at least respect meal times?

Ian on Feb 02, 2021

You can definitely prioritize sleep! Some stretches may be tough, but overall you can definitely make sleep happen as long as you prioritize, work efficiently, and stand up for yourself a bit

Ken
Expert
replied on Jan 27, 2021
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

Having worked at McKinsey for most of last year, I would say that not having to travel makes a huge difference with your ability to plan around your lifestyle needs.

In theory it really comes down to what your needs are and how strongly you want to fight to protect them. There is a lot of focus now at MBBs (especially in locations like North America) on ensuring that lifestyle is sustainable and individuals are able to incorporate their own needs. The reality for your case will be that exercising AND cooking AND sleeping 8 hours per night will be a struggle on a day-to-day basis. You will definitely have days in a week or even weeks where things will be super busy and something will need to give - most often sleep but the other two will really come down to your own will. The temptation to skip the run/gym or order takeaway for dinner will be a constant temptation to fight! :)

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Anonymous A on Jan 27, 2021

Do they at least give you time to eat lunch or dinner? I heard sometimes there is not time

Clara
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replied on Jan 27, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

This is a fair concern, and it´s good that you flag it before starting -most of us didn´t even think of it, and then it hits you-.

Long story short: consulting is a difficult career in terms of work-life balance. If this is something that is a pillar for you, not sure if this is going to be the place for you -at least, in the mid-long term-.

It´s also true that it depends very very much on the engagament and mostly on the people. Precisely for this, there are ways in which you can control and improve your life-time blanace, by partnering with people and CSTs that are concerned about this and value for it for themselves

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Adi
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replied on Jan 27, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

Fair concern to have. But I hope you know the reasons you are getting into consulting- LEARN, LEARN, LEARN and LEARN A LOT QUICKLY! Otherwise you are better off pursuing other career tracks.

The short answer - if you are savvy you can have a good work life balance over time otherwise NO :). Plunge in and work hard in the early days (1-2 years) while you are learning and building your reputation.

By savvy I mean the following well executed moves. You will need all of or most of below to make work-life balance work:

  1. Staying in the firm for at least 3 years and having a good reputation (across levels-analysts all the way upto partner) & high on the job performance
  2. Being close to key senior managers/directors/partners who are high performing themselves and back you
  3. Staying on the same one/two clients for multiple projects
  4. Having key clients back you and wanting you on the projects
  5. Having a network of poeple to call upon for favours- these are colleagues/peers/seniors you are willing to help you out, share a load, cut you some slack etc etc

Now, here are the life lessons I have learnt on work-life balance:

  1. You need to have a clear plan for yourself, otherwise work & people will totally consume you. You draw the line on work not intruding your personal space (leisure time, weekends etc). Learn to say NO subtly and tactfully
  2. Dont follow the crowd- if everyone is or appears to be slogging, you don't have to. Be yourself, believe in yourself and follow points 1-5 above
  3. Focus on doing your best, enjoy the process and dont worry about the outcome. Things fall into place
  4. Keep talking to people (specially senior people) on their perceptions of you! People forget easily over time. Be visible a lot!
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Anonymous A on Jan 27, 2021

Great advice, I will definitely take it into account. On the slogging note, in other words I don't need to always be slogging to be good? (ex. skipping holidays, working extra) I thought they would see a person who does as more "top" / "dedicate"

Francesco
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replied on Jan 28, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

There are big differences according to the office.

I heard stories of people at BCG in the Netherlands almost forced to leave the office late afternoon. This would never happen in some Southern European countries like Italy where I worked.

While at BCG, I had to work most weekends and finish late at night almost every day. I agree with Ken though that the decrease in traveling due to COVID should have positively affected this.

It also depends a lot on your manager, the type of project (DD are the worst for this) and your ability to prioritize and manage time.

In short, if you are going to work in Southern Europe, Dubai or Singapore, definitely don’t expect a good work-life balance. If you join other countries, it may be different.

But if you are very good with planning (and there is also a component of learn-by-doing) you should able to keep an ok routine anyway. You will probably suffer the very first months but then manage to adapt and learn to manage time better.

Is it worth it? To me, yes. The job is interesting, you get a brand good for life (helped me a lot with the fundraising for my company) and after 1-2 years you can move on to jobs even more interesting / with better pay / with better work-life balance if you want.

Best,
Francesco

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Antonello
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updated an answer on Jan 27, 2021
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi,

Very relevant question.

I tend to agree with what the other coaches have written.

When I was at McKinsey, I personally managed to exercise during the week and also to eat healthily in the office. Of course I didn't manage to exercise, sleep 8 hours, and eat well regularly every week.

I'm sure you'll manage to accomplish your work-life balance goals if you'll commit to them.

Best,

Antonello

(edited)

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Florian
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replied on Jan 28, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Coach | Top MBB Coach | 5 years @ McKinsey | Author of the 1% | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

There are already excellent points here by my fellow experts, so I won't touch on the day-to-day lifestyle.

I want to add one point for you to consider though. For instance, McKinsey offers you to take off up to an additional 3 months per year (unpaid while keeping the rest of the benefits). Many young consultants are using this program and the number is increasing.

Project-based work allows for this and it enabled me to take off extended periods during the years

  • for world travel and longer trips
  • doing some admin stuff I have been putting off for months
  • just having more time for passions and meeting friends

If your firm is offering a similar program, make use of it. It makes a huge difference to go on a 6 week trip in the middle of the year and come back refreshed and energetic.

As you progress in your career, these extended off periods become less feasible because you are expected to be always reachable for your clients and partners you work with above a certain level.

Cheers,

Florian

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Torben
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replied on Jan 29, 2021
Volkswagen Consulting| Your Automotive and Mobility Expert | Inhouse Consulting | China

Hey there,

hoping to provide some perspective to your question here. From the way you asked the question I assume that you have not had the chance to experience MBB by means of an internship beforehand. It's tough to imagine what it actually means to have a 60,70 or even 100+ hour work week(end).

That amount of work over a 2-3 yrs span will change you - for the better and for the worse, or course. My advice to you would be to have some control mechanisms installed before you start:

- a partner or friend who's maybe not in consulting but is aware of what it means -> have him/her monitor you and your behavior and ask him/her to give feedback every once in awhile

- put yourself a reminder after 6 months: "did I read at least 3 books in the last 6 months?" -> I often found myself so tired from work that all I'd want to do afterwards was put on a series on Netflix or just go straight to bed, make sure you're not missing out feeding your brain outside of work

To your last question "2-3 years ...is it worth it?", I agree with what my peers have said before about your learning curve, but would like to add: check LinkedIn, reach out to people and see what positions they have really a grasped outside of consulting after 2-3 years. It really depends on what your aiming for yourself to be able to tell if these positions are desireable or not.

Best of luck and let me know if I can help you with anything else,

Torben

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Gaurav
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replied on Jan 29, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi there,

I agree with what the other coaches have said. I'd like to add that work-life balance is one of the most difficult topics for consulting in general. However, In my experience, people like you who know what they need (excersice, sllep, prep meals) are able to find time for it since they value their hobbies and know the cost of being healthy.

Congrats and good luck for your new job!

Cheers,

GB

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Denis
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updated an answer on Jan 28, 2021
Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | Ex-Bain 5 yrs| MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews

Hi,

sustainability is the ongoing issue in all offices - there was not one Associate Class Meeting or Office Meeting or anything like that without Sustainability being brought up. Having said that - it comes down to you. I certainly grinded away and pushed through - but I made sure that I kept it sustainable on average (i.e. short period of times were certainly unsustainable but this is what it takes one wants to work in MBB).

Here some thoughts:

  • Expectation Management: MBB means you will work a lot. You may be lucky getting staffed on those very few mysterious cases where people work 50ish or at most 60 hours. This will not be true for the vast majority of the people. MBB has an extensive survey culture and the data is clear on this. HOWEVER, what somehow confused me at times is how the firms themselves deal with sustainability. It is like the elephant in the room no one should speak about. Deal with it and find your own way of managing.
  • Techniques:
    • First off, you will never actually have time, you have to make time. If you want to eat and exercise inly if there is not an anlysis, an email, a slide waiting, you will not make it beyond the first couple of months. It is about efficient time, people, process management on your side and expectation management towards your bosses.
    • Prioritize clearly what is important to you - if you are the kind of person who needs to run 10k each morning, plan your day accordingly and make it known that you push through all night if need be but you will not sacrifice that particular thing.
    • Learn to say no to things: There are a gazillion social events and additional office events. If, temporarily, you cannot make because you d render your life unsustainable beyond a reasonable timeframe, dont attend. Just because the herd is going to attend sth doesnt mean you have too. "Make your own experience" is the key word here. People who easily say yes to everything or who need to stay close to herd mentality will have it harder. Try not to be the average risk-averse overachiever in MBB.
    • Mentoring: There will not be a single problem that has not been experienced by some other people in your office before. Use mentors wisely and do not repeat the high-frequency mistakes. Make it better. I personally discovered the hands-on value of mentorship way too late - I could have saved so much frustration and time.
    • Last bit of advice: At times, everything will be too much and you may doubt yourself. You then simply need to have the mental and physical toughness to push through no matter what. MBB is tough for good reasons but also very rewarding on both a professional and personal level - enjoy as much as you can - it is just an outstanding and awesome experience!

Best,
Denis

(edited)

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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