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Personal life for MBB consultants?

Anonymous A

Asking this is a bit strange, but I'm always wondering about that as it is really important to me. Due to the working hours and travelling, I would assume that it is more difficult to maintain relationships as a management consultant. Would you agree?

What can I do to make my relationship work along with my career? What if it does impact my personal life, how can I resolve it?

If you have any kind of advice thatd be great! :)

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Francesco replied on 02/12/2017
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (900+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous,

it would be definitely difficult to maintain relationships as a consultant, and I believe the degree of difficulty would depend on the geography you are, even for the same company. My experience at BCG in Italy for example was pretty different from the one of Sri: I’ve never been at home at 5pm on Friday (8pm was usual, sometimes even midnight), and I don't think anyone elese in the office ever managed to do that. Also, in the first months I had to work 60-70% of the weekends. Again, that’s strictly related to the geography, and I have heard that in Northern Europe conditions are more similar to the one described by Sri.

As for your second question on what you can do to have your relationships to work, I would suggest the following:

  1. Allocate the time for what you need to do one week in advance. I recommend that you avoid to keep a daily allocation, as a weekly calendar is better to define the ideal free slots for calls/chat/dinners with people you want to keep in contact with. This will allow you to avoid to over promise things and align with both your job and personal needs.
  2. Clarify at the beginning of the project which are your personal/family needs with your supervisor. If you need to be free on a certain time or day on the weekend, the beginning of the project is the ideal time to speak. You are not ensured that you will not have to work on your requested free time, of course, but it would be easier for you to negotiate it when needed, compared to the situation where you would not clarify your needs.
  3. Anticipate to friends and significant others your needs and schedule and define with them the best time to keep in touch. As before, it is better to make it clear you will likely not be available on certain days for long calls/meetings, in particular when strict deadlines are in place. They may not like the idea, but it will allow you to avoid conflicts later on.

As for your third question, if you find that long hours are impacting negatively your personal life, you should definitely talk to your supervisor. In some cases (eg Due diligence) there is not much they will be able to do due to the strict deadlines. But most of the time, in case of less intensive projects, they will allow you to take a small break to fix things (eg going back earlier on Thursday/Friday, or keep one or two free weekends). It is actually in their interest that you maximize your performance, and negative personal life will likely negatively impact it; thus they will normally try to do what it is possible to meet your needs.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Srihari
Expert
replied on 02/10/2017
Former BCG consultant and adult trainer with experience in US, India, and Middle East

I'll give you the BCG perspective - It definitely requires conscious efforts to protect time for relationships, but most people do it well. I'd say it's hard for new consultants to work in consulting, maintain time for relationships and get involved in activities/hobbies. It gets easier over time, but you definitely need to prioritize the non-work things which are important to you.

During the week - here is where you really need to prioritize your time for phone calls, and you really can't consistently plan on being free at any given time. Thursday nights tend to be well-protected on most case teams, and people really try to get home by a reasonable hour on Friday (typically by 5pm, in my experience). I know some people who have managed to work local most of their careers, but you can imagine that it means not always landing your "dream case". And even if you are local, you never know what your hours will be like.

During the weekends - these are quite well protected, and one amazing perk is alternate travel (rules are getting a bit stricter on this being a taxable benefit, but still better than paying totally out of pocket). Sunday nights I found myself preparing for the week a bit, but I don't think that is unique to consulting. From Friday evening - Sunday evening, I generally didn't need to do anything related to work. Maybe 10-20% of the time, I had some work to do, but it wasn't much.