Sustainability of working at MBB for someone who appreciates WLB

Bain BCG Mck vacation
New answer on Mar 09, 2021
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 05, 2021

Hi all,

As I am investing a lot of time and effort to be prepared for the consulting career in MBB (and hopefully get the offer!), there is one thing that worries me a lot, and that thing is the work-life balance.

I am nearing my thirties, having spent past 6 years on getting the experience from FTSE100 and Fortune 100 companies to have a good future ahead of me, and currently doing an MBA with a plan to join management consulting afterwards. I am, however, not prepared to "give my life to the company" anymore, as I feel I've done enough of that during my twenties (although for different companies).

I would like to enjoy life more after MBA, i.e. meet friends at least once/twice a week, plan vacations for months ahead with my partner (pun not intended), and enjoy my weekends. Can that actually happen at MBB, or is it a constant grind? If not, is there an alternative post-MBA provided that I secure an internship in summer (e.g. in big-tech)?

For context - I am based in Europe, and my professional experience is concentrated around operations, project management (IT and Infrastructure) and supply chain

Thank you!

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Adi
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

When you are doing something you really want to do and are having fun..question of work life balance doesnt arise. You make it work seemlessly.

Problem is that most people are in jobs that they really dont want to do but are in it for the money, titles or for vairous other reasons.

Work-life balance is something that you must take control of. If you let the company dictate the rules, they will consume you. But it takes some time for you to be in that position of control. It wont happen from the day 1 when you join the company. If you are in such a company- thats great! But very few companies (including consulting firms) are getting WLB right. They are trying but success is in pockets. Also be aware that as long as you work for any big corporate (with profits & growth at the heart of the business) in a mid-manager or upwards role, your time & effort will be stretched. The corporate sector just doesnt work on 9am-5pm basis. COVID is a big wake up call. No one is safe in their jobs anymore.

Have a look at thread for more details on this subject- https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/does-work-life-balance-improve-with-time-8445

So my advice to you is this- get into consulting if thats what you really want to do. If its the right fit with you career aspirations, values and risk apetitie. Go for it. Otherwise dont. Dont let WLB be the only deciding factor.

Good luck.

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Florian
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Coach | Top MBB Coach | 5 years @ McKinsey | Author of the 1% | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

The w/l balance is not great and that is a fact commonly overlooked, especially while you are working on a project due to the types of engagements, expectations, and work hours. However, you can do all from your list, except meeting friends during the week (while on a project). You can still plan long vacations (even longer and better than in an industry role) and weekends are usually protected as well.

Here are some tips to improve your long-term lifestyle in consulting:

  • Take extra vacation days/ weeks between projects (McKinsey has 'Take-Time', I guess others have similar programs,...) to travel long-term or live a few weeks at home getting stuff done and meeting friends
  • Change your perspective. If you do not plan to build a long-term career with your firm, there is NO need to sweat the smaller stuff. Based on what you say about your performance, you are already well-established. That gives you a lot of room to build your own regiment compared to low-performers. How? (Push back unreasonable requests, block 'me' time during the week, manage lifestyle expectations from the beginning of an engagement,...)
  • Use the weekends to recharge (friends, family, short getaways,...); block all weekend work if there even is any
  • Optimize the projects you are working on (look for projects that are long-running, a client that has been a long-term client of your firm, work with people you enjoy working with from leadership to project management,...)
  • Minimize travel, which always creates extra stress (unless you are a fan of separating work and leisure time)
  • Learn how to become more resilient (sports, mindfulness,...)
  • Stretch the duration between projects by doing classic beach work (proposals, research stuff,...
  • ....

As you see, there are many ways to improve your lifestyle that have control over.

All the best with your decision!

Cheers,

Florian

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Anonymous A on Mar 06, 2021

That sounds encouraging, thanks Florian!

Pedro
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updated an answer on Oct 06, 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger |Former Head Recruiter | Market Sizing

Clients hire top management consultants (instead of using their own personnel) because consultants are willing to travel, work more and, if necessary, sacrifice their personal lives in order to get the job done.

As such, it is unlikely that you will be able to have plan in the week with friends. You may even spend most of the working week outside your home city (this depends on the country, as well as staffing policy of the consulting firm: nacional, regional or global).

Weekends (and Friday nights are generally yours). This does not mean that on occasion you will have to cancel plans because of a client deliverable. Be prepared for that - client comes first and you have a deadline to meet. In the industry you can postpone your deliverables. In top management consulting you cannot.

By the way, client comes first means that as a general rule the client (i.e. meeting the project objectives) comes ahead of you, your friends and your family (except for personal emmergencies, obviously). There is a reason why most people don't stay for years in this industry.

Regarding vacations, you will not have a problem if they happen during the business breaks. Otherwise there is always some risk.

It is hard to suggest an alternative. Companies in general hire MBAs because they are smart but also highly motivated to work hard and perform. 

(edited)

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Anonymous A on Mar 06, 2021

Thank you for your answer and for addressing most of my concerns. I wanted to ask here to avoid falling into confirmation bias, but it seems like my worries are justified. I will probably need to do some prioritization exercise to understand what comes first for me personally for the next few years.

Francesco
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Consulting is not good for work-life balance. You can definitely satisfy your needs in terms of relationships and free time, but you need to be extremely good with time management and be ready to work 80+ hours /week anyway whenever needed.

There are for sure several alternatives with better work-life balance, but would be relevant to know your end goals to provide proper feedback on that.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Henning
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Hi A!

Tbh, I am not sure if consulting is the right choice for you. Here my detailed thoughts:

  • Consulting is a time consuming job: Clients are paying good dollars for the top firms because the achieve results quickly. Avoiding yield loss and being very efficient is very important, but at the end of the day, it is also a job that will require you to put in 55-60h a week (in some markets like Germany and Italy also more).
  • Weekends are generally free (I have hardly ever worked on the weekends in my Bain career) and you can take holidays and plan for them long in advance.
  • Meeting friends during the week 2 times will be tough. We aim for taking one evening off during the week, but that doesn't always work. And in addition you might travel for your case, depending on your office lcoation (e.g. when based in London you're much more likely to sleep at home)

With that it becomes a question for you on whether you want to accept this WLB or not.

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Clara
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Fist of all, many times there are answers to these questions in the following line " if you are starting with these premises, this is not the right job for your, blabla". And I must say they make my blood boil, since it seems that you need to be willing to give up your life in order to fit in in consulting.

That is not the case! And not accepting it is actually the only way this is going to change.

It´s true that if you go into consulting, you must know that most likely you won´t be able to have all you mention in the post, in all occasions. If you don´t know that a priori, it will generate a lot of frustration.

This said, there is a lot you can do for a good WLB, such as picking hte right people to work with.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Ian
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

I'm going to be very direct here: Do not expect to have work-life balance.

Is it do-able/possible? Absolutely! Do people "make it work"? Absolutely!

Is that the norm? No. Is it consistently that way? No.

If you expect to be able to see friends twice a week for scheduled dinners etc., you're going to be disappointed. On Friday you may be told you're flying Monday morning across Europe. That's the way it is.

If you're coming into this already hoping for worklife balance I do think you're going to be disappointed. If you come in and expect it to be super hard, have no life, etc., you'll probably then be pleasantly surprised.

I came in and never ever booked something important Mon-Thurs evening...I was never "let down" or disappointed :)

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Denis
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | Ex-Bain 5 yrs| MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews

Work-life balance will be an issue in any client service business. If you get in, surely do MBB for a year or two, that is manageable. Jump off to some nice corporate job at Big Tech. My friends definitely make a lot of money post-MBA at big tech and have a better work life experience, but they also work hard (50 hrs or more). Also, personally, I do not like the promotion systems in many corporate firms.

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Ken
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replied on Mar 06, 2021
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

I wouldn't necessarily push it as far as "a constant grind" where the more common issue is the variability and unpredictability. For most offices in Europe (Southern Europe is probably the common exception), Friday evening and weekends are sacred as well as your vacations. Being able to plan your social and personal life outside that is a constant challenge for most MBB consultants. Largely due to the travel where you will not be based locally as well as not knowing what your Thu evening will look like especially before a Friday SteerCo etc. The good news is that many MBB offices are encouraging an open dialogue within the team around personal lifestyle needs and preferences (e.g., travel 3 days a week not 4, block 7-9pm for dinner with family, etc.) but its all situation where you will need to be somewhat flexible.

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Anonymous A on Mar 06, 2021

Thanks Ken, understood. Whilst I am ready to sacrifice Mon - Thu, the weekends or important occasions in family (e.g. weddings) aren't something that I am prepared to miss, hence the question!

Anonymous B on Mar 06, 2021

It is highly unlikely that any firm will won't respect an important event you have on a weekend.

Udayan
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Content Creator
replied on Mar 09, 2021
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

The short answer is if you want genuine WLB in your life then do not join MBB. It just will not be worth it. You can make it work for a bit but the reality is you will need to work 9-11 most days and you may need to work weekends too. Can you still enjoy life? Sure...everyone has different priorities. But if you want more time to pursure activities suited to your personal goals this is not the right path for you.

Udayan

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Adi gave the best answer

Adi

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Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience
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