“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Winston Churchill
When I first began my career all I wanted to be was a strategic consultant. They were the company rock stars…flying to exotic locations, expense accounts, dinners in the best restaurants. And so I put my head down and worked. I worked until I too became the sought after expert that everyone wanted to have on their projects. But what nobody told me is that behind all the “glitz” was a whole lot of “grunt”.
A young consultant’s life is gruelling. A typical week starts before dawn on Monday, with a rush to the airport and a flight to wherever the client is based. A typical brain-for-hire can expect to stay in hotels at least three nights a week, gorging on minibar peanuts and glumly texting a distant lover.
So the job appeals to “insecure overachievers”—a phrase widely used in the industry—“who are always worried that they haven’t done enough work.” Some 60-65% of consultants are recent college-leavers. Most drop out within a few years and take more settled jobs elsewhere in the business world, where their experience and contacts allow them to slot in several notches above their less-travelled counterparts.
But while you’re in the trenches what nobody ever tells you is that you are nothing more than a mercenary. The job requires you to be objective and as such you cannot allow yourself to get close. While a few relationships will continue with you through your career the truth is that most will not. You learn to carry everything you need… 2 laptops, chargers for each, tablet (with a library of movies for the flights) phone (and phone charger), headphones, wifi hotspot, Ethernet cable…in case your wifi doesn’t work and even an umbrella all in your backpack which goes with you everywhere. Yes you may be in beautiful locations but don’t fool yourself. You will most probably never see the outside of the office or hotel where you are stationed. Instead you find yourself sitting in conference rooms, at empty cubicles, even on the floor in a corner under flickering halogen lights for 10 hours at a stretch.
Yes the consultant’s life is not for the faint of heart. We see a problem, devise a solution and fix it. But perhaps the most difficult is the fact that we never stick around long after to see the results. And so while we may even get to the “red carpet” event we never stick around to see how the movie ends. Instead we silently exit stage left and are on to the next town, the next client and the next project where we set up shop and start the process all over again.
So please please, can anyone tell me how the movie actually ends?