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Is it really true...

#1 Is it really true...
21/03/2011 11:37


Is it really true that consultants work 15-17 hours a day? I know that lawyers in big law firms do, but law is totally different from MC - what can consultants possibly do for 17 hours a day that can't be done within normal 8-9 working hours????

Can someone explain please?


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#2 RE: Is it really true...
21/03/2011 12:18

Anon66 to Paul (#1)

I have worked at two leading (albeit non-MBB) strategy firms at a junior level. Given my contacts too, my perspective can only relate to (1) strategy only; (2) private sector clients; (3) grad level only. And this is my views only.

First thing to say is that there is no typical day.

- At the start and end of projects it is possible to work 9am to 2am. This is the exception, rather than the rule and most ramp-ups are not that bad

- During projects, it is more dependent on context. I find myself working 9am-9pm+ most days, but I suspect the average in the office is lower. I am pushing for promotion; working on demanding projects/clients and work with demanding managers. It is possible to engineer an easier life, though this will be spotted in appraisal.

- In between projects ("the beach"), it is possible to be working 9am - 6pm or less. In the good old days you allegedly didn't even need to come to the office. My personal experience is working on proposals.

- Finally, you can get 'bad projects' which mess up these timings. These are rare, often when something has been undersold by partners or managers are overly keen or due diligence pieces. These are the killer hours people talk about (consistent 17 hour days). People on these understandably squeal, so they are more well known thatn justified by the likelihood of being on one

As you can see, average work depends on so many factors it is difficult to estimate. I hear the numbers 55-60 hours a week thrown around and this seems reasonable. More than sheer hours, work-life difficulties revolve more around travel (esp. for married consultants) and work unpredicatability with certain managers.

Finally, don't forget consultants enjoy boasting about long hours. It makes us feel more worthwhile.

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#3 RE: Is it really true...
21/03/2011 22:27

Anon to Paul (#1)

I average 60 hours a week, which isn't unreasonable really. Moreover, the weekends are always free and we always finish before 6pm on a Friday.

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#4 RE: Is it really true...
24/03/2011 10:56

Aces to Anon (#3)

Long hours usually tend to be due to the following

1. Genuine work during project kick off or tail end trying to meet delivery deadlines. Translation - 'Real unavoidable work'

2. Sitting and staring at the comp scared to leave by 1730 or 1800. Translation - 'Everyone sits and so do I'

3. Pushing for promotion taking on additional work to be visible across management. Translation - '100% client work for 40hrs and 30 hours trying to prove credibility for the move up the ladder'

4. Difficult project and team, a lot of mess, nothing in order. Translation - 'Additional effort required to know what Im doing to do what Im doing'

5. Genuinely undersold effort required. Translation - 'Screwed into a role that needs atleast 2 people and hence 60hr weeks'

Whichever reason it maybe, all depends on your luck, how you manage your time and what you want out of your career. Been working for about 8 years now, and till date I average 40hrs per week with some tougher years averaging 50hrs per week. Remember, in a year, you wont or rather should not work 50hr weeks for more than 3 or 4 months tops - keep that as a guideline and you should be fine and dare I say, do well.

This is ALL my personal opinion of course :-)


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#5 RE: Is it really true...
24/03/2011 11:44

Short Hair, Shiny Shoes to Aces (#4)

Aces, unfortunetly I've been on a project for the past year now that which has been a mix of points 4 and 5, and a very weak client relying far to heavily on consultants/advisors for delivery as opposed to support. Work on average 50-60 hours a week, normally around 54 55, there has been times it's been 70 hours, but those are the aboslute exception.

I don't think I've ever worked a 17 hour day, and I can think of maybe 3 14 hour days in the pasy year.

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#6 RE: Is it really true...
24/03/2011 14:59

Mr Cool to Short Hair, Shiny Shoes (#5)

Most of the feedback above is pretty accurate in my opinion.

It also depends on which firm (and type of firm) that you join. There are a few MBBB firms where ridiculously long hours on short strategy projects are considered part of winning your bones, there are a few system integrators where the up-or-out culture is enhanced by the myth that working long hours is proof that you’re really doing “consultancy” (when strangely you’re debugging a COBOL application) and is fairly normal in the big4 to find yourself overworked prior to promotion; especially in the run from Director to Partner.

Outside of these situations, I’m afraid my experience is that 50% of those that complain about having to do 70 hour weeks, do so just before they are fired for incompetence.

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#7 RE: Is it really true...
24/03/2011 15:45

rc to Mr Cool (#6)

for those moving a bit further up the ladder the other factor is the firm's take on utilisation targets for the more senior grades. At director/partner level you'll be spending significant time on practice management and business development - if the policy is that you also still have to hit a high personal time billing target (or find yourself full time on an engagement 'because we need a big hitter'), then you'll find yourself squeezing three jobs into one very long day..

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#8 RE: Is it really true...
25/03/2011 16:57

Anon66 to rc (#7)

I would add:

6) (variation on 5). Manager in meetings all day, responds to your work with comments at 7pm to be updated to support his meetings tomorrow;

7) Scope creep. You finish your primary aim at 5pm. Manager spots your "free capacity" and looks to spend it adding extra value to the client

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