The Personal Cost of Consultancy

A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
W. H Davies – Poet

Management consultants have notoriously short careers and are perhaps more prone than most to what most people recognise as “burnout”. A good work / life balance remains an illusive utopia throughout careers that are estimated as being only about 7 years long.

Some common consultant experiences include –

  • They are expected to show flexibility in terms of where and when they work – usually at the clients’ convenience without considering family and private lives.
  • They are expected to learn very fast and become “experts” overnight, sometimes literally. They need to sound convincing with the necessary gravitas, “reinventing the wheel” from project to project. This is inevitably mentally and physically exhausting.
  • For much of their professional lives they have to appear trustworthy and authentic while actually spending much of their time being “phony”. Employers must be shown enthusiasm and readiness for work and the client expects high levels of expertise. Both may be stretching reality.

Would be consultants should remember that partners (or shareholders) make their money by driving up utilisation rates, ideally squeezing as many hours out of consultants as possible. In recent times when margins have shrunk, this imperative has only worsened.

These potential dangers of this type of lifestyle are outlined here:

The Personal Cost of Consulting from Joe O'Mahoney on Vimeo.

The man who doesn’t relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on.
Elbert Hubbard – American Philosopher

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