When we joined management consulting firms, we were very curious about what a “typical” day or even week at work might look like. The answer really is “it depends” (on the firm, the office, the project, the specific day on the project…), but we wanted to share an example from our own experience to give you a sense of what to expect.
Life of a management consultant
Starting your day
6:30 am: Wake up, make a quick breakfast (i.e., a piece of toast), and put on your running shoes. Sometimes you trade this for an extra hour of sleep, but today you are making it out for a run!
7:30 am: Get back to your apartment (you aren’t on a travel project at the moment, which is a nice change of pace), clean up, and get ready for the day. You then enjoy a cup of coffee and skim your emails before heading out.
8:15 am: Head over to the office, with the goal of arriving 10-15 minutes before your project team’s weekly check-in, so that you can prepare a little before the meeting. You want to skim the slides you’ll be sharing for feedback and make sure there are no last-minute adjustments you want to make.
Checking in with your team
9 am: Meet with your team for its weekly check-in. The Project Leader summarizes the progress the team made last week (the first week of the project) and mentions a few potential blockers in scheduling some client meetings. The Project Leader then asks you to walk through the set of slides you have been working on for a client meeting later in the week. You get some final points of feedback, and then the other Associate on the team reviews their set of slides. The team agrees on the immediate next steps and then heads back to their desks.
10 am: You make the changes suggested on your slides coming out of the meeting. The content was mostly in good shape, but you need to soften some of the messaging on the potential opportunities that the team wants to explore, as well as adjust a few formatting items. Once you lock that, you share the slides back with your team.
Diving into some analysis
10:45 am: Now to dig into the analysis that you need to complete. Today’s big task is cleaning up the data that your team just received from the client so that it is usable for analysis. This requires making entries consistent, as well as consolidating several years’ worth of data pulls that the client shared in different files. You spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the spreadsheets and then get to work.
Noon: You and your team members take a quick break to buy lunch. It’s always nice to step out of the office for a little to go buy food and chat with your team.
12:30 pm: Back to the datasets. You ping your Project Leader to see if you can swing by to check a few items with them. You both find an empty team room and run through the fields that you believe are needed to conduct the analysis. You want to make sure you have a complete picture of what is needed before finishing all of the clean-up. You have learned from past projects that it is much better to get feedback along the way than go too far in the wrong direction.
1 pm: It seems like things are on the right track, and the team needs to head over for a client meeting. You pack up since you’ll all work from the client’s office for the rest of the day before heading home.
Meeting with the client
2 pm: You and your team sign in at the client’s office, and head to the conference room for your 2 pm meeting. The purpose of today’s meeting is to meet a few other members of the client’s team and determine the full list of people your team will need to meet with throughout the engagement. Each member of your team introduces themselves along with a little information on their background and how long they have been at the firm. Your Project Leader then gives a brief overview of the engagement’s scope and objectives for those who had not already been briefed, and then the group dives into the organizational structure of the client. You take notes, as well as ask questions to confirm details, on the key teams and stakeholders that your team will need to meet with. As you’re all reaching the end of the meeting, the Project Leader pivots the discussion to the next steps.
3 pm: Your team finds a room to debrief in, as well as work out of for the rest of the day. You and your team chat a little about the client team members you just met, as well as hypothesize a little about where you think the biggest opportunities and roadblocks will be. Then you dive back into cleaning up the datasets, which take up the rest of your afternoon.
Heading home for the day
6:15 pm: Everyone is ready to head out for the day, and you begin your commute back to your apartment (again, such a nice change from heading back to a hotel).
7 pm: Time for some Netflix and dinner. You usually relax for an hour or two when getting home to decompress.
8:30 pm: You log back onto your computer for a few more hours since you need to prepare some initial analyses to share with your Project Leader in the morning. This type of work is also just sometimes easier to focus on at home and without any distractions.
Calling it a night
10:30 pm: Wrap up the analyses needed for the next morning, and draft an email for your Project Leader. You’ll look over everything with fresh eyes in the morning before sending it. Then you look at your calendar for the next day and jot down a to-do list. That’s it! You’re now fully done for the day. You have another hour or so to unwind before going to sleep.