Chances are you’re familiar with the high-level overview of what consulting is, but you may be less familiar with the details of day-to-day life working as a consultant. As a college student, I knew the basics of consulting but only gained an appreciation for the day in the life of a consultant by speaking with practicing consultants and eventually becoming one myself.
Projects change every few months and priorities shift by the day and sometimes the hour, but here’s a look at a day in the life of a CMG Consultant.
San Francisco It’s Friday morning and I’m wrapping up day two at the client site. I’ve been on this project for four months and every few weeks I travel out to the client site for key meetings. At CMG, we operate on a smart travel model, meaning we do most of the work remotely from our home office (in my case DC) and travel when there is a specific need. Travel frequency varies for each team member based on the project and time of year, so some people travel every week while others travel every few weeks.
5am PST When traveling to the west coast, I prefer to stay on east coast time to avoid having to adjust back upon returning to DC. With my extended morning hours, I go for an energizing run along the bay. The hotel is situated on a peninsula that reaches out into San Francisco Bay overlooking the city, and the view is stunning. Afterwards, I head back to the hotel, fill up my first coffee of the day, then get ready for work while listening to CNN to keep a pulse on daily headlines.
By 7am I am checking my suitcase with the front desk before meeting two CMG team members for breakfast. We catch up and do a final run through of the deck we are presenting to the client this morning. Although we are on site at one client office, I still have to keep up with work for other clients, so at 7:30 I dial into a daily team meeting to touch base with the CMG team members on one of our NYC client engagements.
8am We walk over to the client site which is conveniently located next door to the hotel. Our engagement involves a number of people at the client site, so we make our rounds and say good morning to a few different people before the workshop. Since we don’t get face time with the client every day, it’s important to make the most of on-site visits.
9am-Noon The objective of this project was to build a go-to-market plan outlining a prioritized, regional approach for expansion to new sites for each of their service lines. The key decision makers on the project are five VPs and the Chief Business Officer, who are all part of the meeting today. In school, most of my projects ended in formal, uninterrupted presentations, but nearly every meeting as a consultant more closely resembles a fluid group discussion. We present our market research findings and expansion recommendations to meet the business revenue goals, but we frequently pause for collaborative discussion and utilize the white board to make the session more interactive. Since we’ll be working with them to activate the plan, it’s important to continuously receive and incorporate feedback and ideas from the client.
12-1pm After the work session, we all head next door to grab lunch and take a break from shop talk. Relationship building and nurturing are key in consulting because our job is to understand client pain points and provide solutions that help them do their job with more ease and success. Time like this outside the conference room helps grow trust and rapport which improves our work dynamic.
1-2pm Back in the office, we go our separate ways to attend to other projects. I have another call with the NYC client team. On this call, the CMG team is strategizing how to approach organizational transformation to make one of the departments perform more efficiently and effectively. Our solutions involve shifting team mindsets to be customer driven, informing business decisions with analytical insights, and implementing more iterative and flexible work cycles that produce greater business outcomes.
2-3pm A necessary trait in consulting is the ability to seamlessly pivot between projects. While I have to be fully dedicated to the NYC client work one hour, I have to switch back to the San Francisco project the next. From 2-3 I reconnect with the CMG team to debrief on our morning presentation, talk through the feedback we heard from the client, and start working on our next steps. In this case, next steps involve building out the go-to-market plan by analyzing the necessary resources, budget and timing to put the plan in motion.
3-6pm For the rest of the afternoon, I am heads down on work for both projects while continuing to monitor and respond to email. While the San Francisco and NYC projects differ, both involve helping the client take a step back, see the overall picture, identify areas for improvement, and add structure to the every-day chaos. Consulting is largely about asking the right questions and leveraging expertise across an industry or project type to identify best practices that help the client perform better and grow.
At 6pm, I head with members of the junior client team to their monthly-scheduled happy hour. Regular happy hours are opportunities for team bonding and culture building, so it’s fun to be able to take part in their team activities even though I’m a consultant. After happy hour, we say goodbye then I make time to squeeze in more sightseeing via a San Francisco night tour. Travel is one of the perks of consulting, and while there is never ample time to experience a city, you can find ways to explore your surroundings.
9pm I’m back at the hotel grabbing my suitcase and calling an Uber to the airport. Like usual, spare minutes involve checking email or reading a featured HBR article. Once at the airport, I quickly go through security then check email one last time at the gate before boarding. Another successful week complete and two days to catch up with friends before diving back in Monday morning. Consulting isn’t a 9-5, routine job with easy solutions. It’s an always-on, dynamic, challenging yet rewarding career path, which is exactly why we choose it.
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