5,520,284 people currently work in the global management consulting industry. Among them, Camille, a junior strategic consultant at a top French consulting firm, talked with us about her experience. Known to be highly competitive, it is an industry that requires significant efforts and unwavering dedication to succeed. This demanding environment can have an impact on the mental health of junior consultants approaching this world for the first time.
Consulting: 5 tips for stress management
1. Navigating the Skillscape
Adaptability. Problem-solving. Teamwork. Resilience. Empathy. Leadership. Persuasion. Analytical mindset. Effective communication. Emotional intelligence. Critical thinking.
These are some of the skills expected from junior consultants, but how can you learn them? Can you expect your academic studies to prepare you entirely for this world? Spoiler alert: they do not.
Nothing prepares you to work for a big consulting firm. As Camille believes, consulting is a job that must be learned on site. You will be asked to do tasks you do not necessarily know how to perform; regardless, you still must figure them out and deliver excellent results. That is how consulting works: use your logic to solve problems. What is okay today might not be enough tomorrow, you are constantly challenged
2. Consulting under scrutiny: examining the upsides and downsides
The demanding and immersive nature of consulting profoundly transforms your professional and personal identity. Each day brings new problems to solve, providing an occasion to constantly learn and improve yourself. The excitement of not knowing what will come next pushes you to find new ways to approach the problems and challenges you face with fervor and curiosity. You weave your passion into the solutions you craft, blurring the boundaries between yourself and your work, just like an artist and their masterpiece. Not everything that glitters is gold.
All the hours put into the continuous demand of your job leave little room for anything else. Camille estimates that her job accounts for 80% of her days, she relegates personal care time to weekends only. Since every day you are expected to give the very best of yourself - sharp, punctual, responsive, and proactive - there is no space for nights out during the week. The pursuit of professional success can lead to struggles with your well-being and personal relationships.
3. Chasing balance
As emerged during the discussion, the concept of work-life balance is a compelling concern that too often remains a distant mirage, particularly for junior consultants. As previously mentioned, Camille recognizes that her current position lacks some degree of freedom. Nevertheless, she is willing to embrace it, hoping that, as she ascends the ranks within her organization, the possibility of achieving a semblance of balance will become more attainable. In this environment, where deadlines and expectations never seem to let up and you have no experience to clutch to, junior consultants must handle not only the tasks at hand but also their own insecurities.
Consequently, anxiety and stress management become a key issue. Bearing this in mind, there is a serious need for dedicated support for junior consultants, not just professionally but also personally. Without such assistance, the immense potential and talent these individuals bring to the industry could be at risk, potentially resulting in significant talent loss.
4. Exploiting synergies
Many consulting firms have already undertaken stress-reducing strategies including, among others, wellness programs, flexible work arrangements, and counseling services. For example, Barbara Rijntjes-Besancon, Director of Deloitte Coaching Center, highlights initiatives like six-month sabbaticals, mental health sick days, and support for re-entry after stress-related absences.
Camille provided us with concrete insights into the actual developments within her organization. She described the opportunity she has to submit a weekly feedback form, which allows her to address any well-being concerns that may have arisen during the week. Every Monday morning, after reviewing each consultant’s response, a dedicated coach dives deeper into the issues voiced to raise awareness and identify possible solutions.
Although the company’s support can play a pivotal role in coping with stress, it is also crucial to maintain the right mindset. As a junior consultant, you must embark on the ever-lasting journey of discovering what works best for you. Who better than Camille, a junior consultant herself, to tell us about her personal findings?
5. Embracing imperfection
When dealing with challenging tasks it is normal to make mistakes. Therefore, you will eventually have to face negative feedback. At this stage, you can either take this personally or, as suggested by Camille, “take a step back” and acknowledge that not every project will be flawless. As junior consultants, you will experience a learning curve and criticism is an opportunity to continuously improve. Only by letting go of the need for perfection can you perform at your best without fear of mistakes.
Chill out, you're not saving lives!
Furthermore, having the support of a nurturing work environment, where “people are nice enough to make sure their anxiety does not overwhelm you” can be instrumental in relieving anxiety. Therefore, Camille recommends choosing a firm in which you see yourself feeling comfortable to preserve your personal well-being.
Bonus tips : Fostering success
In conclusion, while working as a consultant can be exciting and rewarding, it can equally be stressful and time consuming. Prolonged stress over an extended period can lead to a negative situation that prevents consultants from reaching their full potential. To avoid this scenario, a synergy must be established: on the one hand, companies must provide support and, on the other, junior consultants must realize that, although their work is undoubtedly important, it is not a matter of life or death. Having this perspective in high-pressure situations can significantly reduce stress and be reassuring... or, as Camille says: “Chill out, you’re not saving lives”.
This article was written by Giulia Gaetano , Gennaro Scafora, Samuel Fournier, students at the MSc Business Strategy & Consulting.