Consulting versus i-banking for a "family" guy

Tinmon's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 28

I've read several consulting versus i-banking threads and they have been very informative, but I'm hoping I can get some feedback that's a bit more tailored to my situation.

I'll be going into an MBA program soon and I'm trying to determine which path is most suitable for me. By the time I finish the program I'll be in my early 30s. I currently live with my girlfriend (committed relationship) and we have a "baby" (a dog) together. Consequently, seeing them and helping around the house is very important to me.

Truthfully, I prefer consulting. I have always been an ideas guy, and I'm not that great with math (I scored rather poorly on the GMAT quant section). Compared to i-banking, I understand the hours in consulting are more reasonable, but I'm not clear on what type of travel is to be expected. What is the typical duration of each trip? Are consultants usually at home during the weekends? "Better hours" is irrelevant to me if the downtime is spent away from home. Also, do consultants travel less frequently after they've paid their dues for 2-3 years?

Comments (26)

May 24, 2011

Here's the situation with MBB. If you're not on a local case (odds of that improve with certain company/office combos - all three and NYC, BCG and Chicago, Bain and San Francisco etc.), you'll wake up Monday between 430 and 6, hop a plane to your client site, and arrive sometime before 11. You'll crank hard from Monday to about 430 or 530 Thursday (12-16 hours). Fly home, arrive before 730 or 830 hopefully. Maybe do a little more work, but likely not. Fridays are quiet (i often work less than 10 hours on Friday), Saturdays typically no work, Sunday you'll probably pull out the computer sometime in the mid afternoon or early evening to respond to a few emails, maybe get ahead on Monday's work.

In conclusion: if you're on a travel case, do not expect to see home Monday through Thursday. But Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are quiet to completely free depending on the case. Also, your travel unpredictability often goes up as you advance. Partners often travel more than pre/post-MBAs because they have to hit multiple client sites and maybe have a readout on Friday sometimes too.

Banking - I won't pretend expertise here, but you'll be working 14-18 hours a day, and often on the weekends as well. You'll sleep in your own bed, but I don't know if you'll see your family any more than in consulting.

These are not family friendly professions - you make that sacrifice when you sign on the line.

May 24, 2011

bleedblue82, thanks! It's great to hear that you do get the weekends at home. Do you ever end up being away for over a week straight? My current plan is to work in either of these professions for a few years and then consider reaping the benefits of the exit opportunities. Increased travel at the partner level is bad news for me. Do these guys even get to have a semblance of a family life?

Do you know if large shops and boutiques typically travel more or less than MBB?

May 24, 2011
Tinmon:

bleedblue82, thanks! It's great to hear that you do get the weekends at home. Do you ever end up being away for over a week straight? My current plan is to work in either of these professions for a few years and then consider reaping the benefits of the exit opportunities. Increased travel at the partner level is bad news for me. Do these guys even get to have a semblance of a family life?

Do you know if large shops and boutiques typically travel more or less than MBB?

Yes - once you make senior partner. Consider the path there though - ~7 years to partner at absolute, ass kicking best, followed by at barest minimum 4-5 years grinding it out as a junior partner, likely another 7 or 8. So we're talking senior partnership and its comfortable rewards 15 years after you start at McKinsey or Bain. Ouch. Not my cup of tea.

Good news is that, if you're young, you'll probably be back in your kids' life right when they start remembering shit, so it's not all bad!

"Large shops and boutiques" - be more specific. Some rarely travel (LEK, maybe Parthenon?), some are on the same model as MBB (Accenture, Monitor), some are in between (OW I think?). Plenty of people on this board with expertise at those companies.

May 24, 2011
bleedblue82:

Yes - once you make senior partner. Consider the path there though - ~7 years to partner at absolute, ass kicking best, followed by at barest minimum 4-5 years grinding it out as a junior partner, likely another 7 or 8. So we're talking senior partnership and its comfortable rewards 15 years after you start at McKinsey or Bain. Ouch. Not my cup of tea.

Good news is that, if you're young, you'll probably be back in your kids' life right when they start remembering shit, so it's not all bad!

"Large shops and boutiques" - be more specific. Some rarely travel (LEK, maybe Parthenon?), some are on the same model as MBB (Accenture, Monitor), some are in between (OW I think?). Plenty of people on this board with expertise at those companies.

Thanks, you've given me a lot to think about. If I do end up in consulting, I will probably look at making an exit after about 3-5 years.

As for large shops and boutiques, I take it that it really varies from firm to firm. I'll start a new thread about it and investigate it at a local level (I'm in Toronto, Canada).

May 31, 2011
Tinmon:

bleedblue82, thanks! It's great to hear that you do get the weekends at home. Do you ever end up being away for over a week straight?

Yes, like for example if you're based in New York and for some god-forsaken reason your client is based in Jakarta. It would be impractical (and expensive) for you to fly back every weekend (although when you do I'm sure your firm will be happy to spring for Singapore Airlines Business Class :D )

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-

May 24, 2011

[quote=Tinmon]we have a "baby" (a dog) together. Consequently, seeing them and helping around the house is very important to me.quote]

Whipped?

May 24, 2011

I think at the upper levels (VP/MD) banking would be better than consulting. A couple upper level consultants at MBB I've spoken with sound like they are always moving around whereas banking hours get a bit better as you progess

Funniest
May 24, 2011

Brunette hooker vs. blonde hooker for a "family" guy. I'm trying to determine which path is most suitable for me.

    • 2
May 24, 2011
indenturedprimate:

Brunette hooker vs. blonde hooker for a "family" guy. I'm trying to determine which path is most suitable for me.

Okay, I admit that I laughed at that one.

May 24, 2011

If you are very focused on a work-life balance, I would say the firm matters more than consulting vs. ibanking. VP/MDs at certain banks work their asses off still, whereas others have more lax lifestyles. Same with consulting and the amount of travel you are doing. Generally, the more pitching, the more hungry your colleagues are, the more you will work too.

When you get to the recruiting process, target firms (even groups) that are known to have better cultures if that is critical to you.

May 24, 2011

It's hard to tell whether this is a serious post.

If you are nearing an MBA not knowing "which path is most suitable for me" there are some bigger-picture questions to address.

Also, "I have always been an ideas guy, and I'm not that great with math (I scored rather poorly on the GMAT quant section)." means that consulting is perhaps not right for you. Have you considered academia. That is not sarcastic. "ideas guys" don't last long. You have to crank out quanty, flawless output in a fast-paced environment. Ideas help (without ideas, consulting would be like accounting with maybe a touch less focus on the numbers), but you can't make it as an "ideas guy" unless you are da bomb and just happen to be an "ideas guy"

Sincerely,
Someone who has seen too many "ideas guy" people wash out

    • 1
May 24, 2011
NYC:

It's hard to tell whether this is a serious post.

If you are nearing an MBA not knowing "which path is most suitable for me" there are some bigger-picture questions to address.

Also, "I have always been an ideas guy, and I'm not that great with math (I scored rather poorly on the GMAT quant section)." means that consulting is perhaps not right for you. Have you considered academia. That is not sarcastic. "ideas guys" don't last long. You have to crank out quanty, flawless output in a fast-paced environment. Ideas help (without ideas, consulting would be like accounting with maybe a touch less focus on the numbers), but you can't make it as an "ideas guy" unless you are da bomb and just happen to be an "ideas guy"

Sincerely,
Someone who has seen too many "ideas guy" people wash out

Hey, appreciate the reality check. I know I SHOULD have a clear direction at this point, but what can I say? This is the situation that I'm in and I need to move forward. I mentioned "ideas guy" because it has always been my strength, so it makes sense to follow a career path that values this attribute. However, I am well aware that quant is crucial and I fully intend to address this weakness.

Jun 9, 2011

I'm with big 4. I leave Sunday nights, and return Thursday night, work in home office Friday, It is fairly brutal on the home life. On the other hand, experience, co-workers, projects are great.

Working in your home region on the other hand, you would get to see your family far more.

May 25, 2011

From my experience in a non MBB firm, it seems like the higher you go, the harder you work. For example. Fridays are pretty chill for me. I generally don't work from my hotel room at night. Compare it to the project managers or partners. Always working from hotel. Calls/meetings pretty much all day Friday (project, client or group/practice calls). One of the partners I used to work under had calls/meetings pretty much 6AM-12AM, often double booked and not sure how many he actually showed up to. Also their travel schedules are pretty messy, running between few clients, along with potential opportunities.

But on a side note, all the higher level people I know actually have families with kids (most often 6-12 years old). Sometimes they'd take week or two long vacations and go somewhere (and you can see them getting back to their laptop after 10PM). Obviously weekends are pretty free. As one partner described, you just have to pick what you want to show up for (e.g. which little league game) and actually show up to it. All about managing expectations and following through with it.

May 31, 2011
abacab:

From my experience in a non MBB firm, it seems like the higher you go, the harder you work. For example. Fridays are pretty chill for me. I generally don't work from my hotel room at night. Compare it to the project managers or partners. Always working from hotel. Calls/meetings pretty much all day Friday (project, client or group/practice calls). One of the partners I used to work under had calls/meetings pretty much 6AM-12AM, often double booked and not sure how many he actually showed up to. Also their travel schedules are pretty messy, running between few clients, along with potential opportunities.

But on a side note, all the higher level people I know actually have families with kids (most often 6-12 years old). Sometimes they'd take week or two long vacations and go somewhere (and you can see them getting back to their laptop after 10PM). Obviously weekends are pretty free. As one partner described, you just have to pick what you want to show up for (e.g. which little league game) and actually show up to it. All about managing expectations and following through with it.

I can deal with all of that as long as I'm paid well and get to bank all the frequent flyer miles and hotel points (and of course, book my own flights and hotels). I'm actually attracted to consulting BECAUSE OF the travel and variety.

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-

Jun 2, 2011
holymonkey:

I can deal with all of that as long as I'm paid well and get to bank all the frequent flyer miles and hotel points (and of course, book my own flights and hotels). I'm actually attracted to consulting BECAUSE OF the travel and variety.

Be careful what you wish for! Flying out to Dublin, OH, and Paris, TX and Tacoma, WA can get very old very quickly, especially if you have an SO at home

May 25, 2011

accounting

May 27, 2011

Out of the two, I'm biased towards IB because you have a home base to go back to (pretty much) every day, and you can still crawl into that warm familiar bed with your SO every night, even if it's 2 or 4 AM. The problem with MC is that it's kind of like a long distance relationship, but you have around one full day of quality time (Saturdays) at home. Net-net it's going to be similar.

Jun 2, 2011

IBD might make more sense since there's far less travel. Actually, there was a very similar thread in the past with a guy who had an IB offer (or worked in IB before), made a jump to consulting (because he and his wife talked about it) and then had some regrets. Not sure how you would go about searching for it (I don't remember the name) but if you dig around, you might get some answers from that thread too.

Jun 2, 2011

I am a consultant...have been traveling non-stop M-Th for the past 3 years. Eventually, your personal life will suffer; and with all the delays at the airports, canceled flights, last minute meetings....you may not even benefit as much from picking consulting....HOWEVER....you will get all those sweet hotel/ariline points..that's of course if you get enough time off to enjoy them ... :-/

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Jun 2, 2011

F500 wins in work life balance all day long. Why not try to get a Post MBA spot at a good F500 and go from there?

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Jun 2, 2011

heard bain doesnt travel that much. a company like LEK you never travel (realistically). I know the partners at my firm work a lot less than the rest of the consulting staff.

Jun 3, 2011

Good gravy. Unless I get lucky with the right consulting firm and win the project lottery, it really does seem like they are about the same. 1.5 quality days with the SO versus seeing my SO everyday but while she's asleep. How are the exit opportunities in terms of work-life balance?

Kanon, thanks for the tip. I'll see if I can dig it up.

sandstorm, which shop do you work for?

happypantsmcgee, I thought about that, but I really want the professional growth afforded by consulting or investment banking.

Jun 3, 2011
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Jun 10, 2011