Another benefit: Because enterprises frequently rely on consulting firms to introduce cutting-edge technology to their organizations, IT consultants are typically on the forefront of emerging tech.
From a career standpoint, consulting offers the opportunity to move in almost any direction in the future. "When you work for an IT consulting firm," says Reed, "you get to see a lot of environments and industries. You see what works, and you see what companies struggle with." Another upside: You're working with a large number of people that can become key contacts going forward.
And while consultants are outsiders in the organization, there can be an advantage to that status, Reed says. "You don't get caught up in the water-cooler talk. You can ignore it and focus on the work. You get all the benefits of working for a firm and doing rewarding work, without having to deal with the internal politics."
Cons: Long hours, volatile work environments
But that doesn't necessarily mean that you're always able to sidestep turmoil. It's entirely possible that the enterprise attempted — and failed — to do what it's now brought in a consulting firm in to accomplish. "They're frustrated and struggling because of that delay. You could be in a hostile, pressure-packed environment because you're working shoulder-to-shoulder with people who failed," Reed warns. "Your presence is a reflection of their inability to get it done."
Consultants themselves cite a lopsided work-life balance as the most common disadvantage of the position. "We live for our clients," says Verweij. "That sometimes means we have to make sacrifices because our clients are in need. Overtime, weekend work and travel are all part of the job."
"Our clients can be anywhere, so most of our practitioners are road warriors," says Deloitte's Meyer. "In the client-facing practices, consultants might travel 80% of the time during the week. That's the most challenging aspect for a lot of folks — although for some people, that's also the appeal."
Kanak Rajan, a partner in the talent practice at Mercer, says consultants often have to learn on the job and execute quickly.
Kanak Rajan, a partner in the talent practice of human resources consulting firm Mercer, describes other issues: Sometimes, there may be no time for family, while at other times consultants are sitting around waiting for a new assignment. Then when that new assignment comes, it can be like being thrown into the deep end of the pool.
"You sometimes have to ramp up and learn as you go. The work is more challenging [than in an enterprise IT shop] and you have less time to execute. That's why you get paid more — the hours are longer and the regimen is tougher." Another drawback, Rajan notes: Because consultants are typically involved in the planning and design phase of a project, they can miss out on the ultimate execution and the satisfaction of seeing their work through to completion. "You don't get to see how it runs," he says.
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