Having received a commerce degree as an undergraduate, I always found reassuring nods and looks of understanding coming from my peers whenever the consulting career path was mentioned. Having left the halls of academia for the time being, I routinely find myself explaining to new acquaintances ‘what it is’ that I actually do as a management consulting analyst. I also explain the concept of ‘the bench’, or ‘the beach’ as it’s also colloquially referred to. Having never been privy to the bench in my first few months as an analyst, it has also been a partial mystery to me until very recently. This past week I experienced the bench for the very first time while waiting to start a role on my upcoming project.
The proverbial bench can most simply be described as the segment of time where you find yourself not staffed on a client assignment between projects. The concept of the bench seems simple enough, yet many new analysts seem perplexed by the idea. Not only do you no longer have a project to report to, you are basically managing yourself. The question then is, what will you do with your time on the bench?
If you ever do find yourself on ‘the bench’, take the time to pursue everything and anything in your career outside of direct client work. That may mean increased exposure to leadership, continued skill building through Business Development work, or a chance to learn something new through a training course. Not only can it be a transition between projects, the bench can be a time to flex your ‘consulting muscles’ in a completely new and different way. All in all, the bench for an analyst is an opportunity for career growth. Whatever you find yourself doing during that time, time on the bench is definitely time well spent.