Our consulting problem

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We are Ryan and Jen.  We finally admitted that we had a problem; now we are in rehab.  This is our story…

We both went to top MBA programs (Kellogg and Harvard to be exact) and excitedly took  jobs at one the most elite consulting firms in the world.  The job was incredibly difficult to get, so that means it must be good.

All of our business school friends went on to similarly intense and high profile jobs, but we shared a common bond with the other consultants–with few exceptions, we knew we worked longer hours and faced tougher problems than anyone else.  Somehow we had decided that this was a good thing.

There is no doubt that we learned a lot over the years.  The constant learning and the perception of rapid career advancement was the justification used to keep going–just one more year… one more year…  Jen did ~2.5 years, Ryan did ~4.

Over time we started to notice that our non-consulting friends seemed to be quite happy people despite their lack of premier airline status.  This seemed strange.

The “good” news was that each year we had fewer and fewer non-consulting friends, so we didn’t have to worry too much about it.  Occasionally, we would run into an old friend and they would talk about going home at 6pm and doing weird things like “going to the gym” or “relaxing,” but we would smile and nod and then later laugh about how strange their priorities were–clearly they didn’t realize that their jobs were boring, didn’t pay that well, required them to deal with endless corporate bureaucracy, had limited advancement opportunities and were the same thing day after day.  We figured that they would probably enjoy their jobs way less if they knew what we knew–the partners at our firm assured us that this was true.

There were times when we were sitting in the office at 3am for the 3rd night in a row when we would occasionally wonder if things really were as great as they seemed, but then we’d move onto a new project and do something completely different and exciting (e.g., make slides using different colors), so we were happy–we knew our non-consulting friends simply didn’t get this kind of awesome variation in their work lives.

…(more stories to come)…

Eventually, we began to question our situation more and more.  Finally, we admitted that we had a problem. It wasn’t the job that was the problem, it was us.  We are now going into an intensive form of rehab:  Moving to South America for 6+ months with literally nothing planned, no meeting objectives, no bullet points, no business cards and not even a copy of Powerpoint.  I’m sure that we’ll have relapses… we’ll probably wake up at 6am and grope around for our Blackberries for a few months and sometimes wake up on Sundays with an impending sense of doom.

We will approach our rehabilitation with the same intensity that we approached our consulting careers.  We can only guess what impact this rehabilitation will have on our lives and our careers.  There are many possibilities for when we are ready to re-enter society…  We could end up deciding to travel forever.  We could end up settling down somewhere and finding less intense jobs.  We could even end up deciding that we miss consulting (as there is plenty of good to counter-balance the bad).  Only time will tell.

Join us as we chronicle the adventure and work through our “issues.”

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Comments
  • Lilliane August 4, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Funny! I love the way you relate your problem.

    • ryan August 5, 2010 at 2:05 am

      Thanks for stopping by; we appreciate you commenting!

  • Juju August 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    So funny.

    Impending doom feeling on Sundays – I can relate.

  • MacMan August 9, 2010 at 1:20 am

    “the partners at our firm ensured us that this was true.” Did you mean ‘assured’ and not ‘ensured’?

  • Ashley August 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Every time I read this is makes me smile. Especially the parts about airline status and not having any friends who didn’t work in consulting. What were we thinking…. Also, I miss you guys. Come home someday.

  • Rory Neeson August 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    You guys are my new heroes. Love it.

  • Crack September 6, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Great site – been a lurker for several months now.

    Today is a great day, I’ve just resigned from my recruiting job here in London (same job 10 years) and will be taking a cargo ship(!) from the UK to BA – 32 days in total and cannot wait!

    BA here I (and my wife) come….

    • ryan September 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      Congrats!!! The cargo ship sounds like an adventure in and of itself!

      I’m sure you will have an incredible adventure!

  • Peter Tibbitts September 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Great website and this consulting problem hits so many familiar tones ( Im a technology consultant in London but currently enjoying a career break ´flashpacking´ around south america). Good for you guys escaping the hamster wheel. You might be interested to know i found your site through searching online to learn more about ´Cafe con Piernas´ in Santiago… and found your great article on this hilarious topic but definitely put me making my own visit to Cafe Rio!!!

    • Jason Garrett November 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      what is flashpacking?

    • ryan December 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      Hey Peter,

      Thanks for your commenting. Apologies for taking so long to respond! That’s pretty funny that you found us through a search on cafe con piernas. Did you make it to Cafe Rio? If so, let us know how it went!

      Best,
      Ryan

  • Paul Strobl December 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Awesome! I love the story–my own has some similar aspects, though I now do my own thing and have no plans (at least for the moment) of returning to the U.S. or getting a regular “job.” Anything can change, of course, so who knows.

    I’d like to acknowledge your courage and awareness to make the move and to take a break.

    Saludos,

    Paul

    • ryan December 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Paul, Thanks for your comment. I just took a look at your site… looks like you’ve set up a very cool business for yourself. Congrats.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Ryan

  • matt December 17, 2010 at 2:22 am

    i stumbled onto your site from trip advisor looking for a language school in BA.
    i have a similar story to yours! =)
    same stresses, read the same book. quit. rented house. left. haha…

    it’s nice to know that you made the right decision. makes me feel like i did too.

    • ryan December 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      Hi Matt,
      Thanks for commenting. Congrats to you on your adventure!

      Enjoy it!
      Ryan

  • Ariana December 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Hi! This blog is entertaining, and you all’s story is neat. I’d like to ask whether, all in all, you’d go the same route. I mean, something might be worthwhile but only for a certain period of time. Or it could at the end of the day not be the best path chosen. Do you all think you’d pick the same career if you knew then what you do now? (I am thinking about jumping into this crazy life).

    Merry Christmas!

    • ryan December 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Hey Ariana, Thanks for your comment. A good question. It depends a lot on your situation and goals, but we definitely have no regrets. I think that especially when you are young, working really hard like that and learning as much as possible can be a great thing. The older you get and the more outside commitments you have (e.g., family, relationship, etc.), the more sacrifices that sort of lifestyle requires and the more you have to think carefully if it’s still worth it. For us, we really value our time as consultants — the skills that we learned there and the people that we worked with are truly outstanding and have set us up to have tons of options going forward.

      Not really a right answer, depends on what you are going for, but hard to imagine a better training ground for any sort of management/business role.

      Good luck!

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