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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