Addendum to our FAQ: Thoughts on management consulting

Written by ryan

Topics: Thoughts on having a real job

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It’s hard to believe that it’s September. We’ve now been in South America for almost 6 months and have written ~100 blog posts. What an amazing adventure it has been.

We have just returned from an incredible 5 days in the driest desert in the entire world (Atacama desert–stay tuned for our trip report and photos later this week!). You may be surpised and saddened to hear this, but this post is going to be even drier than that desert. There’s still time to stop reading.

We recently were reflecting on what our blog has become (far more than we ever anticipated!) and realized that given its title, there is some possibility that its purpose could be misinterpreted. We would certainly not want anyone to be offended by it or think from a cursory glance that it is focused on bashing our former employers and/or the management consulting industry. So, while we are likely just being overly paranoid, we figured we’d take a few minutes and clarify a few things about how this blog relates/does-not-relate to consulting.

The below Q&A will be added to our FAQ page shortly, but we wanted to post it here as well to make sure it got some exposure. Apologies that this is a bit dry; we promise to go back to writing about crazy travel experiences, interviews with cool people and ridiculous editing of mongoose photos right-away.

Addendum to FAQ:

Q: Is the purpose of this website to bash/criticize/make fun of the management consulting industry?

A: Absolutely not. While we do make light of our previous lifestyle as consultants using broad generalities and stereotypes in the “Our Consulting Problem” post, that is far from the focus of this blog. If you look at the ~100 posts of content on this blog, you’d see it’s roughly:

  • ~70% Argentina travel experiences
  • ~10% Chile travel experiences
  • ~15% Career Break oriented stuff (e.g., our reflections, interviews of other people with interesting experiences, inspiration to do one, etc.)
  • 2 posts of my comedic management book chapters (and strangely edited pictures of evil mongeese)
  • 1 post that discusses our experience as consultants (Our Consulting Problem)

Feel free to check the Site Map to verify (note, there is some overlap in categories, so the numbers don’t work out perfectly).

Q: Doesn’t the name “Consulting Rehab” imply that you dislike the consulting industry and/or your experiences within it?

A: No. The name was chosen primarily for entertainment value (and we were, indeed, entertained when the ads served by Google for the first few weeks were for drug rehab centers in Northern California!). While there are many ups and downs, I think everyone would agree that, on average, management consulting is more intense from a lifestyle perspective than most jobs and that anyone working hard could use a break for a little ‘rehab’ from time to time. We chose the title for the following reasons:

  • It was somewhat unique that we were both consultants
  • Most of our friends that we thought would be reading the blog were also consultants (Note: At this point the majority of our readers are people planning trips to Argentina/Chile or just looking for travel inspiration, given our content mix)
  • “Consulting Rehab” just seemed more entertaining than “Consulting Break” or anything else we could come up with, and our assumption was that pretty much everyone in the consulting industry is capable of laughing at themselves a bit (as this was one of the reasons we had so much fun there)
  • The domain name was available

Q. So, what do you think about the consulting industry?

A. We think that management consulting is an incredible industry to develop business skills, learn how different industries work and rapidly accumulate expertise across a number of dimensions. It’s hard to imagine another job in which you work with so many dynamic people (both clients and co-workers), learn new things every day and help to solve some of the most complex and high-impact business problems out there. These are just some of the tremendous benefits to management consulting, and we genuinely value the time that we spent in the industry.

There are challenges as well. Like any professional services industry, consultants often have more intense hours, spend more nights in hotels and can be required to be ‘always-on’ and ready to respond quickly to clients or other team members at any time. The degree of intensity varies greatly from project to project – ranging from low-key/relaxed/fun to super intense/stressful – and it can be difficult to predict what it will be like from project to project or even day to day. At times, this unpredictability makes the job exciting, dynamic and awesome. At times it just makes it hard to plan anything else in your life outside of work. None of this should be a surprise to anyone; this is just how professional services goes.

No jobs are perfect. Jobs are jobs. I’d personally much rather be too busy and stressed on an intense consulting project in which I am learning a lot and working with a highly talented team than bored in a monotonous corporate job where I get to go home early (I did that for awhile too). That’s my strong preference and what drew me to consulting to begin with. Probably the best project I ever worked on had me in a conference room with a 12 person team working for ~15 hours a day for 3 weeks–I didn’t get much sleep, but I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time, and because the team was so great, it was also a tremendous amount of fun. (To be clear, those kinds of hours are not the norm, but they do happen from time to time.)

I’m rambling, so I’ll end with this: Management consulting is an awesome career with tremendous benefits. Along with those benefits come some costs to your life outside of work.  Like any job, each person has to do their own ROI calculation on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are getting enough out of the job to justify what they are putting into it and that it can co-exist with whatever other priorities they may have in their life.  Some people manage the costs better than others, and some firms care about this more than others (we believe that our former firm genuinely cared a lot about this and did a great deal to make the job as manageable as possible). There are definitely other jobs that require even more lifestyle sacrifices, but also many that require less (though may also offer fewer benefits). It just depends on what you are optimizing for (which can/does/should change over time).

I would not think that any of what I have said above would be controversial.

Q: Have you ever written about specific things/people at your old firm or client experiences?

A: Absolutely not and we have no intention to do so. As stated above, we mostly write about travel experiences/inspiration and, more recently, career breaks and unconventional career/lifestyle design.

Q: You have mentioned in various posts that you are hoping to inspire people to take Career Breaks and travel… are you trying to get consultants to quit their jobs?

A: Three things on this:

  • Thing 1: No, we’re not
    This is not about consultants (or consulting) but rather addresses the broader, more diverse audience of our current and future readers who, regardless of what job they work in, are interested in learning more about Career Breaks or at least living vicariously through those of others.
  • Thing 2: We think pretty much anyone can benefit from taking a break
    We have had an amazing experience on this trip and have no doubt that when we return to our careers, we will be refreshed and recharged, have new perspectives from living in foreign cultures, have new language skills and overall be more effective in whatever jobs we land in.

    If there is anyone out there (in any job) that is sitting around wishing they could do something like this, then yes, it is absolutely our intention to help inspire them to pursue whatever they are passionate about and to realize that there are many success stories out there and different paths available.

    This doesn’t necessarily require anyone to quit their job or jeopardize their career–there are many options (e.g., long vacation, sabbatical, part-time, etc.). Our previous firm had a program that allowed people to take 2-month sabbaticals, because they realized that people are more effective when they aren’t burnt out and that there is a lot of value to having time to recharge every once in awhile. Same sort of idea. Sometimes all you need is a break and then you can return to your previous job re-inspired with a new sense of purpose; sometimes a break highlights that you would be happier pursuing a different career. It just depends on you and your situation. Either way, I think taking a break is a very healthy thing to do from time to time.

    Our thought is that time goes by quickly and you never get it back–if you don’t go after your passions now, it will only get harder to do so later.

  • Thing 3:  We’re contemplating changing our name to make this more clear
    We recently purchased the domain names and and are considering switching to one of those as our primary domain to clarify that this is an industry-independent message geared towards anyone in any job that could use some inspiration/advice on how to take a break. We’re still unsure whether or not to make the change as there are some unpleasant technical implications, and some of our readers prefer the current name. Always open to more perspectives on this – let us know what you think.

Q: What if I’m still angry that you are joking around about consulting?

A: Sorry. We genuinely didn’t intend to offend anyone. Part of why we were both drawn to our former firm was how dynamic the people there are and how, despite being some of the most intelligent and talented people we’d ever met, they rarely took themselves too seriously and were always up for a good laugh (e.g., hilarious offsite videos). Our thought was that the very little we have written in regard to the industry would be perceived as entertaining and relateable, rather than as some sort of attack.

To conclude…

Hopefully this has helped to clarify any potential confusion over our intentions and our perspective on consulting–because we know how much you all spend sitting around wondering what we think about consulting :)  Thanks to all of you who read this blog for your comments, Facebook “likes” and general support. We never thought it would be more than a way to keep in touch with a handful of friends and family, but we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun maintaining it, especially as its readership has grown. Thank you for your time – we will now go back to entertaining you.

Please leave a comment, it will make us feel special!

  • Dan H. September 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    So, what you’re saying is that you’re willing to concede that airline status is, in fact, a fair proxy for my self worth?

    Glad we cleared that up.

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