Deliverable #7: "Life After Consulting"

Comparing life in consulting to life afterwards


Jay: “Before today’s episode, a word from your host. I want to give a shout-out to the Reddit consulting community for their support of the show. Thank you guys so much. As we approach recruiting season, I know everyone’s getting eager to prepare. If you’d like to win a 30-minute coaching session on phone with me, Jay Alexander, all you have to do is rate and review Out of Bandwidth on Apple Podcasts or Facebook, snap a screenshot, and send it to Jay@ConsultingScoop.com with the subject “Rating.” The raffle is open until we post episode 8, when we’ll pick one winner at random and announce them on the show. We wish you all the best of luck with the recruiting process. And now, without further ado…

 

[Musical Intro]

 

Jay: “Welcome to Out of Bandwidth, the podcast guide for future consultants. I’m your host, Jay Alexander, and I’m here with my former colleague, Tom, to share advice and stories about being an analyst at a major consulting firm. Our seventh episode compares life in consulting to life afterwards.

 

[Musical Interlude]

 

Jay: “Tom, welcome to the show.”

 

Tom: “Thanks for having me, Jay.”

 

Jay: “This is the seventh episode of the show and also the last episode in our overview. So our first seven episodes give you an overview of your time in consulting from start to finish, and if you continue to keep tuning in, then we’ll hit on specific topics later.”

 

Tom: “Awesome.”

 

Jay: “I cannot remember the last time I saw you.”

 

Tom: “It’s been awhile.”

 

Jay: “Maybe the holiday party?”

 

Tom: “The holiday party sounds right.”

 

Jay: “And then, I had forgotten how long it had been since you left the firm at the holiday party.”

 

Tom: “That happens.”

 

Jay: “You were there on my first day, in the room where everyone hangs out.

 

Tom: “Yep.”

 

Jay: “You were the person who welcomed me, a couple years ago now.”

 

Tom: “Yeah, what…you started in 2016?”

 

Jay: “2017.”

 

Tom: “2017.”

 

Jay: “It’s been a couple years.”

 

Tom: “It’s been a couple years. Time flies.”

 

Jay: “And now you’re doing bigger and better things, right?”

 

Tom: “Different things, yeah.”

 

Jay: “We’ll get to that.”

 

Tom: “Absolutely.”

 

Jay: “Before we start the interview, I ask every guest to give us a profile. Now, you’ve left the firm, but still tell us about what you did, including how long you were with the firm, what type of consulting you did, how many projects you were on, industries, etc.”

 

Tom: “Sure. Joined the firm right out of undergrad and was there for three years on the dot.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “Worked in a number of industries. Project work was focused mostly on supply chain, uh, but still varied quite a bit. Industry-wise, also varied. I worked in automotive, I worked in biotechnology, aerospace and defense. So it was really all over the board…”

 

Jay: “Typical, little bit of everything.”

 

Tom: “A little bit of everything…”

 

Jay: “Jack of all trades.”

 

Tom: “Short stints. Some projects as short as six weeks, never longer than four or five months.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “Which felt about right. So in the course of three years, probably six to eight unique projects.”

 

Jay: “What type of consulting were you doing?”

 

Tom: “I was doing strategy consulting with a heavy operations focus as well.”

 

Jay: “Okay, cool.”

 

Tom: “So I worked in a manufacturing environment a couple times, spent quite a bit of time in a plant, which is not something I thought I would be doing…”

 

Jay: “Surprise!”

 

Tom: “…when I joined a strategy consulting firm. But was actually one of the better experiences I had at the firm.”

 

Jay: “Cool.”

 

Tom: “Yeah.”

 

Jay: “Today’s topic is life after consulting. And this follows our previous episode where we discussed what happens when you leave the firm. Now we’re gonna discuss: what happens after you’re gone? What ultimately led you to leave the firm, and how long has it been since you left?”

 

Tom: “I’ll start with the second question. I’ve been in my new role for about nine months.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “There were a number of things that led me to leave the firm, both personally and professionally. Personally, I really wanted more control over my schedule, and to be able to be home. I really loved traveling, and still do…the every week travel Monday through Thursday got to be really tiring. On the professional side or the career side, I wanted to be more of an operator, and consulting was still an advisory capacity and I really wanted to be an operator. I wanted to be making decisions, I wanted to be implementing decisions. I wanted to be accountable for the results, good or bad.”

 

Jay: “It sounds like you had good experience in general. You were a typical two to three years, burned out a little bit.”

 

Tom: “Yep.”

 

Jay: “And time to move on.”

 

Tom: “Yeah. I really value the time that I spent in consulting and it definitely set me up well for the role that I have now, and I think the roles that I will have in the future.”

 

Jay: “So, let’s lead on that a little bit. What is your current occupation right now, and how does it compare to being a consultant?”

 

Tom: “I work in business operations at a startup. We’re a series A, venture-backed.”

 

Jay: “Okay. You like it?”

 

Tom: “I love it. It’s different in every way. The team is about 30 people. There were projects that I was on in consulting where our internal team was bigger than my entire company now. I love the pace, I love how quick decisions are made. I love the results that you see and how immediately you see them.”

 

Jay: “There’s probably no banter.”

 

Tom: “Yeah, there’s really no time for it, which I find really exciting. But at this point, it feels right to work at a smaller company, and a little bit riskier, sure, working at venture-backed company, not yet profitable. But I think the risk is definitely tolerable at this stage in my life, and I just find the pace really exciting.”

 

Jay: “Cool, I’m happy for you.”

 

Tom: “Thanks. Something else that’s interesting is, I think when you’re in consulting, despite the fact that firms hire people from diverse educational backgrounds with lots of different experiences, after a couple years you’ve all been trained the same way, and you have a very similar skill set.”

 

Jay: “You think like a consultant.”

 

Tom: “You think like a consultant, you’re really good at Excel and PowerPoint, and you know how to build a deck. And you feel like, and maybe it’s true, that those skills are a commodity within the firm, and when you leave the firm, you realize that those skills aren’t as common as you thought they were…”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “…and the skills that you have really bring a lot to the table.”

 

Jay: “So it’s good practice.”

 

Tom: “It’s great practice.”

 

Jay: “In general, what major changes has leaving consulting brought upon your life, and have they been for the better or for the worse?”

 

Tom: “There have been a lot of changes, I think on the whole, definitely for the better. The biggest change is that I’m home all the time, and it’s allowed me to really get into a routine at home. The first three years of my life out of undergrad, wasn’t buying groceries because I was only home on the weekend, wasn’t working out and taking care of myself as much as I would like to, and that’s all changed now.”

 

Jay: “It’s tough.”

 

Tom: “It’s really tough. So I’m cooking for myself now. Overall, that’s a change that’s been really nice, too.”

 

Jay: “Are you still dating your current girlfriend?”

 

Tom: “I am.”

 

Jay: “So you probably have more time to see her.”

 

Tom: “I do. Neither of us were excited about the prospect of me traveling four days a week, especially once we had moved in together. So the timing worked out really well. I left the firm, got a job that kept me here locally five days a week, and that’s been a really nice change, too.”

 

Jay: “Is your pace of life at work quicker or about the same, how does that compare?”

 

Tom: “That’s a good question. The pace is still really quick. The nice thing is that I have more flexibility in terms of when I work and where I work. So I can come in at 7:30 if I need to crank some things out before everyone gets in. I can also come in at 9:30 if I need to go to the dentist or want to spend some time at home with my dog in the morning. I can leave at 4:30 or I can leave at 7:00. I can work from home whenever I want to.”

 

Jay: “I can’t do that…no, I can’t.”

 

Tom: “That flexibility is really nice.”

 

Jay: “Do you have a higher salary now or then?”

 

Tom: “I have a lower salary now than I did when I left the firm.

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “My salary now is about equal to what it was when I was in my second year at the firm.”

 

Jay: “That’s also not bad.”

 

Tom: “It’s not bad.”

 

Jay: “Do you have more or less vacation time?”

 

Tom: “I have more vacation time. Technically I have unlimited vacation time now.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “Although, in my new role, it’s a little bit more difficult to take time off and fully unplug because I know things are still happening, and there’s not necessarily anyone that’s doing my work while I’m away.”

 

Jay: “There’s no replacement analyst all of a sudden.”

 

Tom: “Exactly.”

 

Jay: “How many hours did you work a week in consulting, and how many now?”

 

Tom: “It really varied in consulting, but I would say, averaged around 60 to 65. I would say I’m probably around 55 to 60 now, so I don’t think I’m working much less. But it feels like I’m in more control and it doesn’t feel as burdensome.”

 

Jay: “Okay, so this goes back to your point: more control.”

 

Tom: “Exactly.”

 

Jay: “On this note of transitioning from consulting, taking everything that you’ve gained from it and moving on, I want to mention some names of famous people who once worked in consulting and now are doing bigger and better things: Chelsea Clinton, Cheryl Sandberg, Mitt Romney, and John Legend.”

 

Tom: “That’s quite a list of names.”

 

Jay: “Right? You’re on this list now. You, Tom, are joining these famous people as ex-consultants who now have the power to do anything.”

 

Tom: “I can only hope to take my time in consulting and leverage it to do something…”

 

Jay: “You could be the next John Legend!”

 

Tom: “I could, it’s possible.”

 

Jay: “He’s definitely one of my heroes, so shout-out to you. But, do you think John Legend had any idea, when he was at his Big 3 firm, that he would become a Grammy-winning singer one day?”

 

Tom: “Probably not.”

 

Jay: “I don’t even know what I’m gonna do. Do you?”

 

Tom: “I don’t. I feel, although I truly have no idea how I want to leverage my experience in consulting beyond what I’m doing now, it does give me confidence to know that the skills that I built in consulting will set me up well to do a number of different things.”

 

Jay: “Tell us about the exit strategy you took when you were approaching your three-year mark. How did you plan it, and how did you execute it?”

 

Tom: “It was actually about the two-year mark when I knew that I wanted to leave.”

 

Jay: “The magic two-year mark.”

 

Tom: “Exactly. I saw a lot of my peers getting ready to go back to B-school. I just wasn’t feeling this burning passion to go back to school.

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “I knew I wanted to stay in the city where I was based. I felt that I really wanted to get experience at a smaller company. So that led me to look at startups.”

 

Jay: “And how did you find this one, was it a job board, was it word of mouth?”

 

Tom: “It was word of mouth.”

 

Jay: “Okay. And how did you find time for an interview, was it on a Friday probably?”

 

Tom: “It was on a Friday, and fortunately, I transitioned from a project that was based in New York to a project that was based locally. If you’re really set on leaving, I think even taking a little bit of time off, potentially in between projects…get your resume polished, get applications out there, schedule interviews, and really get the ball rolling. I think once the wheels are in motion, you can definitely manage the whole interview process while on a project, even while on the road. But I think that initial push to get your resume ready takes time, and time you can be hard-pressed to find when you’re grinding a project for 70 hours a week.”

 

Jay: “So logistically, wheels in motion, a series of interviews, signed paperwork and then you put in two weeks’ notice?”

 

Tom: “I put in two weeks’ notice. I didn’t take any time off in between jobs.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Tom: “From offer to starting at my new job was probably about ten days.”

 

Jay: “That’s fast.”

 

Tom: “So things happened pretty quickly.”

 

Jay: “And how long did it take to find that job, in total?”

 

Tom: “I found my current role after a couple months of searching, and then even from initial application to interview was another month or so. Backing up even further, from the time that I knew I wanted to leave to the time where I started my new role, was probably a year. I didn’t want to leave just to leave. Really wanted to wait for the right role in the right place, at the right company. And so that takes patience. Maybe it will fall into your lap right away, but it could take a few months to find.”

 

Jay: “Let’s touch upon the point of having consulting on your résumé. Think back to one of the interviews you were in for this current role. How did you take advantage of having consulting on your résumé in that interview, and how did they receive it?”

 

Tom: “My boss now is also an ex-consultant. So we immediately were on the same page, and still are. I think having that shared experience in consulting has been really beneficial. I kind of knew the background that they were coming from, they knew the background that I was coming from. And the industry that I’m working in now is an industry that I didn’t have previous experience in. So when you’re being asked, you know, why this industry, or what value are you gonna bring to the table, I was about to point to a half-dozen times where I had walked into a new project in a new industry without much or any prior experience, and hit the ground running. And that speaks volumes.”

 

Jay: “How has working at a consulting firm changed your outlook on life (a) professionally, and (b) personally?”

 

Tom: “Professionally, it’s made me more comfortable in new and unfamiliar situations, and more comfortable talking to folks with a lot more experience. When I first started, walking into a room of executives when I was six months out of undergrad, was incredibly intimidating.”

 

Jay: “Oh yeah.”

 

Tom: “Still can be, but…”

 

Jay: “Probably easier now.”

 

Tom: “It’s easier now, and I’m less intimidated, and…”

 

Jay: “And personally?”

 

Tom: “I think I really appreciate flexibility and autonomy in where you work, when you work, when you take time off. Even the ability to re-prioritize and change deadlines, to some degree, is more present now than it was in consulting when your clients and your partners are driving things from the top-down. So I really appreciate any little bit of flexibility that I have to take a little bit more ownership of my work.”

 

Jay: “What do you miss the most about consulting?”

 

Tom: “I miss all the people that I worked with. I loved the start class that I was in, and all of the people I met at the firm through trainings and different projects that I was on. I miss the variety. Having a new project in a new industry and a new team every few months was something that was exciting and really keeps you on your toes. That’s something I miss a little bit. I don’t think I appreciated it as much when I was in consulting because it felt like a lot of churn and a lot of work to get up to speed on a new project, and to learn how to work with a new manager, and to learn which of your clients were in your corner and which clients you had to win over. That felt a little bit exhausting. But now, being a little bit more removed and being outside of the firm in a new role, I do miss just the variety and the kind of constant change. That’s something that’s really exciting.”

 

Jay: “Looking back, do you think consulting was the right decision for you to make immediately out of undergrad?”

 

Tom: “I do. I was considering working in corporate finance, it would have been a rotational program so there would have been some variety. But at the end of the day it would have all been finance, and it would have all been at one company. I truly think that there’s no replacement for the breadth and depth of experiences that you get in consulting, and to have that on your résumé fresh out of undergrad, when you do decide that you want to go elsewhere, is incredibly valuable.”

 

Jay: “Final question of the show, I ask this to everybody. What advice would you give to a future consultant?”

 

Tom: “One thing that it took me awhile to realize but I think is something that’s really important to know is that you have more power to shape your time in consulting than you may think. For the first maybe year or so of my time at the firm, I felt like the firm was controlling me and everything was very reactive, and I was staffed on this project and someone brought me into this firm initiative. And what I realized is that you actually have a lot more autonomy than you think you do to kind of shape the experience into what you want it to be. You can cultivate a lot of that with some extra work and some intention. And if you know what you want to do, you can seek out projects, you can seek out firm initiatives, you can seek out managers and partners who do that work and you can really shape your experience into what you want it to be. I had peers whose experiences were vastly different than mine, and if you looked at their résumé and the highlights of what they did in their three years, if you didn’t know that we worked for the same company, you’d have no idea by looking at the bullet points.”

 

Jay: “That’s some really good insight right there.”

 

[Musical interlude]

 

Jay: “Tom, thank you so much for coming on the show.”

 

Tom: “Thanks, Jay. Thanks for having me.”

 

Jay: “We’ll see you…I don’t know when I’ll see you next, but hopefully soon.”

 

Tom: “The next holiday party? Hopefully before that.”

 

Jay: “I’ll see you at the next holiday party.”

 

Tom: “The next holiday party, see you there.”

 

Jay: “Thank you for listening. Stay tuned for episode 8, when we’ll be announcing the winner of the coaching session. Please be sure to subscribe to the show, links can be found at ConsultingScoop.com. Until next time, this is Jay Alexander signing off. We’ll catch you at the client site.”

 

[Musical Outro]

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