I finally did it!
Here is what I learned from quitting my Corporate job!
I have worked at the world’s biggest and most prestigious consulting firms for the past 9 years. Primarily in strategy consulting working across Europe and North America.
What do I mean by Consulting?
Picture this; flashy gold American express corporate credit cards, 5 star hotels in the biggest cities across North America, building your platinum level status for upgrades on all your flights. Expensed meals, working with the smartest group of colleagues you can find and directly presenting to C-suite level executives.
This lifestyle along with getting paid very well by any standards. In my last year, my all in compensation was north of $200k! For someone who just turned 30 (or any age in fact), this is a lot of money.
You may be thinking this sounds awesome, where can I sign up?
But beneath the glitz and the glam there is a darker underbelly. There are countless long days, working well past midnight. 4 am Monday morning starts to catch the red-eye flight or worse still Sunday evening flight. Lonely dinners in your hotel room, picture me sitting on my bed eating room service watching the ‘Great British Bake Off’..not a pretty sight!
Endless deadlines and stress from your clients and partners. This can and will impact your mental and physical health which unchecked will eventually lead to resentment of your job and burnout.
Okay, reading back I might sound a tad negative and don’t get me wrong, I gained so much from my time in Consulting. I will be forever grateful for the skills I developed and the friendships (both personal and business) I made and also the financial foundation this job gave me.
For any young person out there looking to get into the Corporate/Business world there is no better starting place to hone the core skill sets needed in any job, be that presenting, powerpoint, excel, analytics, story telling.
But as I turned 30 not too long ago and having recently moved out west to Vancouver from Toronto, my perspective on what’s important in life began to change. I started this transitory thinking a number of years ago, but now looking back the lockdown accelerated it and spurred me into action.
I feel this is not an isolated story, and have heard and felt a sea change in a lot of people’s priorities recently.
I re-evaluated my lifestyle and prioritized my time, freedom and health over earning the maximum possible amount through a high stress job I had lost all passion for.
This led me to the decision to quit my $200k management consulting job!
For you reading this now and considering quitting in this so-called ‘Great Resignation’ period we currently find ourselves in. I hope some of my learnings from actually doing it can help you. Before you take the dive out the exit door, make sure you’re prepared for what comes with it. Read on to find out more….
For 9 years, most weeks (depending on my client’s location which would change every few months) I would have to wake up at 4-5 am every Monday morning, rush to throw my four day supply of clothes into a suitcase to make it to my local airport (Pearson in Toronto or Dublin Airport in Ireland) and board my flight by 6:40 am.
No matter how often I did this, it somehow was always stressful. One time I literally forgot my work shoes, which involved me having to rock up to my client’s offices in a pair of faded black Nike runners. My only saving grace was that at least they were black and I managed to hide them under the desk for most of the day. I digress…
Once I landed I would go straight to the car rental company – Avis where we had discounted company rates and pick up my car and from there straight to the client site for the first project team meeting of the day. I’d rent my car and go to the client site for a 9:30 am meeting.
From there, a typical day would consist of the following:
- 9:30 – 10:30: Internal team meetings
- 10:30 – 11:00: Client checkpoint
- 11:00 – 12:30: Client interviews
- 12:30 – 13:30: Lunch (if we were lucky, mostly ate at desk)
- 13:30 – 15:00: Get actual work done! (excel and powerpoint was my life)
- 15:00 – 16:00: Internal team check in (update my partner which is another work for boss on what’s going on)
- 16:00 – 16:30: Client checkpoint
- 16:30 – 18:30: Cram in more actual work
- 18:30 – 19:00: Drive my team back to the hotel we were staying at
- 19:00 – 19:30: Hotel check in
- 20:00 – 21:00: Team dinner or else more commonly room service eaten on my bed
- 21:30 – whatever time was needed: Continue to grind (occasionally i would squeeze in a workout)
To sum the above up in three words it would be:
Essentially every day was a repeat of running analytics in excel to quantify some hypothetical opportunity, whipping up a beautiful powerpoint slide deck to show it to the client, then presenting it to the client as if you were a famous story teller, who hopefully agreed otherwise revision hell ensued.
Thursday evening meant home time. I packed up my suitcase (never really fully unpacking) and drop back my car and fly home, usually face planting on my bed by 11pm.
Friday was then usually back in my actual office, for more ‘administrative’ tasks like expenses, all hands meetings, coffee connections (endless coffee catch ups) and to continue to beautify the final deliverable which was usually a powerpoint deck.
Weekends I mostly got to myself, which is one advantage consulting has over say investment banking. You generally don’t work weekends although, like anything there are exceptions.
Oh and did I mention, try and squeeze in an actual social life, which included a girlfriend, sports team and staying connected with family.
As you can imagine this was very tough on these aspects and eventually something had to give.
The last couple of years in particular, although getting paid more than I ever imagined. The level and hours of work also increased in tandem. I began to question what I was doing, and why I was doing it.
Having recently moved to Vancouver and experiencing a different way of living all about the outdoors and slowing down. I found myself googling ‘Should I quit my job’ quite often.
This was the last straw, I finally built up the courage to wave goodbye to my fancy job and even fancier pay-check. My job was impacting my physical and mental health due to the endless client deadlines and the stress-inducing work culture that is found in Consulting.
I wanted more time and freedom from life to pursue passions I had. Whether that be sailing, or woodwork, hiking, writing or getting back playing rugby. My priorities had drastically changed and I took the plunge and got out while I still could.
The golden handcuffs were beginning to tighten around my wrists.
Here is what I learned from the process of actually quitting my high paying job and breaking free, consider these as you look at your own situation.
Drop a comment below or contact me, would be interested to hear more stories out there.
1. Trust your own Gut!
You don’t need everyone around you to say YES before you take the plunge! Getting approvals from your colleagues, friends and family group is not required.
Trust your own feelings and emotions.
When I chatted to my friends and family about my plans to finally get out of the corporate rat race especially with no job lined up. They thought I was crazy, I got comments like “Are you crazy, you’ve spent all these years getting to this level!” or ‘Don’t walk away from that amount of money, you will regret it’’
I was hoping for more encouragement, given the physical and mental toll it was having on me.
What’s important is that you know your own thoughts, emotions, and priorities more than anyone else.
You should trust your Gut! If you’re not happy, don’t drag it out for months or even years.
Act on it, you will figure it out.
What I have realized is that life is too short to not take action. Looking back I should have quit over a year ago.
Don’t get me wrong, ask for advice and talk through your options with your close circle. Everyone will have an opinion, but your decision should not be based on anyone else’s approval but your own.
2. Change is Exciting!
Quitting your job is a massive change. In fact it can be quite terrifying leaving behind what is familiar and leaping into the unknown.
This fear can keep unhappy people in jobs they hate for their whole lives. I came across an older man in my time in Consulting, who I would say was in his early 50’s, having worked with the firm for 25+ years. He confided in me one time over a few drinks that he actually hated his job and was counting down the days until his stock options vested and he could leave.
I was so taken back by this, that someone could stay in a job they hated all of their life just for financial gain. When they clearly had other options!
There is a big part of living in fear that makes you want to stay put with the ‘familiar’ routine no matter how much you dislike it – but the other path is actually somewhat exciting.
Change is a good thing. Don’t run from it but instead run towards it.
Having just quit my job a few weeks ago, I feel genuinely excited about what’s to come both personally and professionally. I’ve had time to recharge and figure out what I want.
Bring back the excitement to your life!
3. Never accept the counter offer!
There is such a talent shortage out there, that most likely you will receive a counter offer when you signal your intention to quit.
Make sure you think through and plan your response so you don’t get lured back in.
Consider the following if a counter offer does come your way.
- Nothing about your job will change except your salary. The key issues that led you to quitting won’t change overnight no matter what your boss promises you. In my particular situation, my boss asked to set up time to walk through a list of options we could explore, but it didn’t matter how much money they offered, a job I got no enjoyment from or had any passion for was not somewhere I wanted to continue wasting my life at.
- Why did your company wait until you gave notice? You have clearly not been paid what you are worth up to this point. If your company is only now willing to increase your salary, then you have been paid less than your worth up to this point.
- A short term fix will not address a long term problem. Statistics show, around 80% of those who accept counter offers start searching again for a new job within a few short months. Even if you do your best for your current employer having accepted a counter offer, you may be treated differently now that you have shown what can be construed as a “lack of loyalty”.
There are endless reasons and articles out there that show accepting the counter offer never works out in the long term. So stay the course to your original reasoning and thought process.
4. Always leave on good terms. This is a small world we live in.
When I did finally hand in my notice and said sayonara. I made sure to quickly over the next couple of days set up short 15 minute calls with my entire leadership team along with colleagues I had developed a good relationship and even friendship with.
Looking back this was something I was so thankful I did, and has led to continued connections after leaving.
Letting people know ahead of time and in person (virtually or otherwise) will make the process so much easier. They will feel valued.
Also this will give you the opportunity to explain your reasoning and ensure you leave on a good note with the door always open for a return if things don’t work out.
And always send a well crafted email thanking your team for the time you spent with the company and details of how to stay in touch. The world is a small place, and chances are in the future you will come across the same people again whether it be personal or professional.
I received a number of warm messages saying to come back if things don’t work out in my next gig and best of luck in the future.
There is nothing worse when you leave in a cloud of anger. It won’t benefit you in the long run. Even if there is a boss you really dislike and has treated you wrong, take the high road. You have taken back control of your life, always keep your options open.
Who knows what the future will bring.
5. Having a financial security blanket will give you the confidence to follow through!
The number 1 reason people stay in jobs they hate is fear driven by financial worries. A global poll taken by Gallup uncovered that out of the world’s 1 billion workers, that only 15% of people are engaged at work. That means that an astonishing 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. Not having a secure financial situation leads people to stay in jobs they dislike and traps them, in some cases for life.
What I found from being on this financial freedom journey was having a safety blanket to fall back on (net worth is updated here) made sure I stayed the course in actioning my decision to leave the corporate rat race that is Consulting behind.
Without this back up, I’m not sure how brave I would have been in leaving a 200k job behind.
If you are considering a change in career, make sure to start putting money aside into an emergency fund. The commonly accepted amount is 6 months of your typical monthly expenses. Aim for higher if you can, especially if you don’t have another income stream lined up already.
Following this financial freedom journey for the last few years has given me back the control and power over where I want to spend the finite amount of time I have on this earth. Not being a slave to a pay-check is a liberating feeling.
If you haven’t already get started! It’s never too early or too late.
Take a look through my blog articles here, hopefully these will continue to help you on your journey going forward! The key is to take action!
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*As always, I am not an expert or financial advisor, so nothing on this website should be considered financial advice. These are just my opinions, everyone is different. Always do your own research and have your own independent thought process.
I am, and will continue to practice what I preach!
Catch you soon, here is to finding freedom.