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Why I Quit My Six-Figure Management Consulting Job

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Why I quit my management consulting job

Career + Finance

Why I Quit My Six-Figure Management Consulting Job

November 10, 2020

by: Rachel Rhee

I worked at a large consulting firm for several years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the consulting world, it can sound quite exciting upon first listen: you get a corporate credit card, you get to hop on a plane and fly each week (thus being able to accrue platinum status at hotels and airlines), and on top of all the perks, from a career perspective you get to work alongside executives at leading companies that impact the global economy. I must admit, it does sound fancy. What isn’t shown in the consulting lifestyle though is with all the hotel points you accrue that means you also basically live out of your suitcase, you often times are staying up until the early morning hours to meet client deadlines, you end up eating dinner alone in your hotel room to meet said deadlines, and because of the stress and burnout of the job, your health deteriorates in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely super appreciative and grateful to have the opportunity to be able to experience the lifestyle and work at a firm that is really respected in my industry. But, the time came for me to re-evaluate my lifestyle and re-assess what was and is important to me for my long term well-being. The specifics on why I quit my six-figure management consulting job are outlined below.

First, some background on the day in the life…

For years, I would get up at 4 am every Monday morning and pick up my suitcase to go to the airport and board my 6:30 am flight. Straight from the airport, I’d go to the rental car terminal to pick up a rental carand go to the client site for a weekly 9:30 am meeting. The oversimplified version of my work days would essentially be summed up with:

Meeting with clients, creating PowerPoint decks, running my work through several different stakeholders, changing the decks based on feedback, meeting with clients again…rinse and repeat.

I’d wrap up my week by boarding a flight back home every Thursday evening. I personally never fully unpacked my suitcase because in just a few short days, I’d have to get up at 4 am again to go back to the client.

The weekends then became my ‘get to my errands and take care of my personal life’ time.

Throughout this process, I had to also juggle managing my health. I have an autoimmune disease which can flare up when I am put under too much stress. Because of the lack of sleep I would get, irregularity in my schedule, stress from my job, I started developing complications with my disease. That’s when I knew it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate what my priorities are in life.

Taking a step back from a lucrative consulting career where I was receiving glowing feedback from my peers, senior executives, and clients was extremely difficult. Perhaps learning about the details of my why, will help you in your own life journey; especially if you are looking to transition out of a full-time job that is causing you burnout and affecting your health and personal livelihood.

My health was declining

Taking a look back, I should have quit a couple years prior. I didn’t because I held onto all of the perks and benefits of the job. A typical golden handcuffs story. Having a 401K, a stable income, and getting to work with amazing clients went a long way for me! I should have left because it was past the point my body was comfortable with, given that my health was quietly deteriorating. Luckily due to new care and a new lifestyle, I’ve been able to resolve a lot of my health complications, but it took me going to the hospital and doctor’s office visits, multiple times for me to come to this awakening.

Never take your health for granted.

Once you lose your health, it’s hard to build yourself back up – and sometimes you can’t ever get it back. If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed due to your job, remember – it is just a job. I ended up talking to my employer about my health and they helped make adjustments to my schedule to support my needs (which I was very thankful for!).

Personal tip: Consider opening up to your HR department or manager and see if there’s a way they will work with you to modify your workload or schedule.

Even with the adjustments that my managers made for me, I knew that my health would always be a factor with whatever new client project I am put on. Due to the nature of my specialization, so many of the projects would have required me to travel, which is when many of my health problems began.

I looked at my career path and the road to senior management

In any job I’ve had, I look at the professional lives of those that are in my field. Of course I will never know what their personal lives are like, but just looking to see where they are in a professional sense, I started asking myself:

In 5 years, is this where I want to be?

Quite often, I found my answer to be no. Staying within my field meant I would be on the road to promotion and with promotion, comes a lot more responsibility that did not light me up inside.

As I started focusing on my health more, I found my passions in other areas of leaning into my own wellness journey and in the process I wanted to inspire others to live their healthiest lives. I didn’t feel I could accomplish this by being on the consulting track.

I stopped waking up happy

There came a point where I would drive into the office and I would be in tears the whole way there. I would internally try to reframe the thoughts in my head. My “I don’t want to go into the office” would transition to “I’m so grateful for even having a job.” However, at the end of the day, I knew that I was filling my entire day with work that wasn’t meaningful to me, personally. Yes, it would provide value to my client but that started to feel like not enough. While I was providing value to others, I was not providing value to myself.

My interests were changing

As my passions and interests grew, my desire to move up the corporate ladder became less and less significant to me. I discovered there was a wellness committee at my employer where we could inform overworked consultants on the benefits of mindfulness and movement. Being a part of the committee really helped validate that I needed to be surrounded by my passions more. Having a 30 minute meeting each week discussing these topics wasn’t enough for me, personally.

If you have a passion or side hustle that you love, try seeing if there’s a way to incorporate it into your work life. Is there a group you can form? Can you create a newsletter full of information that you’d like to help spread awareness on? Find ways to see if by trying to integrate your passions more into your 9-5, you can find fulfillment.

I was complaining about my work

Sure everyone complains but I am someone who used to rave about my work. I loved the projects I was on, found them all to be super interesting to me, and I felt I was constantly learning. However, one day I noticed I was complaining more than praising. I knew I was evolving in ways that I did not want. If I am going to spend most of my hours working, I needed to make sure it was enjoyable and purposeful for me.

I Googled “How to know when the right time to leave my job is”

I knew it was the beginning of the end, then.

Before you quit your consulting job (or any other job for that matter), always explore what options you have internally. Can you transition to another role in a different department? Can you try to join an employee resource group to keep yourself engaged in other ways? Make sure you have explored all avenues before putting in your resignation.

If you aren’t able to find meaning internally at work, can you add more joy to your life outside of work?

If none of the above works, make sure you have a financial plan before you decide that quitting is the best next step for your life.

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  1. Gitana Serna says:

    Very impressed with your ability to choose life and health over what seemingly feels like comfort sometimes. You are taking a risk, or the road less traveled, and that is admirable. At the end of the day, you are incredibly smart, capable & successful at whatever you put your mind to. This will be a successful change for you and I’m so glad that you’ve chosen yourself in this complicated world!! Exciting adventures await- I’ll be following!

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you so much Gitana! It’s definitely a bit scary – the unknown always is! – but I’m super excited to see what kind of future I can create for myself 🙂 Thank you for supporting me!

  2. hiya thanks for the information

  3. George says:

    I can definitely relate to your struggles. I always wanted to make money when I was growing up and had to go to Banks to examine them during my short tenure as an Examiner. I was so exhausted everyday, knowingly battling mental health issues. I loved staying at the hotels at first but then I realized who cares if I am a Gold or Platinum member. Just like your life, I had to wake up at 3:30AM just to beat Bay area traffic. Today, I make 1/3 of the money I made in Finance, yet I’m 3X happier working as an Admission Counselor. I’m so happy I had the courage to quit, which to many people is not an option. I was lucky I didn’t have student loans :).

    • Rachel says:

      I LOVE your journey so much. At the end of the day it is all about happiness – where do you find joy and the time to do what you want outside of work. I’m so proud of you for finding work that is meaningful to you!

  4. Rafael says:

    This is kind of an old post, but it couldn’t have come at a better time! Your story really resonated with me, in fact it’s weird how much it has in common with mine. I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while now; to be honest the only reason I haven’t yet is because going from earning a Senior Associate salary to $0 is kinda scary. But your positivity was really encouraging! I hope I find that fulfilling career soon, and hope you do too.

    • Rachel says:

      Of course that is definitely scary! If you do plan to quit or change careers where maybe you aren’t making as much, I always recommend save save save! And in the meantime, explore what other interests you have. I used to think I had to work on the areas I’m not good at it so I can get even better at them but I’ve realized that if I focus on the areas that I AM good at and actually ENJOY that is where I feel most fulfilled. 🙂 Best of luck! I know that with conviction and focus you can accomplish your goals! Always feel free to connect with me on social media (@justdimpleit) to keep in touch! Would love to hear how things are going for you.

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