I did something last week I would never recommend someone else does; I quit my job without having another one lined up. I don’t mean I quit a job where the company is unethical, and I had a moral obligation to leave. I work for PwC (The firm) as an IT management consultant. When I look at the Partnership, which is the highest career level within PwC, I see the diversity I preach should be required of large organizations. In addition, I’ve gained the experience I thought I would gain working for the firm. PwC is an international power that has put me on projects that I would have never been able to experience working for less known companies. I helped influence the data center strategy of a Fortune 50 software company. I helped another Fortune 500 company avoid insolvency after they had a security breach, and now I’m supporting the separation of an $85B big pharma. So, what’s the big deal? Why am I leaving so abruptly without a clear next opportunity?
Life at a Big 4
First thing you need to understand about Big 4 consulting is that it’s taxing (no pun intended). It’s an incredible opportunity to gain long-term financial stability if you achieve the level of Managing Director or Partner. However, it’s a job you have to love because you spend a lot of time working. I don’t mean just that you spend a lot of time at work; you spend a lot of time working. Big 4 consultancies recruit high performers. They can be high performers from either college or traditional industries. I would imagine it could be compared to going to an Ivy League university. Everyone is at least as smart as you and more than likely smarter.
In order to stand out from the crowd, you have to work harder than you would in a normal organization. My first project was a level setting experience. I lead a team of 5 with 2 having a higher title. The client was extremely happy with the results and I still only received a “Met Expectations” for my review. When I sat down to discuss the results with my manager, he explained to me that the reasoning. I was put into the role because I was expected to perform at that level. I hadn’t done anything that warranted higher ratings. I did my job as expected.
I give this example to show how consuming the job is for people wanting to move up to the vaulted levels of Managing Director and Partner. I didn’t mind the hard work, but I didn’t love what I did every day. While I’m a solid management consultant, I’m an exceptional geek. PwC clients don’t call in PwC because they can deploy OpenStack in a complex environment. PwC clients call in PwC because there is a difficult business challenge that technology may or may not solve. These consultants need a different skill set than say a Cisco Architect or that of a value-added reseller (VAR). When I look at the type of work that, the career requires along with the level of dedication required to achieve success the value proposition just isn’t there for me.
It’s all about brand power
So, now you know why I’m leaving, the question is why leave without securing another job first? The answer is pretty ironic if you’ve ever worked at PwC. PwC is very heavy on building your personal brand inside and outside of the firm. I had already built a pretty powerful brand outside of the firm. I have a very powerful platform in VirtualizedGeek.com, LinkedIn and Twitter. Of course, networking with resources within the firm only magnified these platforms. Specifically, LinkedIn has become an extremely powerful networking tool. More power inside the firm than I realized.
I recently wrote a post discussing the challenges of hiring a Chief Security Officer (CSO) and actually fixing security issues. In passing, I mentioned a large retailer that has been in the news for a security breach. Unknown to me is that the retailer is a major client of PwC. No less than an hour later, I received a call from the Managing Director responsible for the client asking me to remove the reference. LinkedIn was much more powerful than I realized. I had no idea such high profile clients or internal leaders read my stuff so closely.
All of which brings us to the why of this whole thing — Why have such a powerful medium and not be able to leverage it to find my next opportunity? I could do the whole quietly looking thing but why? One, the job is extremely taxing. I simply don’t have the time to look for a job. I don’t know how anyone who does well at the firm has time to look for another opportunity unless it just comes along passively. Two, I couldn’t simply change my LinkedIn headline to “Exploring new opportunities” without getting a few phone calls from leadership within the firm. Just imagine what the internal response would be if I posted this article without first putting in my notice.
I’m a few days into the search, and I have to tell you that I’m overwhelmed by the response. I’ve had no less than eight solid job leads in just a 4-day span. The eight opporutnites is in contrast to having only 4 in the past six months of passive looking. So far the risk is paying off. I haven’t received an actual offer so, Mrs. VirtualizedGeek has put me on a strict budget for lunch until I find something official. With that said, I’m happy I took a chance. Would I recommend someone else do the same? Well, when I told my brother about my plan, he reminded me that he did the same 2 1/2; years ago, and his family is just recovering from the financial burden of unemployment.