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Should I make the plunge?

#1 Should I make the plunge?
16/09/2011 21:37

David H

I am a senior manager in the UK (Big Four). At 32 I will be a dad at the end of the year (for the first time). When I joined the firm I was here for the long-run - I was the guy who was going to be President. It never occurred to me that I would leave.

Now I'm on around 130k - good money for my age, and I also work on a local project. However since I found out about the baby, my mind has been changing. I am realising that the people who are successful in this company are the ones who have been divorced, who have no kids, or who push their kids onto a Nanny during the week - only seeing them at weekends. The exceptions are very, very few.

Despite the fact I am currently local I am still working 24/7 - constantly on my Blackberry, even feeling "guilty" when I am NOT working weekends. And as each day goes by, I get more and more doubtful that this is even worth it? Is it truly possible to be successful and maintain a successful life with the family? Is it worth the extra money?

Is it even possible to have the holy grail of a job where people DON'T call you (and expect you to pick up) when you're on vacation, where you don't wake up to 50 new e-mails that have arrived steadily throughout the night. or is this holy grail normality, and I have descended into the abyss.

And if I do leave - will I miss the adrenaline of proposals, of working late to deadlines.

Too many questions - not sure where I'm going. Could do with some advice from you guys.....

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#2 RE: Should I make the plunge?
16/09/2011 22:01

GrayArea to David H (#1)

When you say senior manager is that assistant director or director (i.e. how far from partner)?

Also you would probably get more from the board if you say what area you're currently in and what you mean by the plunge?

Keep the details as broad as possible as your colleagues or bosses may be reading this board as well.

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#3 RE: Should I make the plunge?
18/09/2011 22:40

Big Consultant to David H (#1)

I am curious. What happens if you are on vacation and you don't pick up your phone?

Do you not have a choice not to pick up?

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#4 RE: Should I make the plunge?
19/09/2011 08:16

Lilo to David H (#1)

You should decide on your priorities - family or work?

I am fairly sure that in MC, its impossible to have both. It is, if you have incredibly understanding wife who is willing to sacrifice everything of her own to raise your family and leave you to your career, or if you have an army of nannies and assistants. In the latter instance, what is the point of having children for you personally - only to have them as a security for future, or please your wife's desire for family?!?!

Those who work in consulting and top professional services industry (MC, big law firms, IB and etc.), and who say they can have it both - they are not telling the truth, to the world and to themselves. Just think of it - how many hours do you work, and how much focused do you have to be to do your work, deal with clients, meet the deadlines, and then add to that raising children and spending time with them - it simply won't work. I agree with you that top performing professionals in these industries are indeed single or divorced or those who do seem to have both, but they don't actually.

It also depends on what kind of father do you intend to be (or have desire to be) - fully involved or the one who thinks its perfectly enough to give your kids a kiss on the cheek before the sleep time and bring money to the table. Its very simple - think of your career now (your every day) and add to that the pressure of raising children - also, speak to your wife and you will realize it naturally if its something you can or can't do!

Good luck :)

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#5 RE: Should I make the plunge?
19/09/2011 16:50

alexandermeerkat to David H (#1)

Why dont you get a job as an FD or something in a company - surely that would pay £100k + but would be possible to have a life as well?

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#6 RE: Should I make the plunge?
19/09/2011 21:23

GoodFella to David H (#1)

I have a slightly different way of looking at your dilemma. I dont think its a binary decision either 0 or 1.

I think the first person whom you should discuss this decision with is your wife and see if she as well is willing to do some compromises, typically is the wife who should first be considering such an decision.

I have a slightly different way of looking at your dilemma. I dont think its a binary decision either 0 or 1. I think the first person whom you should discuss this decision with is your wife and see if she as well is willing to do some compromises, typically is the wife who should first be considering such an decision.

You seem to be happy with what you have achieved and what you mentioned sounds impressive, however this should be a motive to keep going as you could will definitely achieve more.

I would never consider retiring anytime soon, my other concern is that you seem to be pushed beyond the limits at your work and your pace is very high, things do not have to be this way, try aiming for work life balance, working 8-9 hrs a day, most of the companies I know have a work from home policy which would be helpful in your situation. You do not have to be an over achiever or you will be fired, at more senior levels you should be able to authority your own management and working style.

I would try all tricks before resorting to killing or plunging your career as you have mentioned, remember its only a couple of years and you child will be in school most of the day, and will be totally away when he goes to college.

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#7 RE: Should I make the plunge?
20/09/2011 12:03

Barbie to David H (#1)

I hope I can provide some useful insight.

Like you, I am a SM at a Big 4 in their Advisory department, albeit slightly older and with a six year old and a two year old. Furthermore, my wife is a SM in the Tax division of another Big 4 (on a P-T contract working 28 hrs per week).

We both work out of the London offices of our firms, but live a 75 minute commute away (nice 5 bed house, large garden blah blah blah...) - consequently, my wife now formally works 2 days a week from home.

We don't have a Nanny, but our 2 year old is in a day nursery from 07:30-17:30 and our six year old goes to both a breakfast club and after school club at their school.

We have to make large many compromises and there are significant consequences in making it work. The most obvious are:

1 - we are permanently knackered.

2 - we see less of our kids than we would want to. Indeed, if I am away on client site I typically will say goodnight to them on a Sunday morning and not see them until the next Saturday morning (this is where skype/iPad is invaluable).

3 - my wife can't give her all to her job and has essentially hit a glass ceiling.

4 - it is impossible to develop any sort of family routine, which - despite what all the baby books tell you to the contrary - has been a huge benefit to our kids as they are relaxed, flexible and have developed a strong level of independence.

Some other comments:

- Both my wife and I are fiercely protective of our weekends, only working if it is absolutely essential (for me that's about once every 6-8 weeks, for my wife it is around tax reporting cycles).

- When my oldest was born, I quit consulting and took a local job as a Business Process Manager within a local firm. I was bored within 6 weeks and only lasted 8 months before I was interviewing with consulting firms to get back into the industry. The real world is a slow, mundane and routine place to work, if consulting is your thing then you will miss it like hell.

- Finally, and most importantly, I have an amazing wife and I know I have it easy in comparison as I don't do the school run, I can - if the pressure is on - stay late and on the nights I am away I can really catch up on my sleep. I honestly don't know how she does it, but she isn't prepared to give up her career and she isn't prepared to hire a Nanny - and who am I to argue.

There is no generic right or wrong answer and you have to accept that whatever choice you make it will be a compromise - sorry.

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#8 RE: Should I make the plunge?
20/09/2011 14:37

Mr Cool to Barbie (#7)

An excellent post from Barbie – particularly in comparison to the drivel, stating-the-bleeding-obvious, and “hey why not just become an FD” idiocy that preceded it.

My 2 pence worth.

1. You’re ahead of the game because with 3 months still to go, you’ve achieved a degree of self-awareness that doesn’t hit many consultants until their divorce. That said, this is the time to prepare, not to make any rash irrevocable decisions.

2. Don’t get into the rut of thinking that this is something that is a problem. You’re successful in your career, earn good money, have someone wonderful to share your life and you’re just about to be given about the best damn present anyone ever dreamt up. Try and view your predicament as a nice one to be in.

3. You won’t be able to make any final decision until after the event – peoples reactions are just too different to provide one single answer – you may be ready to go back to work in a week, you may never want to go back again.

4. Leverage your obvious good standing in your firm – apply not just for paternity leave, but consider asking for some additional non-paid time off to really enjoy the first few months with your new family. Believe me, your wife will thank you for it later no matter what she says now. And you’ll love being with your baby every day for the first few months.

5. If you feel inclined, start applying for a few jobs on the “client” side (not necessarily YOUR client – bit public that) – treat it as a dress rehearsal for the real thing if you later decide to plunge. Who knows, you may even be offered something so good that it helps you make your decision? Decisions are easier to make in real situations than philosophically. Perhaps the process will help you realise how much you actually love your current job?

6. Managing your time is down to you. When my wife and I were childless we used to party more, travel more, etc. Now we compromise on all that, but to be honest we don’t mind. For many people those activities (and even working at weekends) are simply filling a void that kids displace.

7. There are other answers. After many years as a consultant I now contract as a Programme Manager. I earn the equivalent of 150K a year, I arrive at 8.45 and leave at 5.30, I run big interesting projects and report directly to MD level sponsors, I run teams of 20+, I’ve just had the entire summer travelling with my wife and kids, and I haven’t had a single day of unemployment in 5 years. My consultancy friends tease me that I’ve taken the easy way out and that they think I could still have made partner if I hadn’t crumbled, and I tease them that they won’t. I see my kids EVERY morning from 7 till 7.30 and am usually home in time to finish their bath and read them a story. I NEVER work weekends. I’m not boasting – I’m just proving that there is another way if you have the drive and ambition and can reconcile what you value with your ego’s desire to be a bigshot.

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#9 RE: Should I make the plunge?
03/11/2012 01:50

Bravehearted to David H (#1)

Apologies for resurrecting an old thread, but I wanted to ask if £130k at SM is common place or an exception?


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#10 RE: Should I make the plunge?
03/11/2012 02:13

TripleTwistTrump to Bravehearted (#9)

Know a few places that pay this amount but sticking to the original 'flavour' of the thread - it's clear one has 2 choices....either make a decent living and get time to spend the amount you make with personal time or make a truck load of moolah till your 40 to discover you are dying with not much time nor health enjoy all the years you sacrificed for making all that money....seen enough examples where people just gun for the money losing sight of the simpler more enjoyable aspects of life :-)


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#11 RE: Should I make the plunge?
03/11/2012 16:12

Bravehearted to TripleTwistTrump (#10)

But he is/was at a Big 4.

130K at SM at a Big 4?

Can someone provide some context please?

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#12 RE: Should I make the plunge?
06/11/2012 22:14

DiamondSea to Bravehearted (#11)

Sounds like very/too well paid, maybe he was including all benefits.

Fantastic posts from Mr Cool and Barbie.

Contracting does sound like one hell of a way to go. People in consulting that have a stable partner/wife/husband that really understand their situation and work commitment should seriously think themselves lucky, since I have often found that the dilemma of "what to do when I'll be a dad" is a luxury for many.

Some people can't even get a half stable partner exactly because of consulting...

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