Consultancy - the new Rat Race?
Before I speak even a word about others, let me start with my own background. Having completed CA in the first attempt, I was positively buzzing, ready to face the world. The only jobs interviews that I applied for were in the top consulting firms. I got selected by one of them and life seemed settled.
Every CA fresher or even an article wishes to join one of the top consulting firms, and nothing else is even remotely enough. Because, what’s not to like in a life as a consultant in a multinational consultancy firm? The annual package for a fresher consists of various monetary and non-monetary incentives:
• Nice pay;
• Bigger bonuses;
• 20-30 annual holidays (as long as you inform your seniors way in advance, of course);
• Brilliant seniors/ mentors and even better peers;
• Partying with your office colleagues and/ or seniors every Friday night;
• Lots of team lunches and annual off-sites to exotic 5 star hotels around India.
So my life in the fancy firm was interesting, to say the least. The work that I did was new and fascinating, pay was good (extremely good I would say), some of my seniors were really smart and would take time to teach us concepts exceptionally well. I met a nice bunch of people, most of who are still my friends (and one of whom is now my wife, but hey...that’s another story for another time). We would all hang out after office and treat ourselves almost every Friday night.
And while I would daily wait for my senior to review a document which had to be obviously sent out to the client the same day, I could chit chat with almost anyone on my floor at 8 pm and everyone taught me something new, either about tax or finance, or about life. Hey, late sittings sure do have their benefits.
Also, by having almost no time to spend the large cheque that I received at the end of every month, I even ended up saving some decent amount of money.
Life was all good and rosy, eh! until I decided to quit and start my own little tax practice.
And why exactly would an idiot give up earning that fancy money in a fancy office along with all the free perquisites and take up such a huge risk in life?
Because working in a top Consulting Firm also means:
• Working on only one aspect of business – We were so streamlined into our own sector that not only would a Direct Tax guy know nothing about Indirect Tax, and vice versa, most Chartered Accountants did not even know how to file their own Income-tax returns, and let’s not even talk about managing their own finances.
• Lack of business prudence – So many times we gave the clients options which were ridiculously impractical in the current market scenario, or so conservative that if I were the client, I would be crying in frustration.
• Motivation – It personally became very difficult for me to remain motivated when most of our performance ratings and bonuses were clearly dependent upon your relations with your seniors, or even the divisional / regional heads. Work your relations well and you might even get an overseas secondment within 2 years of joining apart from a humongous bonus!
• Work life balance – This is probably the most underrated concept in India today. Anyone who reports home from work before 7 or 8 pm is either non-motivated, or lacks ambition. Whereas sending an email to the client or your boss at 1 am is one of the best ways to gain recognition in the Firm.
It took me 2.5 years to realise that there is only so much one can run behind a career. There are no free lunches in life. Everything comes with a price tag, and time is a very big irrecoverable price to pay. Assuming that your near and dear ones will understand that you are busy and it’s OK to ignore important personal commitments for delivering that client document at 1 am, may be a wrong assumption after all.
Of course some people genuinely work harder than most others. Also, some people sit till late to work more because they may be in dire need of money or have no one to go home to. But sitting late everyday because every deliverable is always urgent just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Let’s take nothing away from the Multinational Consultancy Firms. They really are great companies full of amazingly talented people with access to incredible resources. They take away your job and financial insecurity, and for some, even set you up very well for a big post in some huge Corporate somewhere in the future.
But is it the end of the road, rather than being a big (or even the biggest milestone) of your career? Surely there is more to life because if money is all you chase, there never will be enough! And the late nights that you invest, it really is not worth the return.
Being independent yet responsible, working by your own rules and having anything close to a decent work life balance is not just underrated, it’s practically forgotten by the youngsters entering the job market nowadays.
If you had a dream, chase it now. If you had another goal, go after it today. Don't let another bonus and the next promotion stop you.
It’s time we decided to look up and beyond this rat race.