I don’t like my consulting job: should I make a move?

Despite a more buoyant job market in 2022, many are concerned for the future. They may be stuck in jobs or employers they dislike or loathe, but nervous of taking the perceived risk of a job move.

Just updating your CV and sending it out to job advertisements and recruiters is not always a great idea if you are genuinely looking to make a job move.

While the current management consultancy job market is a bit more subdued, a job move might be more difficult. There is less choice and more risk of a poor one, especially if you’re smitten by the grass on the other side of the fence. So the importance of career and job search planning is as critical as ever.

Why do you want a new consulting job?

It is essential to break down and analyse the reasons for your dissatisfaction. It may seem to you that you are being objective and dispassionate. However, inevitably emotion and other sources of muddled thinking can creep in. Don’t let this be the trigger for considering.

The recent changing working patterns have had different impacts on different people in different circumstances. Some are happier and others are not.

At these early stages, having a mentor or other third party to have a chat with is essential. This could include family or friends. The strength of the latter can often be that they DON’T know the details of your career or work and can ask questions you had not thought of.

Also, someone who knows you and your personality can ask those slightly uncomfortable questions. Are you a bit huffy because your nose has been put out of joint? Is there a lot of change and actually despite your “embracing change” you don’t really like it at all? Or they might point out that perhaps your dissatisfaction is because you’re outside your comfort zone but you are learning a lot from the experience.

What is critical is that you compile a list of all your gripes and grumbles no matter how trivial BUT also remind yourself of the plus points. This is partly for balance but also to ensure that you don’t end up redressing some of the negatives at the expense of the positives.

What to do?

Your list will probably contain some things you can do something about yourself, now you’ve realised they are affecting your work enjoyment. Even minor things can have a cumulative effect and some of the major things e.g. work/life balance can creep up on you and become ingrained bad habits.

Some of these relatively minor or otherwise straightforward things you can sort out with others in the office, virtual or otherwise. This might involve a word with your line manager or HR.

There will also be bigger stuff. Much bigger, about the role, salary, promotion prospects, work, perhaps travel, people etc.

Don’t assume that some or all of these can’t be fixed. Think very carefully (and perhaps get advice) about the optimum way of raising them. Optimum means the way most likely to get the desired result without burning bridges. You really don’t want to be backing yourself into a corner or leaving anyone with the impression that your departure is inevitable if you don’t get your way. They may decide to hasten it for you.

It is surprising how often people assume that others are aware of their dissatisfaction. Or they believe that others are somehow deliberately making unhelpful decisions that have an adverse impact on them when often it is simply blissful ignorance. Cock up rather than conspiracy!

On occasions, there is a bigger picture you are not aware of. This might mean positive future developments for you. Sometimes your raising concerns can bring forward this discussion. Better than leaving it until your date of resignation!

All of the above might solve your dissatisfaction. Or they might buy time. Far better to find a new role on your own terms in your own time rather than because you feel you have no choice. Or they may have no effect but at least you can move to the next stages knowing you have done what you can.

Next steps in your consultancy job search

These will depend on the previous points and in particular the likely timescales.

You may have decided to put the active job search on the back burner: because you are much happier, or because of the market, or because you haven’t been with your employer long and it might damage your CV to move too swiftly.

The latter point requires even more care and is a separate blog topic.

It is still important however to have in mind your overall career plan, to keep in mind how to achieve it and to remain receptive to options that might help you move forward. That could involve optimising your LinkedIn profile to ensure you are on people’s radar and turn up in searches.

Remember that often the best time for a career move is when you’re not actively looking! This is because:

  1. Active job seekers are often driven by a “push” factor which can make for suboptimal moves
  2. It can take a while to find something
  3. Once you get dissatisfied enough to start looking it’s usually a sign that you should have done so 6-12 months earlier!

If a move is inevitable and you are clear that you are starting an active job search then first and foremost you need to ensure you do what you can to keep your current management consultancy role secure. You don’t want to jeopardise your position and it might take a while to get a great move.

Do great work. Don’t give your employer excuses to put you at the top of the “at risk” list. Stay positive. Even if this is just for outward appearances it may have a surprising knock-on effect on your happiness.

You need to approach the job search in a structured and logical manner:

There is much more advice and guidance available elsewhere on the Prism website. Or if you are an experienced management consultant we would be delighted to assist further if we can.

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