When you’re working in a demanding and fast-paced career like management consulting, it can be very easy to put your head down and devote your focus to the task at hand. While this often leads to career progression and job security, it can be easy to fall back on a “safety net” instead of taking risks and pursuing growth opportunities. This week, we spoke to Max Linkoff, a former management consultant at Deloitte, who recently left the industry to build his own business called The Weekend Sabbatical. We spoke to Max about his decision to leave consulting, what he’s up to now with his own venture, and what advice he has for consultants (and other professionals) who might be considering a career transition.
Careerschooled: You recently left a job in management consulting to pursue a new venture. How did you know it was time to leave, and what led you to make the jump?
Max: I was fortunate to have a successful career during my time at Deloitte. I had early promotions, started a new business capability, and received plenty of recognition and exposure at an early age. Though as I grew at the firm and chased the dangling carrot on the corporate ladder, I started to find the work less and less fulfilling. Like most analysts, I had made my long term working context around making it to a Partner or Director level.
As I grew in the firm, I became comfortable with the consulting salary, career trajectory, and what my life had and would become. Though more importantly, I became comfortable and I realized if I didn’t rip the band-aid off of my consulting career, then I would never be able to. It is this exact mentality that allowed me to develop the courage to want to take the next steps in my career. Either continue down the status quo, wake up in my 40’s as a Partner or Director and ask myself “okay, I’ve made it to the top, now what do I do with my life and career?” or rip the bandaid off entirely and pursue areas that I was passionate about. These revolved around traveling, executive and leadership coaching, and empowering other professionals in their careers.
I started The Weekend Sabbatical as a side project during my final year at Deloitte, testing it out with friends to make sure I had a viable product that worked and was effective in helping professionals as a service. After a couple of test trials, and seeing participants have career breakthroughs during our 5 days together, I knew I had something that would allow me to leave my consulting job and push myself outside of my comfort zone like never before.
CareerSchooled: When you were deciding if you wanted to leave consulting, what were some of the questions you asked yourself/considered before you decided to make the move?
Max: How would I feel if I never gave myself the opportunity to truly step outside of my comfort zone in my career? How can I ensure that I have a source of income in place as a build my new business? What does my burn rate look like for my current living and life situation? Is it possible to leave on good terms with my company so that I could one day go back if I wanted to?
Careerschooled: What is your new venture, and what does it do?
Max: My new venture is called The Weekend Sabbatical. It’s a 5-day career development travel adventure allowing professionals to recharge, complete an impactful social impact project, and take a step back to evaluate how you can grow in your career.
We work with professionals that are doing well in their careers and have started to ask themselves the “what comes next for me in this job?” or “how do I take this job at this company to the next level?” questions or professionals that are burnt out, looking to make a career transition, or simply need some time away from their day to day.
Careerschooled: What did you learn from your time in consulting that has helped you as you’ve started your own business?
Max: This question always makes me laugh. As a consultant, I was always required to provide a high level and detailed strategy to my clients for how they could fix their respective business issues. From there, the client typically tended to complete the implementation on their own. Now As an entrepreneur, I’m responsible for setting my own strategy and have full autonomy to carry out that strategy as quickly as possible while handling all of the other things that pop out of left field. Aside from the strategic thinking, time management, productivity, relationship management are all things that I learned during my time as a consultant and have helped me as I’ve started my own business.
Careerschooled: While we know you just started, how has progress been so far, and what have been some of the successes and challenges with launching your own business?
Max: Successes – 5 trips completed to date, a monthly cadence of trips planned until October (July – Costa Rica, August – Nicaragua, September – Mexico City, October – Puerto Rico) establishing partnerships with multiple non-profits throughout Latin America, establishing partnerships with other health/wellness influencers that can add a complementary flavor to the experience, setting up my own CRM, creating pilots with other companies to create customized trips that focus on social impact and leadership development.
Challenges – Initiating a CRM system, learning about the legal applications of my business, standing up a payroll (I learned about accounting in business school but never needed to apply it to anything from a consulting standpoint).
CareerSchooled: One of the key components to The Weekend Sabbatical is that all your trips take place in far away destinations. What value does the environment/location play for your experiences?
Max: I strive to provide an environment that allows professionals to feel disconnected from the normal 9-5 setting. Each location that we travel to has an abundance of nature and beauty to really provide an atmosphere that feels far away from their work environment, promotes disconnecting from a work mentality, and allows them to get into the right mindset for the experience.
Careerschooled: From your experience, what are some of the biggest hurdles that professionals struggle with as they think about finding the right job or career?
Max: First, many professionals are afraid to even attempt to make any change at all, even when they’re unhappy and feel stuck with what they’re doing.
Second, when it comes to finding the right job or career, many professionals also struggle to figure out what some of their passion areas are from a career standpoint. The word passion gets thrown around alot but I like to associate it with “what you find engaging” for your day to day.
Third, the job application process is grueling and in my opinion is a job within your own job entirely. How to manage the job application process while still performing well in your current career can be a daunting task if you lack structure or knowledge for how to handle it.
Careerschooled: Consulting is an industry known for turnover. From your experience, what are some of the challenges that consultants face, and do you have any guidance or advice for consultants out there who are struggling with this decision?
Max: One of the most eye opening thing to me as a consultant was how much politics play a role in your career, especially as you grow in your respective firm. Unfortunately, who you know and make part of your core network and team can have a major impact on your career. Other challenges revolve around “working smarter, not harder”.
I struggled with this early in my career and saw other analysts deal with it too. Consulting was all about efficiency since there were always many moving pieces of the puzzle for the larger project. Being busy can be a good thing, but not when you’re working on the wrong things and spending too much time getting the right things completed.
For any consultants struggling with the decision to take the next step in your career, just remember that other companies love consultants. Having a consulting job on your resume means that you’re a chameleon – someone who was able to consistently take on a new role in a new organization and succeed. There’s also always some fear leaving your comfort zone in a consulting environment, taking that next steps professionally, and even managing the thoughts of if you can succeed in your new work setting.
Try and maintain a growth mindset and remember, that you didn’t always know how to be a consultant in the first place. At some point, you developed a process of what it takes to be successful in this environment and took that process and amplified it to drive success. What would be different for taking on a new role with a new company?
Careerschooled: Many of our readers are thinking about making career moves or wondering if their current job/career is right for them. What advice do you have for professionals who are evaluating their career options?
Max: When deciding if your job/career is right for you, think about your current and future growth, learning opportunities, and support system – especially if you’re still within the first few years. If your work is engaging, you’re continuously learning, have mentors around you that are invested in your growth, and find yourself challenged, then it may make sense to continue where you are (all of those areas a recipe for constant growth within your company).
If you’re starting to feel comfortable, losing your ability to challenge yourself and grow, or find any of the other areas above compromised, then it may be time to look for something else.
Our careers are our lives and it’s where we spend more than a majority of our time. If you’re not finding your work fulfilling, then start to evaluate the skills that you have and where else they can be applied. Moreover, we’re not our parents generation where a stigma exists to spend your entire career with one company. There are hundreds of jobs available (especially with the current state of the economy). Don’t be afraid to take a risk and trust yourself to drive your growth as a professional.
Careerschooled: If our readers want to learn more about The Weekend Sabbatical, where can they get more information?
Max: Check out the website at www.theweekendsabbatical.com or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org