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Consulting Firms, Identity & Persona 5

Premise
I am currently playing Persona 5, a wonderful slice-of-life videogame on Japanese society (with a focus on Tokyo, which is the location for the events), and got the inspiration to write down an article about my personal, 3-year experience for Italian consulting firms. I was certain I was to write something about “the issue”, but Persona 5 just gave me the right cues to do so. So, let’s start!

Phase 1: building high expectations

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I decided to join a consulting firm for that: high expectations. You’re told you have wonderful career opportunities, a fertile ground to grow your skills, and they also tell you that you’re going to make a good amount of money if you just keep going towards the top. This, of course, builds up expectations.

I was so happy to join, at first, so happy to have a brand in which I could feel part of. Lucky newcomers get this feeling soon: you’re involved in great, international cool projects while you’re – you think – a nobody in the great world of society (in which you probably just stepped into, if you’re there) who was blessed with the opportunity to learn quickly in a stimulating environment. Also, you’re guided. You’re constantly guided by someone, usually your manager. This makes you feel secure.

So, you feel secure, and in a bath of ever-coming opportunities. You get also a bunch of courses that tell you about great values. Those values are always great. I personally started to sponsor them, I felt like a happy army newcomer that loves his uniform.

Very well: all this “high expectations” stuff is mere illusion.

You cannot know though, in Phase 1. Phase 1 is just cool. You get to work at 9:00, you’re out at 18:15. Fine, isn’t it? No, it isn’t. You’re 15 minutes late. But you’re very, very excited, so you think it doesn’t matter.

Phase 2: living up to expectations

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As days pass, you’re asked to commit more to your work. You’re assigned more tasks, and get the illusion that this means that they think you’re good, so they ask you more. Or that the project is so cool, so they need someone good at work. Which is you.

Whatever the reason, you end up leaving your office at 19:30. Brief relevant note: OVERTIME IS [usually] UNPAID.

Yeah, that’s right. You work. They just aren’t paying. Is it possible? It is.

The funny thing is, you still feel somewhat okay with that. You think that you’re gonna be paid. You think that you’re working for a reason: the project. You think that you should live up to the high expectations people around (especially, your manager) entrusted you with. It’s your mission.

Also, there’s some kind of “live-the-office-later” rivalry. Like, I’m leaving the office later, I’m a good boy, aren’t I? He’s leaving at 18:00, he’s a bad boy, he doesn’t love his work.

Nice game, man. Now that you’re beginning thinking this way, you’re spiraling down into oblivion. Don’t think so? Are you sure that those are your thoughts? I was. I was wrong.

A good girl said to me “Oh, I see, they lobotomized you”. I think she was awesomely right about that.

So, you began working with high expectations, and you’re living up to them with some effort. You feel like you’re realising the dream of being a good self-made man. Maybe you even imagine yourself as a good father/mother. You’ll soon forget those thoughts. Follow me on Phase 3.

Phase 3: coping with expectations

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I remember one day (that was not my last one) in which I found myself saying “Coffee w/ ice-cream is the only moment of happiness of my day”. I think I was at least half serious. My manager laughed, told me how could I come up with something like that.

I was still a good worker, those days. I did my best. I still had hope. I thought that my project was neat, that I liked doing my best, after all. Yeah, maybe I was giving up some free time, but I felt that was a just choice.

My friends were worried about me, and one day a good one asked me why I was “disappeared”. I answered I was just doing my job. That I was tired, and had less time than before. I remember clearly that I thought “Poor child”. Poor idiot, I was.

Well, this quickly escalated towards the abyss. I was stepping down my stairway to hell. Or, was it the stairway to lower rooms? Well, that doesn’t change a bit.

It was ten-o’-clock. I was at the office, working. Had a quick call with a friend, telling him “I feel nice. I feel at home.” I’m… scared about that. I was in an empty room, alone, without sunlight, without hopes, nor dreams, nor personality. I was hollow. But I couldn’t feel it. It just felt… comfortable.

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There is more: when you find yourself in that state, you have to justify it to yourself. You gave up on everthing else than work, so work must be nice for you. This means that you’re 200% into it, and you… likely love your manager.

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People around you are losing everything they have. As said before: hopes, dreams, personality. Any objections to that that may arise from any workaholic is overwhelmed by the fact that YOU’RE NOT LEAVING YOUR WORKSTATION until late in the evening. At that time, you’re exhasuted. You just automatically give up on your social activity to survive. You’re not totally aware of that, though. You think it’s normal. I thought it was normal too.

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That’s game for them. Game over for you. You cannot do anything at this point. Or, maybe, you are lucky enough that it just happens…

Phase 4: coping with expectations BURNOUT

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I was tired. Very tired, I mean: sleepy. I had some family problems too, so I was sleepy and worried. One of my managers was also keeping high pressure on my work. Passively complaining about my low performance. I took the initiative and talked about that with the other manager. He said that it was a problem, that I should keep up the good work. I told him I couldn’t, as I was out of resources, that I needed help, that things could be actually managed better. He answered me:

“Keep your head low and just listen to my advices”

I warmly answered that I was a professional and, as such, I had to express my opinion. He talked with the other manager, menacing to remove all my activities from my task list. Few minutes later he called me and re-assigned all the work.

The thing escalated when I expressed my strict need to come back home ON TIME (at 18:00). He said it was impossible, and that a talk with my Performance Manager was needed. They suggested me to change work.

Well, I refused. This brought me to Phase 5.

Phase 5: forced dismissal

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Oh, nice. So, I was staying. They couldn’t do anything to change it, I had a strong contract. Or… could they?

Time passed. I felt frustrated. Disengaged. Those feeling were conveyed in a decision: resignation. Oh, finally!

They asked me to stay: they could change things for some time. I could work on a single project, and keep a sustainable working schedule, 9:00 to 18:00. Oh, fine. Really? Why not before? I was surprised. Even a bit excited for the resign->victory transformation.

What I missed, though, was that I was being carried by a conveyor belt far away from headquarters. In an incinerator? No, close enough: in quarantine.

They assigned me to a shallow project. Few activities. Few people. The project actually *could* be nice. But there was no intention to make it nice.

I did my best, by all means. Reached great results. Client was happy. Oh, about that, I need a sub-chapter here. Quick and painless.

Client is satisfied: you deserve a promotion! (Or maybe not?)

Previous year was over. Previous client said to us “Your work is of superior quality”. It was an influential one. My manager was satisfied. He was promoted. I was… well… left in the same position (in the well). Also, no bonus on salary. Yearly bonus is what all employees ache for. I was left without it.

No treasure. No level-up. Not a game you’d play. Wouldn’t you agree?

End of the little parenthesis. So, I was dumped. I was beginning to breathe again. But I realised a thing: I was not growing. I was not learning anything. And that was intentional. I had been intentionally frozen.

Well, my life is fire-aligned, so I thawed.

Phase 5b: forced dismissal free restoration of self

Hello, World! Hello world again. Oh, well, I resigned. I managed to resign. I’m so very happy about that decision right now.

I feel free to chase my dreams. To do what I love. To write articles, even!

I’m planning to complement my Computer Science studies with Biomedical Engineering, and then embarking on a great journey towards the innovation frontier. For now, I’m writing stories and exploring my creative horizons (have a look if you like).

That bad dream is over.

I wrote this article to keep you AWAY from those bays. There is NO opportunity in big consulting firms. They make you feel right, but it’s just illusion.

Follow your passions: there are lots of heart-taking jobs (note: “taking”, not “sealing”). Look for them. Seek them. Strive for them. Keep away from the spinning hell of nothingness called counsulting.

Extra Phase: Special Thanks

I’d like to thank that girl from before. She tried to save me while I was dragging her down with my misplaced enthusiasm. She’s a great girl. I hope the best for her (she’s already out of that work, therefore safe, I’m glad).

I’d like to thank my friend, that thought about me when I was “disappearing”.

I’d also like to thank another girl in that place, who has the courage to keep being herself even while working there. She’s strong, too. I admire her.

I also want to thank V and S. They both taught me what does “management” and “skill” really mean, and gave me a glimpse of what an enlightened working enviroment could be.

I’d like to say a big thanks to Arcaniversitas Live-Action Role-Playing Game: that fictional experience helped me realising that I was living in a fictional world.

Thank you all. Your helped me making it. Living, breathing, and having feelings, hopes, dreams and a personality again.

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