Nice! Are there drawbacks to this program? Of course. He continues:
“It takes 15-20 years of consistently excellent performance to reach the vaunted level of Partner Managing Director at this firm. One or two bad years and you’re out of the running. Why? Because for each bad year, you pretty much need to have three exceptionally good years to erase the black mark.
The Partners want to appoint new Partners as young as possible so that they can contribute for as many years as possible. This way, the firm gets the best return on their investment (in you). Ideally, they want you to stick around as a partner for approximately 20 years so you really need to get appointed no later than the time you reach the age of 45. This leaves very little margin for error throughout your career.
As a result, most aspiring partners know if they get a less-than-stellar review even just one year, they are pretty much out of the running for Partner. And they usually start to polish off their resumes at this point. By the way, the firm goes out of its way to help place you in a high level position so that you can become a potential client in the future.”
Similar thing happens at Accenture. I was suddenly flooded with recruiter inquiries a couple months ago. I wondered aloud to a colleague why I was suddenly getting so many calls from random recruiters. He pointed out that Fall is “recruiting season” at Accenture. Accenture pays out annual bonuses in the early Fall. Your rating and bonus determine whether you are on a likely Partner trajectory or not.
If you want (or need) to get off the fast track to partner, this is a good time to consider it. Recruiters know this and are eager to get you to leave your job at Accenture and take a sweet job elsewhere. And let me tell you the jobs are definitely sweet!
Here are a few examples of the types of jobs that recruiters pitched me last year: CTO for a fast growing technology startup that has started the IPO process; A large IT shop that is well on the path to transforming to a cloud services model needed someone to create a “sales organization” to sell their services to their internal lines of business; An established company that needs a leader to begin their cloud transformation process. I could go on.
Is It Worth It?
Money ain’t everything, brother. I doubt that the majority of people who make it to Managing Director at Accenture do it just for the money. Honestly, there are easier ways to make a buck. The challenge, prestige and recognition are probably what drive most people to strive for partnership at a firm like Accenture.
I think the question you have to ask yourself if you are considering this career track for yourself is: are the sacrifices worth the rewards? You will travel a lot. You will spend a lot of time in airports and hotel rooms. You will miss your kids’ soccer practice and piano recitals frequently. As a friend nicely put it, you have to “put your personal life on auto-pilot.”
And when you’re working in a distant city, there’s not much else to do but work work work. Clients can be difficult and adopt a blame-the-consultant-first policy when the shit hits the fan. And the shit ALWAYS hits the fan. How you work your way out of the mess is what determines whether you are “partner material” or not.
As my career counselor explained to me (we don’t have supervisors or direct reports at Accenture) as he and I were preparing for the 2012 laddering calls last Spring, “whether you want to be Partner or not, we use the exact same criteria to determine your annual bonus…so might as well give it a shot.” Good advice.