Strategy Consultant Who Moved Back to the East Coast
Chelsea recently returned to the East Coast after a stint in Chicago. She now pays almost ⅓ more in rent to live in a walk-up in NYC instead of a luxury apartment but doesn't regret it because she's closer to family, friends, and a city with more Retail and Tech opportunities. As a 1st generation Asian American, she adopted a thrifty mentality and values financial independence and security. This philosophy guided her decision to pursue consulting as a career, but she also enjoys the travel perks! While she is not super strict about monitoring her spending and budgeting, she practices the basics (maxing out retirement accounts, using high-interest savings accounts, and auto-investing in ETFs) and typically eats in. Chelsea tells us about moving to NYC and her thoughts about a career in consulting.
*Name is altered to protect identity.
Interview with Chelsea:
Why did you leave Chicago? How has NYC and, more recently, the COVID transition been for you?
I loved living in Chicago, but it's a different pace and vibe than the East Coast. I thought I'd stay in Chicago longer, but I was traveling back and forth to NYC a lot to see family and friends, and ultimately, it just made more sense to be closer to home. I've also been passionate about Retail and Tech, and being in NYC gives me a lot more opportunities to explore that.
Overall, the transition was pretty easy since I was already very familiar with the city and had many connections here. Still, it was an adjustment getting used to the cost of living! When I was in Chicago, I paid about 2/3 of what I pay now for a high-rise apartment with a gym, rooftop pool, and located right by the beach. Now I'm living in a compact walk-up in East Village -- but still wouldn't change anything! During COVID, I moved back home to Philly for a couple of months, and it was a bummer to be away from the city during my first year here. All my work is remote now, which has changed consulting dynamics, but we're working on finding ways to stay more connected as a company.
Did you consider staying at your old job and transferring offices? How did you approach your job search when you decided to come back to NYC?
I was offered a position in NYC with my previous firm, but their NYC office was a lot smaller and focused primarily on M&A. I considered transferring first to NYC and then looking for other jobs. Still, the timing was tricky because I wouldn't have been able to move until my first review cycle was up, and I would have had to sign a new lease by then. I started looking for other opportunities and was lucky to have this as a backup option if I didn't get any other offers. One of the perks of changing jobs when you're moving to a city is the opportunity for a relocation bonus, which helped with the move!
I was pretty strategic about my job search process and wrote a Medium article about it here. It's important to reflect on what you're looking for and have a timeline/plan of what tasks you need to do to get there (i.e., update resume, network, interview prep, etc.) Also, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking and the power of a cold email! I got two job offers and multiple referrals through cold emails. Many people are willing to help because they can often get a nice bonus from it as well. The process can move pretty quickly if you make a strong impression, especially at smaller companies, so be prepared for potential interviews. Ideally, if you can line up multiple opportunities, that'll also help with negotiations, so one thing to consider when you think about your timeline.
Can you walk us through how you negotiated your additional signing bonus and start date?
When I received my offer, a recruiter reached out to me with a contract that outlined my salary, bonuses, start date, and benefits. I extended my start date by about three months because I was still finishing my first year at my previous firm (and would have to return that bonus if I left before a year) and wanted to give myself some time off to move and travel. I mentioned this to the recruiting, and it was pretty easy for me to get it updated since I hadn't applied to a specific role they needed to be filled immediately.
In terms of bonuses, I had back and forth calls with recruiters. I listed out my challenges, including the costs of moving to a new city and having to travel back and forth to find an apartment in time, and mentioned other offers I had that were more competitive. I came in knowing I would likely take the offer even if they didn't give me any other benefits since I was coming in at a higher level than I was expecting. Still, I asked for a higher base salary, a higher starting bonus, and more vacation days. It's always helpful to ask for more so the final result is close to what you're expecting. In terms of base salary and vacation days, those are constant for all employees based on firm policy, so they could only offer me a higher bonus, which I then gladly accepted.
We love your point about negotiating things other than your base salary. Are there other things you wish you had negotiated?
I think I was a bit limited in what I could ask for given firmwide policies and an already competitive package, so I can't think of anything else I could've gotten, but a couple of general things that come to mind are:
- Position / role
- Relocation bonus
- Compensation for moving fees (little different than relocation bonus depending on what your costs might be)
- Length of bonus return period
- PTO / vacation days
Why isn't consulting a long-term fit?
It's not a typical 9-5 job and can be unpredictable in terms of work/life balance. Especially pre-COVID, if you're on a traveling project, you might be heading to the airport at 4 am on a Monday and getting back late on Thursday. The lifestyle works for me for now because I'm young and don't have any obligations tying me down, but many people leave the industry after a couple of years if they want to be home more or have better hours.
I could see myself changing careers anytime an opportunity comes up. I'm not actively looking for a new opportunity, but I occasionally take calls with recruiters or check out job boards to see if anything looks interesting.