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Leaving PA

#1 Leaving PA
08/12/2010 22:43


I'm very pleased to be able to say that I will soon hand in my notice from PA.

I've been there for quite a few years and have seen some good times but the downward slide in recent years has been terrible.

I recall seeing a discussion on here about how PA takes an aggressive stance towards leavers but a search has revealed nothing so maybe the threads have been archived.

I'd appreciate any thoughts on what to look out for so I can ensure that I make a trouble-free exit and avoid any traps that PA may set. Many thanks in advance.

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#2 RE: Leaving PA
08/12/2010 23:30

Anon II to Anon (#1)

I am considering joining PA, based on the following perceptions:

- Globally-recognised firm

- People I've met all seem very friendly, grounded and supportive

- Exposure to large Corporates and a lot of Govt. work (which I find interesting)

- Not supposed to be the worst in terms of work/life balance (got that impression from surveys, forums, etc.)

- A lot of clients based in London, which can mean avoiding too much travel

- More pure consulting focus than many direct competitors (e.g. Tax/Audit and Big 4, Outsourcing and ACN).

I am not of top-tier calibre (on paper), so the alternatives I'm benchmarking the above points against are Big4, ACN, boutiques, and the like. I am also in processes with other firms from this grouping.

The fact that the only time PA is mentioned on this forum is to defame everything about it, and that current PAers themselves rarely even pitch in to defend the company (and hence the value of their own CV) is all very discouraging.

Please, Anon, can u expand upon your reasons for leaving, and challenge any misperceptions I mention above? Also, what kind of exit opportunities have you found to be open to you after a few yrs at the firm?

Thanks in advance, and I hope my post doesn't create an avalanche of PA hatred and take the attention off your own original request for advice.

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#3 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 00:23

Turn the lights off... to Anon II (#2)


Lie about why you are leaving - tell them it is you and not them

Don't take it personally when they react

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#4 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 09:46

B to Turn the lights off... (#3)

I recently left PA.

I had no issue leaving at all. Everyone was perfectly nice and understood my reasons for leaving. Consulting is a high-turnover business and that's understood. I still keep in touch with many of my former colleagues, who I get on very well with. I saw no evidence of a conspiracy to set traps for anyone leaving. I left for another consultancy (a super niche one) but there was never any mention of the non-compete clause in the contract.

I don't like the 3 month delay in collecting your annual bonus (awarded in Apr for previous calendar year), but I doubt PA is the only place that does that. I thought the handling of redundancies in 2009 was very poor, but at the CEO level, not the practice management (partner) level, where I thought it was excellent. I read on here that PA pay poorly, but having seen salaries for other big-4, ACN, etc, I actually think it's pretty competitive. As a top quartile analyst (entry level), I took home £38k in my first full year. Just before I left there was a rumour that the base/bonus split was to be shifted in favour of base too.

I came across a large number of really inspirational people at PA and really struggle to identify with a lot of the criticism you see on here. There are some poor people and practices that are struggling for work, but no different from anywhere else.

For the most part my work-life balance was very good, certainly better than I expected. It varies by project of course, but I spent around 25% of my time working 70hr weeks and the remainder sub 50hr. A very large portion of the work is London, saving on travel if you get on those projects (that said, I did spend a fair bit of time in continental Europe).

In summary, I quite enjoyed life at PA. You should have no qualms about leaving or joining. I'm surprised by the amount of vitriol directed at PA on this forum, but I supsect it comes from a disproportionately small number of people. Base your decisions on the people you meet and the work that you'll be doing.

Good luck!

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#5 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 11:03

Dave to B (#4)

OK, I gotta call you on this one.

"For the most part my work-life balance was very good, certainly better than I expected. It varies by project of course, but I spent around 25% of my time working 70hr weeks and the remainder sub 50hr."

So for 25% of your time you were on a death march, getting in the office at say 9.00am and leaving at 11.00pm (or, alternatively, regularly doing significant work at weekends)? That DOES NOT sound reasonable? So, assuming a 1 hour commute, you would leave home at say 8.00am and not get back until midnight every night?

And regarding the remainder being less than 50 hours - OK, not too bad, but could still mean 9.00-7.00pm every day, plus commute time (and you said there was a significant amount of continental travel, which usually takes a lot of time). So by the time you get home (if at all), you've basically lost the evening. Whlist not exactly the worst situation ever, I wouldn't exactly call it "ideal" either.

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#6 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 11:07

Dave to Dave (#5)

Forgot to mention the "cherry on the cake".... for such a "reasonable" lifestyle as you describe, you were paid £38K??

A lot of people in the public sector often get paid more than that and still manage to leave the office at 4.45pm every day (as opposed to your 11pm for 25% of the time)!

A couple of my mates are teachers. They earnt more than that on day one, get 13 weeks off each year, finish work at 3.15pm every day (contrary to what many teachers would have you believe, they DO NOT go home and then do another 5 hours of marking... most of it is done in their free periods when they don't have lessons to teach), plus they have the benefit of a strong union and many other perks such as gold plated final salary pensions.

We're suckers working as consultants.

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#7 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 12:04

Anon II to Dave (#6)

Thanks Dave.

I am considering a move from industry to consulting, and in my decision process have thought long and hard about the kind of thing you mention in your above post. I'm glad there are more ppl out there who see where consulting really fits into the grand scheme of things, and that being a consulting doent make u some kind of "Galactico" of the business world.

However, if you want to find a suitable vocation to dedicate the majority of your professional career to -something to make you happy-, but are currently frustrated by not yet knowing what that is, isn't consulting good to help you find out? Not to mention that it can open the doors necessary to ultimately get in.

If I were blessed with already knowing what I wanted to devote my life to, I would not touch consulting with a barge pole. Unfortuntely, I am not.

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#8 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 12:33

Dave to Anon II (#7)

I'm not sure how spending 70 hours a week doing process maps for some regional office of a random company or public sector organisation helps anyone decide what they want to do in life - other than to decide that they don't want to continue doing what they're currently doing.

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#9 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 13:13

I want to be a PA too to Dave (#8)

Dave, tell us more about a process map in the regional office of a random comapny or public sector organisation. Please be detailed and descriptive.

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#10 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 13:45

Anon II to I want to be a PA too (#9)

Maybe it's doing process maps for several industries that allow you to realise which industry appeals to you. Or maybe you find your calling outside of your consulting endeavours, and the fact that you're a consultant allows you the flexibility to join an In-House Process Map team in whatever the sector may be.

I don't know mate. Just trying to take a "glass half full" stance, throw me a bone :) However, apart from a 5-month internship in a strategy boutique, I'm not even a consultant. So if you feel I'm talking through my ar$e, you're probably right.

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#11 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 14:20

qq to Anon II (#10)

To take the opening doors analogy:

1) Before you put a lot of effort into trying to find a key to open a door - try the handle first!

2) If you don't know which door you want to open then getting a bunch of keys is not hugely helpful.

Honestly - don't go into consulting unless you want to be a consultant. If you want to be something else then go and do it directly. If you don't know what you want then consulting will take you in a random direction.

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#12 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 15:40

B to qq (#11)

To clarify my remarks on work/life balance:

I came into consulting expecting 80hr weeks every week. I heard that consultants work hard, and being an ambitious young grad I wanted to experience it. Consequently, the hours I describe do seem reasonable to me.

I worked one project away from London where I worked from 8am to midnight, non-stop for 10 weeks. Most weekends I did a day or half day too. I had time to call my girlfriend, eat a slow dinner with colleagues and then back to work. It wasn't enjoyable, I actually lost weight from the stress and I had a 4hr drive to and from site each Mon/Fri.

I also worked a couple of jobs spanning say 12 months that were 20mins from my central London flat. I would do about 8-5.30/6 and go home. I thought that was very relaxed.

When I was in Europe, I had a couple of early (5am) starts to catch a flight, but even then the hours worked out at about 50/week.

So in summary, my experience of PA was generally reasonable work/life balance.

On the pay thing - as a fresh grad I earned more than every other uni mate I knew other than those in dentistry and investment banking. And I enjoyed (and still do) what I got paid to do.

As it happens, I know two young teachers who get paid about £22k and work till 10pm every night. They also enjoy what they do (and the holidays too, I'm sure).

We all have different experiences. I just hope that by sharing mine people can make an informed choice, rather relying on generalisations and 2nd or third hand accounts.

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#13 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 15:58

Dave to B (#12)

OK, this fascinates me.

Edited sections follow:

"I worked from 8am to midnight, non-stop for 10 weeks... Most weekends I did a day or half day too... It wasn't enjoyable, I actually lost weight from the stress and I had a 4hr drive to and from site each Mon/Fri."

"my experience was generally reasonable work/life balance"

Clearly you have a different definition of "reasonable" to the rest of us!


"As it happens, I know two young teachers who get paid about £22k and work till 10pm every night."

Believe me, teachers don't get paid 22k and nor do they work til 10pm every night. They REALLY don't. Home by 3.15pm every day is more like it, with 13 weeks holiday and marking done during free periods. But, talk to any teacher and they will tell you they work all hours. Generally such people are just whiners and exaggerators. You want to see hard work? Go and shadow a 1st year McKinsey associate in their FS practice. Doing the work of a goldman sachs boy but for £40K a year. Now THOSE poor sods know the meaning of hard work.

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#14 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 16:20

B to Dave (#13)

Hi Dave

I don't want to cause an argument so hopefully I can resolve the confusion.

I've tried to explain why I think my hours were "generally reasonable" - compared with my expectations, I worked fewer hours on average.

My expectations sound not dissimilar to your McK FS associate, and given that I probably worked less hours than a Goldman Sachs grad, I think we're actually in agreement?

Your definition of reasonable can of course be completely different. I'm cool with that. Given your knowledge of your own teacher friends, it's understandable!

On the teacher thing, you know teachers that work/get paid one thing, I know others that work/get paid something else. That's logical. Clearly neither case can be generalised (although we have a pretty small sample...).

In any case, this is a consulting forum. I'm sure there's a that has equally poorly informed debates about consultants! My original point was that contrary to what I've read on this forum on the past, PA's pay wasn't in my case any worse than what I understand other top/2nd tier firms pay.

If Anon II is to join PA then I can make no guarantee as to his/her pay or hours, but I can say mine were just fine. And hopefully he's/she's now heard someone stick up for PA!

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#15 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 16:22

ABC to Dave (#13)

qq, I don't see the doors thing the way you do.

I see the world being full of doors, the exact nature of what's inside each being unknown to us. Moves withing Industry involve a commitment to go through doors. Changing too many times is potentially a career and CV-destroying experience.

I think it perfectly reasonable that consulting be used as a way of having a quick look around, and moving on. After a while, if you realise you really liked what you saw inside one of them, it is likely you will be in a good position to be let back in.

Whether it will ultimately work out or not is then largely down to luck. However, as a strategy, I don't think it is to be so easily discarded.

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#16 RE: Leaving PA
09/12/2010 17:52

anon to Anon (#1)

I left about 2 months ago and had no problem leaving. My line manager was good about it and so was the partner in charge although both we're disappointed and tried to convince me to stay. I had finished my last project so I wasn't leaving anyone in the lurch. The process is fine if you have a good relationship with your LM but in the current circumstances i don't think anyone could blame your for leaving PA.

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#17 RE: Leaving PA
10/12/2010 17:52

anon to anon (#16)

I left within the last year and my departure was completely hassle free. The company (like any company) has its faults, but the way its lambasted on here is far and away off from the reality. I'm sure some who have never been employed by PA have added some flames to the fire...

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#18 RE: Leaving PA
10/12/2010 19:41

anon to anon (#17)

I DO work for PA and don't recognise the organisation that some posters on this site describe. Its the third consultancy I've worked for in my career and it has some good and bad points. At its best it has some brilliant individuals and great offerings, at its worst its has some people I really dont rate and delivers some sub-standard work. Hardly suprising in a large consultancy and certainly not unique to PA!

I don't know what drives some people to (in my view) rant but I would say that some of the posts in this thread do give a balanced view on the merits and otherwise of PA.

I hope the original poster enjoys their new role as they enjoyed some of their time at PA and looks back on what they gained in their time with the firm. My experience of some of those of who have moved on is that they see PA (like any major consultancy) as a career step. Some come back, some become customers and many are never seen again. Again, no different to any other consultancy.

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#19 RE: Leaving PA
11/12/2010 18:52

ex-PA to anon (#18)

Why leave at this time of the year? Hold on until April, as you will lose your bonus otherwise.

Also don't leave mid-month, as PA will stiff you for a full months leave allowance. Hold off resigning until Jan 4th, if you must.

As for the aggressive letters - yes they will come. PA will write to you reminding you in very strong tones of your non-compete and non-poaching agreements. They will also ask you to respond in writing that you accept this - do not respond in any form.

PA are a spent force. I spent 3 years of my life there and became a complete generalist focussing on waste of time public sector clients.

PA are really going to be stuffed in the spending crunch. The ID cards job worth £100m has really hurt them.

My advice to anyone joining PA?? Don't do it

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#20 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 10:56

The Squirrel to ex-PA (#19)


I can see it now. "Oh you're leaving, nice one old chap and to show there are no hard feelings, have some free holiday and a bonus,"

Get real - what company would give you holiday entitlement you have not earnt and a bonus when you resign?

You sound very bitter - which is a shame. It also sounds like you've decided to take control of your career - which is good.

I hope your new job is more fulfilling and that you will eventually see the benefit of your 3 years at PA. It can't have been all bad.

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#21 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 11:44

hippononnymous to The Squirrel (#20)

Squirrel, if you work an entire bonus period (i.e. if the 2010 bonus is paid for performance from 01.01 to 31.12, 2010), even if you leave before the actual date of payment of that bonus (which in this case may be April 2011), the bonus is yours. It may vary from contract-to-contract. I dont know how PA do it, but the contrary is usually illegal.

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#22 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 12:43

hipoo eater to hippononnymous (#21)

PA's bonus is entirely discretionary. I know of one person who resigned in the few days between bonus announcement on April 1st, and payment on April 10th.

They left with nothing ! What is more frustrating about PA's bonus is that they deduct employers NI and a large deferred element, so you only see nett 40% of the gross figure waved before you. Yet another way for PA to screw its staff over

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#23 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 13:59

ex-PA to hipoo eater (#22)

DO NOT leave before April 14 if you want to retain your bonus - PA will try to claw it back.

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#24 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 14:10

Another PA to ex-PA (#23)

Point of clarification - do not offer your resignation before April 14th.

PA will not try to claw it back. They will simply not give it to you in the first place

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#25 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 21:52

Anon to deleted (#0)

PA is the most unpleasant and stifling place I ever worked in over twenty years of working life. My advice, take what you can from them and then get out pdq! And yes, the bonus is all smoke and mirrors, never take it at face value!

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#26 RE: Leaving PA
12/12/2010 22:06

Anon II to Anon (#25)

The latter posts of this thread seem to have become the familiar theme of "PA is the worst place to work in the world". However, wouldn't it be slightly more helpful if you could substantiate such statements, by giving examples of why this is the case?

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#27 RE: Leaving PA
13/12/2010 13:15

The Squirrel to Anon II (#26)

Anon II - I wouldn't be surprised if the last few posts all came from the same user.

As stated by hippo eater bonus is discretionary - so nothing illegal there.

As for the other comments about how much is taken away in tax etc. These things are well known on this forum and not some big secret.

If you are leaving and want to receive your bonus. Don't hand in your resignation until the money is in the bank - simple.

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#28 RE: Leaving PA
15/12/2010 07:38

Balanced View: Chip on both shoulders? to The Squirrel (#27)

I was at PA for ten years and most of it was very positive. Here is my opinion....

Mostly, PA was very good for my career. I got opportunity to progress, do interesting assignments and work with some excellent people.

2009 was a bad year for PA and they handled the redundancies very poorly. People now just need to either leave or get on with it.

The bonus is what it is. Some years it was very high. Part is deferred and so most people who aren't lifers exclude that when considering their remuneration. There are some individuals with huge amounts of shares, but their wealth isn't my problem.

PA does face a challenging future. They were over-reliant on the UK Public Sector. They have lost a lot of good people across all ranks. Regardless, some very good people remain and I fully expect them to some form.

PA handled my leaving initially very well and then let themselves down with a legal letter and subsequent conversations. It is a shame really and totally unnecessary.

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#29 RE: Leaving PA
15/12/2010 18:22

anon to Balanced View: Chip on both shoulders? (#28)

"...then let themselves down with a legal letter and subsequent conversations. It is a shame really and totally unnecessary."

Not atypical. What happened?

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#30 RE: Leaving PA
22/12/2010 10:29

Anon to anon (#29)

Sounds par for the course from PA.

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#31 RE: Leaving PA
22/12/2010 10:31

The anon corrector. to Anon (#30)

If it's not atypical, why do you need to know what happened?

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#32 RE: Leaving PA
23/12/2010 16:25

another ex-PA to Balanced View: Chip on both shoulders? (#28)

Was it followed by a letter letting you know how to join their Alumni network?

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#33 RE: Leaving PA
25/12/2010 12:21

bopper to another ex-PA (#32)

happy xmas to all still unlucky enough to still be at PA.

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#34 RE: Leaving PA
27/12/2010 09:13

ex-PA to bopper (#33)

So why would PA's legal department want to threaten leavers?

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#35 RE: Leaving PA
28/12/2010 08:51

anon to ex-PA (#34)

PA as an organisation is very protective/controlling of its reputation.

That's why it has a person in the marketing team who is dedicated to posting anonymously on forums such as these in order to combat any hint of criticism. That's also why the use of these forums is closely monitored and people warned even if they just look at them.

The legal approach to controlling the behaviour of leavers is driven by that same mindset (which ultimately cascades from the CEO). It reflects so incredibly badly on PA, and makes it difficult for anyone who has left to maintain any sense of goodwill towards the organisation.

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#36 RE: Leaving PA
28/12/2010 17:41

Ex PA to anon (#35)

PA was the most controlling organisation and most distrusting of its staff that I have ever worked for. I wonder how many people actually take up the offer to join the alumni, my bet is not many.

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#37 RE: Leaving PA
29/12/2010 11:37

george to Ex PA (#36)

I joined the PA alumni after I left, but it's as if I hadn't....I get no benefit from it whatsoever! There used to be an alumni database (which you had to log into) with details (e.g. current position) of the few ex colleagues that had joined...In recent times, they made it a site open to the general public (i.e. no closed parts for members only anymore) and it has become totally useless.

PA: this is not how you manage an alumni network!

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#38 RE: Leaving PA
12/01/2011 22:21

ex-PA to george (#37)

I heard 400 people left PA last year - can't be that many left surely? Must be down to nearly 1,000 people now.

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#39 RE: Leaving PA
13/01/2011 11:10

ex-PAer to ex-PA (#38)

They are hiring again now though, but are struggling to attract decent staff for obvious reasons which have been outlined on this forum in great detail.

As for constricting - it is already happening. Old practices (eg SMP and BOP) have declined so much that they eventually just folded into larger remaing ones.

PA will really struggle now that the public sector work has largely disappeared

Sad to see really

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