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The requirements in the job post say may involve up to 70% travel, but what exactly does that mean? There are a variety of jobs that may involve traveling for work. Within the field of consulting, larger firms may have teams sent all over country or even all over the world.
I currently work at a consulting firm, and I am considered a Road Warrior. This means that I am in a group of individuals who travel at least 70% of the time. I looked for a job in consulting right out of college, specifically because I wanted the opportunity to travel.
What is consulting, and why are you traveling?
Consulting means that you are giving advice to another company; you are consulting them on a question that they have. There are many different types of consultants, and a company might hire a consultant for any possible reason.
An example may be the consultants in Office Space (1999 – a hilarious movie if you haven’t seen it yet). In the movie, consultants are brought in to “make business processes more effective”. Consultants get the opportunity to work with a wide variety of companies, so they often have a wide range of knowledge towards what may work and what won’t work. Consultants also offer an outside perspective on ways to make improvements. In Office Space and in real life, consultants usually spent a lot of time talking to employees and looking over company documentation, in order to make recommendations. Depending on what processes need improvement, firms might fly specialized consultants out to the client.
I am a technology consultant for banks. Banks need technology to automate processes and to monitor activity. I help banks figure out how to set the technology up, how to use the technology, and how to interpret the data they get out of the technology. Since not everyone within the firm has a technology background, I am often flown out to clients where technical assistance is needed. I am always sent to a client with a team, composed of other consultants who have more knowledge on banking regulations or finance.
What does travel up to 70% mean?
Travel up to 70% means that throughout the year, you must be willing to travel up to 70% of the time. One work week has 5 days, so traveling 70% of the time means you can expect to travel 3-4 days a week. This is accurate for me, as I often travel either Tuesday through Thursday or Monday through Thursday. It varies firm to firm, but at my company, we very rarely travel on weekends.
Let’s look at a month that has 20 work days. Travel up to 70% might mean that I work from home one week, then travel Monday through Thursday the next three weeks. Within consulting, the amount of travel will be dependent on client needs. Client preferences may range: some clients like having their consultants on-site, while others prefer that you work from home in order to save money. For most clients, we will travel on-site at least the first week in order to meet the client and to get all of the documentation we need.
Are there any benefits to traveling to to 70%?
When traveling for work, you get to experience some cities you would never have visited otherwise. Many companies will allow you to extend your trip through the weekend as well. You will have to pay for your own hotel at that point, but at least you didn’t have to cover the flight.
Maximizing points is a very common hobby of many consultants. We spend a ton of money traveling that is reimbursed by our companies. However, we get to keep all of the airline miles and hotel points, which we can use for personal travel later.
So what are the cons of up to 70% travel?
While occasionally you are traveling to cool places like New York or Chicago, it all depends on the client. You might find yourself working in Amarillo or Omaha instead. While you are traveling, you might be going to the middle of nowhere.
People also tend to get worn out of traveling so frequently. It’s difficult to join organizations or even gyms in your home town, because you can’t guarantee that you will be available during the week. It can be hard seeing all your friends grabbing happy hour without you, or it is even hard to date when you’re not available during the week. It gets even more difficult when you have kids; being gone 3-4 days a week is not a lifestyle for everyone.
That’s fine! How do I get into consulting?
Consulting is a competitive field, and falls under the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle. Also keep in mind that not all consultants travel. Smaller local firms might only travel within the city, whereas national and international firms will have a wider client base.
Fortunately, there are many different types of consultants that require a variety of backgrounds. For my position, our firm looks at people with business, finance, information technology or engineering degrees. There are also marketing consultants and HR consultants. Management consulting firms will often take a wide variety of degrees including English or politics, as long as you can prove that you are a good problem solver. No matter your background, the best way to get into a consulting firm will be through networking.
If you are still in university, you are in the ideal position to break into consulting. Look at your on-campus career fairs for consulting firms who are hiring. If your school has a consulting club, join it. You will want to prepare yourself by taking on leadership positions in your student organizations, and by researching case studies.
If you are out of school and are interested in joining a consulting firm, start looking at available opportunities online. Look at open positions at consulting firms and what the expected travel might be. If you can, try to get in touch with the firm’s recruiter and get to know them. The recruiter should be able to tell you if any open positions fit your skill set. Right now, there is a heavy demand for people with technology backgrounds. Learning to code can add amazing benefits to your resume.
I love my job in consulting with up to 70% travel, but I am lucky to be at a firm with a lot of awesome coworkers and great opportunities. I will definitely need to cut back on the travel once I have kids, but for now, I will gladly fly out once a week!