What does it really mean to be a corporate traveler? What kind of work is consulting any? What do you even do?
Some of the most common questions I get from social media followers, friends, and even my family are about my full-time job. I’ve crafted and delivered my responses to these questions so many times, I figured a blog post would be the perfect way to address a few common ones.
Here’s a peek into what my experience as a consultant at a big firm has been like.
So what is consulting anyway?
Have you ever watched Scandal? Well, consultants are basically like Olivia Pope (sorta)!
Companies (or individuals) hire consultants to help them solve/create solutions for their problems. That being said, there are endless possibilities to the types of consultants that exist. If there’s a topic, there’s an expect in that field, and thus someone who can consult others!
In my case, I work at a large firm supporting human capital consulting projects. Our teams help clients optimize their HR systems and the way they attract, retain, support, and interact with their talent.
Where does the travel part come in?
At larger firms, consultants with particular skills and expertise live in cities all across the country. To bring our clients best-in-class solutions to their problems, our consultants typically travel to their clients. This way we not only deliver great work, but also build relationships with our client teams.
That being said, travel schedules can vary greatly by project team. A “standard” travel schedule is Monday – Thursday at the client site and Friday at your home office, but firms have been doing a lot to make sure their consultants have considerable work/life balance. For some teams, that means traveling Tuesday – Thursday, other teams may work from home every few weeks. It truly depends on the client, the project, the team, and the work.
Do you pay to travel for work?
I’m sure the process is a bit different firm to firm, but I book my travel expenses on a corporate card (as opposed to paying on my personal card and being reimbursed). While I don’t personally come out of pocket for travel costs and expenses while traveling, my client is billed—it’s all in the contracts—so it’s important that I use good judgement and am reasonable with my spending.
It’s also important to note that, for the most part, I travel and work out of an office or conference room (as opposed to exploring and siteseeing in a city). In an effort to make the best use of travel requirement, many consultants decide to “alt travel” over the weekends. When faced with two consecutive weeks of travel, they skip out on the opportunity to go home and book flights to other cities for the weekend.
This is a great way to visit friends, attend events, and explore new cities before flying back to the client site on Monday mornings. OR, like in my case, it can give you the freedom to live between cities! With my stuff split between Dallas and Queens, I can travel to either city on a Thursday and be ready for a full week of work the next Monday.
What are some travel pro-tips?
- Whenever you can, try to book your flights on the same airline and your hotels within the same company.
- I prefer to fly American Airlines, mostly because their headquarters is in Dallas so I have a ton of flight options (as opposed to my Delta-loyal colleagues who travel in and out of Atlanta Hartsfield often). By flying American so often, I rack up “miles” and redeem them for personal/companion travel.
- The Marriott conglomerate is a clear winner for me when it comes to hotel loyalty. Since the acquisition of the Starwood and Ritz Carlton brands, they have hotels everywhere! And more stays translate to free nights, so I can redeem personal stays during baecations, weddings, etc.
- Learn to pack light and travel with a carry on—it’ll save time and money! From bypassing the luggage check-in line and avoiding the baggage claim delays, carrying overhead-friendly luggage is a true game changer.
How do you deal with traveling so much?
Being on the road so often can be tough, especially when it comes to making doctors’ appointments and attending social events during the week. And, let’s be honest, sometimes I miss sleeping in my own bed! But by planning ahead and developing consistent routines, I don’t have much trouble with the lifestyle.
Despite the travel, my fiancé and I have a pretty predictable communication schedule, I can maintain my fitness and wellness regimen on the road, and I can really focus on my client work. I know things may change later down the line when I start a family of my own, but I’ll cross that bridge when it gets here. For now, the job, the travel, and the lifestyle work for me!