Depending on the firm one joins or the clients an independent contracts with, travel can be involved at some level. This week Lew and I discuss what a professional services worker needs to know about business travel.
1 – What is the most misunderstood concept regarding business travel?
Those that don’t travel for business think it’s much more glamorous than it really is; seeing new cities and sites. It’s really not a vacation. Most of the time is spent at the client site working, or in the hotel room. You may get to see a site or two of a new city, but there isn’t a whole lot of time for that.
2 – Is a lot of travel required of a consultant?
It depends on the firm that you work for. I’ve worked for firms that have offices nationally and worldwide. If you are unassigned and a project comes up in another city needing your skills, they most likely will assign you to the out of town project. The firm I currently work for tries to limit travel.
Some firms structure a project so that initial planning is done at the client site and all work is done in the firm’s local office – it depends on the firm’s and the client’s philosophies of “face time”.
Explain what you mean about “face time”
A bit of ‘consultant-eze’ jargon. This is a term that consultants use to make the firm comfortable with the hourly rates they are charging. Some firms want to be able to go to a room and see their consultants working. Others are much more concerned with the outcome.
It’s much more than just seeing them work. There is a certain security knowing that they can go to the consultants’ war room and get status prior to a meeting, rather than try to track them down by some form of electronic communication.
3 – What type of client-relations considerations should a consultant be aware of?
There are occasional perks with travel. Although you’re often on a limited travel budget or a per diem, you may get to try out one of the nicer restaurants in town or stay in a nice hotel. It’s important not to flaunt these niceties in front of the client, knowing that it’s on their dime, while they go home and make mac and cheese for the kids.
4 – Should someone ask if there is travel involved during an interview?
I would recommend never asking this. Even if it’s a deal breaker for you. If the firm requires travel, they will probably ask that early-on as part of their filtering criteria. If they don’t ask, it’s possible that it’s not a big factor. But if a firm doesn’t require travel and you ask about it, they may view you as someone who is either inflexible, or focuses on how convenient the job is rather than the actual work.
5 – What tactics would you suggest to a new consultant to make traveling more pleasant?
There are several things one can do:
– Make a checklist of everything you need. Depending on the number of days you will be out, list the number of shirts, pants, socks, etc. Also list important documents, files and work items you will need.
– Have frequent flyer accounts with airlines, hotels, etc.
– Have a passport. Even when you fast track a passport it takes time. Travel can come up at a moments notice.
– Dress for flying. I wear slip-on dress shoes to fly. Have an airport friendly carry-on. No sharp items, liquid sizes. Pack the jacket rather than wearing it.
– Always have reading material (both print and electronic). I always have work and pleasure reading available. E-readers are great for this.
– Research the city you are going to. If you do have time to see a site or go to a nice restaurant, be prepared. It’s also an opportunity to see an old friend or acquaintance that lives in the area. Just remember that this is for back-up purposes. You may work late, have team dinners or could be too tired to go out.
Supplementary talking points based on available time:
? – Attitude is a big factor – Can be stressful, be flexible…
? – Working in Transit – Plane, airport, train, car, hotel room…
? Setting up for quick travel – but avoid complacency. Always have a travel kit and suitcase ready, passport valid, cash/credit cards…
Next Week: Branding Yourself in the Firm