I am interviewing for a consulting position with a Monday - Thursday away travel schedule. I want to make sure I am ready to say yes, thinking through all the downsides to weekly travel. And of course to end the interview process if I realize that this isn't for me. The position itself, I think I would enjoy. I would be very good at it. It's a great company with a great reputation. It's a good opportunity. But, it's all travel. Does anyone have experience to share? Some details re me and the job:
I'm married. We have no kids or pets. We are both middle-aged. My wife has her own demanding job and puts in long hours. I would travel to the same city every week along with an entire project team. Which makes some routine possible. The pay would be excellent. And so far, it seems like expenses are covered generously (I would not ask for details until I have an offer of course). I'm on the east coast. The region of travel should be eastern U.S., maybe Midwest. They try hard not to have east-west coast travel. There will be exceptions at times.
My wife and I have discussed how we would handle it. She loves to travel and would occasionally meet up with me for a long weekend together in my away city. of course all expenses incurred would be on me. We did this at my last job without issue. Any other thoughts on how to deal with so much travel? Anything you would caution me on? Any questions I might want to ask, at the right time, about how they manage travel expenses, scheduling, etc?
I've had had to travel plenty for work in the past and have listened to every single MT podcast related to professional travel. I'm looking for advice on how to determine if this is a good career decision. And what questions to ask the employer or myself or my spouse to make sure we have thought this decision through.
Thanks in in advance for any help, Jeanne
Hi. I had a few thoughts
Hi. I had a few thoughts regarding your post and as an independent consultant, I've spent much of my career travelling to where my next client is.
Positives I thought of from your post:
1. You've discusses with your spouse and it sounds like it would be a joint decision which is good news
2. It's travel to the same location and you make a good point regarding some degree of stability this does provide
3. You're on the road with a team. This also is a plus as camaraderie helps when away from home and staves off any occasional loneliness
4. Money and company are good.
1. Travel is a tiring activity. Spending time on planes / trains and automobiles is a wearisone activity. It may not get you at first but over the years without good coping mechanisms, extended holiday etc I found it tiresome
2. You may lose touch with friends and family. Relationships erode when you're not there - it's normal for that to happen so you'll need to put effort in to ensure you guard against this.
3. Knowing it was for a fixed period of time and not forever always helped me. Is there a fixed duration to the travel i.e. does it stop when this project is delivered or is it likely to be endless whilst you work for this organisation?
Good luck with whatever you decide.
Thanks for the thoughts
Thank you, this was helpful.
A pretty standard tactic is to send your laundry out as you leave and pick it up when you come back. Less lugging dirty clothes back and forth.
Thanks for the tip. I'm a very light business travel packer. Beng an ultralight backpacker helps with this, I have lots of travel gear and stuff sacks weighing next to nothing. And I was thinking of doing this with dry cleaning. Outsourcing all the laundry at the remote site is a nice idea. Nice to not have to bring home dirty gym clothese for sure!
My 2 cents after 4 years on the road
Here's my thoughts from spending the last 4 years on the road... I hope it helps!
I think the main questions/discussions need to be between you and your wife. Questions I would encourage the two of you to discuss include: What will change about our current lifestyle - things like hobbies, time with friends/family, who does stuff around the house, who cooks, who does the shopping and other errands, who will handle finances...a lot of that will change. When I talk to candidates for our presenter role here at Manager Tools, I tell them that there's more that happens at home Monday-Thursday than they may realize. And if you're the one who handles a lot of that stuff now, that will likely change. You need to discuss all that with your spouse to make sure she really understands and is okay with taking on a lot of those responsibilities while you're gone. Even though you don't have kids or pets (that's the same situation for me and Tim), there's still a lot going on. And honestly, when I'm traveling, all that falls onto Tim's shoulders. We actually recently completed all the power of attorney paperwork giving Tim the ability to sign everything and anything for me just because it's so hard to take care of stuff with me only home on Fridays. And you'll be tired when you get home and won't always feel like doing errands or going out with friends - but you still need to!
I would also encourage you to discuss how you're going to handle the communication between the two of you when you're on the road. Will you talk every night? For how long? Phone or webcam? What if one of you is tired or don't feel like it? This was probably one of the hardest things for Tim and I to figure out because we didn't discuss it at all and we both had completely different expectations. It took us a good 6-8 months to figure it out and come to a solution that worked for both of us. And there's still lots of compromise! We also decided that certain topics are, for lack of a better phrase, "off limits" when I'm on the road. Things that are serious or tend to be tense conversations need to wait until I'm home and we can discuss fact to face. That way when it's over we can hug it out. :-)
There's really nothing too trivial for you two to talk about in advance. And the more you talk through things, the more you'll be on the same page. Almost all the conflict Tim and I had at the beginning came down to different expectations because we didn't talk about things. We really underestimated the how different life would be.
Once you get an offer, then you can start asking the company more questions: How much travel is involved and to where? How far in advance will you know you need to travel? How will travel arrangements be made? How are expenses handled - will they give you a company card or do they expect you to submit expenses for reimbursement? Do you have to fly a certain airline and stay at certain hotel chains? What happens with your frequent traveler points/miles - do you get to use them for personal travel or do they expect you to use them for business travel to keep expenses down? What are the policies around travel expenses -- do they have a limits on what you can spend and if so, is it a per diem limit or is it by trip? (I once worked somewhere where we couldn't spend more than $15 on dinner - pretty much impossible!) Are they okay with your spouse coming with you as long as you cover her expenses? What are the expectations for Fridays -- will you work a full day on Friday after traveling all week or is there some flexibility? How much flexibility for other days you're not traveling - will they give you time to take care of personal appointments - doctor, dentist, haircuts, etc...or do they expect you to do all that on your own time? (That would be really, really difficult!!) I would also encourage you to ask if there's someone else doing that job that you can talk to and ask about their experience.
There's a lot of benefits to being a road warrior! The miles/points can be awesome if you're company lets you use them. And if your spouse has flexibility with her job to join you from time to time, that can really help, too! Tim will usually come with me every 6-8 weeks which makes a big difference in our quality of life.
You will absolutely need to work harder to stay in touch with friends and family and make an effort to get together with them when you're home, even if you're tired. This is where texting and Facebook can be helpful -- I make sure to text my closer friends and my mom several times during the week so that I don't completely lose touch. And I try to let them know a few weeks in advance when I'll be home so we can make plans when I'm home, even if it's just getting together for lunch or coffee.
I hope this helps! Good luck with your decision!
Manager Tools, LLC
Thank you Dani
So much information here to process. I've already printed out all the "talking points with spouse" components and we are going to have regular discussions. I think that consulting with much travel is in the cards for me. It's a logical and I think necessary next step in my career. But I don't need to take the first or even second offer. So this advice will help me decide if the particular offer is a good one. And will prep me to succeed when I do accept an offer. As an introvert my first thougt was to entirely dismiss any suggestion of Facebook or having to work harder than I already do (which is very little) to maintain friendships. Pretty much those are weekend activities for me. But calling mom and spouse and young nieces - you are right. I need a well thought out strategy and discipline for making those phone calls and letter writing and FaceTime during the week. And I cannot spend the weekend house cleaning. Paying someone to help out makes sense. The backpacker in me made me think about eating healthy "on the trail". I can prepackaged instant oatmeal with nuts and fruit so I have a healthy breakfast while keeping down expenses. I can do the same with lunches and after work snacking. I am concerned about having to make decisions all day around eating meals out. If I ever implement any of the ideas I'll captured at them. And I'll certainly post if and when I have started a travel-heavy job.
Thank you for the thoughtful response. Good foundation for a future podcast series I think. Jeanne