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by Vault Consulting Editors | March 10, 2009

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If investment banks are famous for their infinitely long hours, consulting firms are known for perpetual travel. But will all consultancies park you on a plane the moment you set foot in the door? Vault.com turned to our insiders to find out.

In general, consultants can indeed expect to travel a lot - but there are no guarantees. Some consultants report "being on a project in our consulting firm's home city, where the most travel I did was catching a taxi every morning," while another young consultant says: "I started work on Monday. Tuesday, I was shipped off on a six-month project in Canada which actually ended up being eighteen months."

Then, there's the commuting. Many consultants complain that in their field "the hours are already 60 hours plus, and then there is all the damn airplane time. The travel is the worst, just the worst." A typical consulting firm tells its consultants to "expect to be out of the office several days each month during your first year and 2 to 3 days each week in subsequent years." Many consultants would say that's on the low side. "Travel can take up to 80 percent of your time," say consultants, and many note that they are "required to be available for travel 100 percent of the time." In general, say consultants, "travel is the rule."

This doesn't mean that travel is all that bad. Some consultants actually think that "the extensive travel" is "a big perk." One consultant gloats: "If you want frequent flyer miles, you got 'em!" Some consulting firms try to make travel fun; one offers "free business class airfare for employees and their spouses when flying to international locations." A former analyst raves about his travel experiences, citing "the unbelievable opportunities to travel around the world and enjoy yourself in style. Things I did because of my consulting job: flew the Concord, went to the winter Olympics, took a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, gambled in Monte Carlo, opera at Covent Garden, dinner in the Eiffel Tower, a summer afternoon at a topless beach in Nice, and the list goes on." Some consultants feel in-control by traveling; one says: "As a consultant, you work very independently, always traveling around the country, so in effect you are your own boss.

Despite its initial novelty, for many consultants travel becomes wearisome. Many consultants feel that the "travel stops being a perk after the first three or six months, and then becomes a royal pain." Others caveat that "if you're travelling-which is about half the time-you're away from home a lot more than this. There is some flexibility to when you schedule your work. Generally weekends are free if you want them to be-but not always." Consulting firms realize this, and most try to strike some kind of "balance between work and personal life." Many firms now offer a "Fridays-in-the-office" policy to ensure that employees spend the weekends at home (or at least, at their home office). Others have a telecommuting policy, which permits consultants to spend some days at home. Still, many consultants say the job "is best for those who are unattached" since "you're rarely home."

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Filed Under: Consulting
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