In Career

The Myths and Reality about Consulting

This is OBVIOUSLY a half tongue-in-cheek post about being a consultant.

I –love– my job, and there ARE perks to it (which I will mention below), but the flaws are also not things that many people would love to handle.

It isn’t as sexy or as glam as you think!

EVERYONE THINKS YOU HAVE FRIDAYS OFF

When we fly in on Mondays and leave Friday morning or afternoon, we don’t have the day off. Even if we leave Thursday nights, our Fridays are devoted to company stuff.

For instance, Monday to Thursday, I have to work at the client’s site and bill about 40+ hours a week or moreΒ depending on how much has to be done, and then on Fridays, I have to do ALL work-related stuff.

So my week is at least 50+ hours, and if you include travel, it goes up to 60+ hours.

My Monday starts with…

  • getting up at 4:30 a.m.
  • getting to the airport by 5:00 a.m.
  • going through security
  • on a flight by 6:00 a.m.
  • trying to shove my suitcase into the overhead bins
  • hoping I am able to sleep without getting a cramp in my neck
  • praying there are no kids or babies on the flight
  • trying not to get sick when the plane flies into crosswinds
  • landing and trying to find my way out of the maze that is the airport
  • grabbing the nearest cab
  • trying not to get sick in the backseat because they drive like maniacs
  • arriving at the client by 11 a.m.
  • working until 7 p.m. or later
  • knowing I have to work longer hours tomorrow to make up for the lost travel time
  • getting out exhausted, red-eyed, slightly nauseous
  • trying to hunt down my hotel and my dinner
  • flopping on the bed without a chance to do personal things
Then Tuesday to Wednesday, I am in at 7:30 a.m., out by 7 p.m. (not all of it is billable as some of it is not client-related but work-related anyway).
Thursday, my day starts with….
  • making sure I don’t forget anything in the hotel room
  • working as much as I can at the client site
  • trying to make it to the airport in time to get through security checks and take a breather
  • trying to find something NORMAL to eat in an airport that isn’t greasy and fastfood-like
  • getting on a plane that is probably delayed by 45 minutes
  • trying to shove my suitcase into the overhead bins without breaking anything
  • hoping I am able to sleep without getting a cramp in my neck
  • praying there are no kids or babies on the flight
  • trying not to get sick when the plane flies into crosswinds
  • landing and trying to find my way out of the airport with all my stuff
  • coming home exhausted and flopping onto bed
My Fridays, are STILL not totally “OFF” days no matter what you think.
Keep in mind that I already worked 40+ hours from Mon-Thurs, which doesn’t include the 10+ hours of traveling time.
On Fridays, I have to:
  • Finish up whatever I couldn’t get done at the client site
  • Work on company-related stuff
  • Do all my expenses and make sure I described and labeled everything correctly
  • Reconcile my cash and budgets for the project
  • Catch up on ANYTHING I couldn’t get done Mon – Thurs because I wasn’t at home
  • Unpacking some of my stuff but trying to keep it all together for the next flight in 2 days


PERKS:
  1. I can get stuff done on Fridays and no one hassles me about going into the office instead
  2. I collect air miles and hotel points for my future vacations
  3. I get to expense my meals and taxi cab rides

EVERYONE THINKS IT’S GLAMOUROUS TO FLY ALL THE TIME

Did you just read that long list above? Not so glam.

My top 3 pet peeves about flying:

  1. Getting motion sickness from the slightest of turbulences (I am very sensitive)
  2. Having screaming, crying, unhappy babies and small children on a closed cabin flight
  3. Having any flights delayed for any reason
Also, did I mention that you can get staffed in the Middle-of-Nowhere, USA?
You aren’t always in NYC, Boston, Los Angeles or any other sexy city. You can be in the littlest towns that no one has ever heard of!
PERKS:
  1. Air mile points, although it takes forever to get any kind of status
  2. Sitting in an airport chair by the gate is kind of calming… sometimes

EVERYONE THINKS STAYING IN A HOTEL IS FABULOUS

Everyone also forgets that hotels carry bedbugs, scabies and a whole host of other disgusting things. I am always wary of sleeping in hotels, no matter how many stars they have.

I also have to keep remembering all my stuff (it all stays packed in my suitcase), and I have to wipe down and make sure I check every nook and cranny obsessively to ensure I didn’t leave behind anything (*cough* cashmere travel wrap *cough*).

I am also wary of certain hotels, because some are very chemical/bleach-happy and my eyes reflect that in the morning, as I am ALSO sensitive to chemicals.

PERKS:

  1. Hotel points for future vacations
  2. Not having to clean anything before you leave
  3. Not having to remember your key all the time

EVERYONE THINKS EATING OUT ALL THE TIME IS A DREAM

Sometimes, you just want some simple pasta with garlic and parmesan cheese. You don’t WANT to eat out. Sushi is also not a daily option (all that mercury in fish, I have to be careful about my intake), and you might even get hassled by your manager to stop spending so much money.

Eating out is great, in small doses, just as how vacations are great in small doses. You need to NOT eat out for a long time, then go out for a treat. Otherwise, it just becomes a hassle and you end up eating the SAME DAMN THING every day because it’s the only meal you can eat and/or like that is within the project per diem guidelines.

EVERYONE THINKS YOU MAKE A LOT OF MONEY DOING NOTHING

I work hard. I also really do deliver value to the client.

I don’t make suggestions and plans, and then disappear into thin air.

I make it happen and they see results.

Sometimes I don’t, that’s true… but generally speaking, I work hard and I’m good at my job.

I don’t sit around and get paid to do nothing.

(That’d be boring anyway)

I have plenty I have to do, which includes helping younger hires who are fresh out of college who don’t have the first clue about what consulting is and how to do anything.

I am also in pointless meetings all day, and trying to play catch-up at night in my hotel room because frankly, you are too exhausted and mentally tired to want to go out and have a good time in any city you are in.

PERKS:

  1. I will not lie, I consider my salary to be an extremely good one for my age ($130k)
  2. I AM NOT COMPLAINING!
  3. I enjoy my job so when I work hard, it doesn’t feel like work sometimes πŸ™‚
  4. Sometimes there’s a hefty bonus if you’re really good

That’s it. That’s my job.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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16 Comments

  1. ana

    are you talking CAD or USD?
    how come you earn so much… associate/senior consultants in big4 companies earn max 60k€ (about the same in USD) . i live in north europe πŸ˜€

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      CAD.

      I don’t work for a company, I’m a freelancer.

      Reply
  2. WellHeeledBlog

    I’ve taken to ordering PB&Js during room service because I just want something unfussy.

    Since I started my job last summer, I’ve accumulated enough points for 3 round-trip flights to Europe, two round-trip flights to Canada, several more domestic short-hauls, and more than a week’s worth of hotel stays at a Westin or W. Whenever I feel exhausted dragging myself to the airport, I try to think of that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I go to the grocery store. Literally.

      Reply
  3. Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents

    We’re about to start travel season at my job and I relate to this post like woah. My boyfriend loves going to hotels (they remind him of an adult dorm), but I hate hotels after having basically lived in them the past two springs. Also, work travel gets lonely pretty fast and all the travel really eats up the edges of my weekend.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Exactly. The traveling kills you after a while.

      Reply
  4. Gen Y Finance Guy

    So true that traveling for work and having an expense account loses its luster after a few weeks. At least it did for me. Plus I gained a bunch of weight traveling on the companies dime.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      A lot of people go nuts in restaurants especially with all the fat, salt and sugar.

      Reply
  5. Alicia

    Have you watched the show House of Lies, about business/management consultants? You might get a kick out of it πŸ™‚ that said, I would not want to be a consultant. I don’t like any of the things you mentioned πŸ™‚ though your salary is appealing.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I want to watch it now since everyone keeps recommending it

      Reply
      1. Alicia

        @save. spend. splurge.: Not to be confused with House of Cards πŸ™‚ Both good shows, but VERY different.

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          Agh!!! I kept getting them mixed

          Reply
  6. Aleksie

    This kind of reminds me of how people think I’m on holiday when I travel for meetings or conferences. I’ve definitely been able to go places I normally wouldn’t go, which is cool, and have been able to go to more glamorous places, but I’m still there to do work. For some of the things I’ve done, I could technically take off and just hang out (others have). However, it’s really poor form to do that.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Not only that you have to be on your best behaviour (and wear appropriate stuff) ALL THE TIME

      Reply
  7. Kasia

    It sounds like a very demanding but rewarding job.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Sometimes it is rewarding πŸ™‚ depends on the project / client

      Reply

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