Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Down-Side with the Big Guys

In my previous postings, I have discussed the perks associated with traveling with a top-tier consulting firm. There are other advantages, besides reward points and per deim payments. One of these advantages is the exposure you will get to some of the worlds largest and most influential companies and the people who are running them. Above all, this is probably the largest and most overlooked perk you may receive while working for the big-boys. There are, however, many anti-perks and these should be considered before accepting a position with one of these firms.

Travel can be a huge perk, but it can also be the most significant anti-perk around. This is especially true if you are married; even more so if you also have children. The routine is to fly out to your client on Monday morning (or Sunday evening), work 10-12 hour days, then fly back home on Friday evening. This eliminates Friday as a “Home Day,” which means you only have Saturday and Sunday to spend time with your family.

Did I mention laundry? In the two days that you are home, you will have to prepare fresh clothes for the following week. To help alleviate the stress this may introduce, I would suggest having 10-sets of work-clothes. This includes socks, underwear, shirts, slacks, ties, etc. etc. This will allow you to rotate quickly over the weekend and give your spouse time to take care of your cleaning during the week.

So, what are you going to do during those two days home? Being a road warrior has made you numb to the treat of eating-out or staying in a hotel; but your family at home has still been living the “Home life.” You want a nice home-cooked-meal and your family wants a weekend out for dinner and fun. You want to relax in your living room and watch TV while your family wants to get out of the house. (Do you see what is going on here?)

Now, if you have kids, you can forget about seeing them in the many different assemblies and programs. If they play school sports, you can pretty-much cross them out too. How are you going see your daughter’s piano recital while you are 400-miles away? If your kids are young, the odds are that you are going to miss a significant number of “Firsts,” such as First-Word, First-Step, First-tooth-lost, First-day-without-training-wheels, etc. etc.

Oh, but it gets better. You see, the kids will not complain to you about this; but your spouse can, and will. You will hear it when the toilet backs up, you will hear it when a tire goes flat, you will hear it when a pipe breaks, you will hear it when the cable-tv goes out, and you will hear it when anything goes wrong and she needed you to be there to help make things better. I almost forgot, you will hear it because you are NOT there to cuddle after the kids go to sleep.

Over time, you will become numb to life on the road. Flying on an airplane will be the equivalent to riding in a car. Staying in a hotel, no matter how fancy, will be like staying at your home. On one trip, I was flying from St. Louis to JFK-New York and fell asleep in the plane before it even left the gate. I woke up and saw people gathering their bags and exiting the plane. My first thought was some mechanical problem was forcing us to take a different flight. When I looked out the window, we were in New York. I missed the whole flight – and didn’t care.

Eventually, being a road- warrior, weekend parent, and weekend spouse will take its toll on you and will force the realization of the situation. You can be married to your spouse, or married to your work; but, rarely does it work out so you can be married to both. I knew plenty of coworkers who were either divorced, cheated on their spouse, or was in the processes of getting a divorce. My choice was to divorce my job, which I did, and found the good-life of working for a middle-market consulting firm.

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