Traveling in consulting can be both a blessing and a curse. For the first year or so of my consulting career, I always wondered what to do in a new city each evening. I felt immense pressure to do something exciting like trying new restaurants or bars, but it wasn’t easy to get out after a long day at work. I normally resorted to “Netflix and Chill” (by myself, of course) each evening, but opening my laptop always ended up with me sending off another email or finishing up a presentation. The last thing I want to do after work is… work. Then one day, I discovered one of the biggest travel hacks that changed has my life as a consultant to this date: the Amazon Fire Stick.
Yes, I know you’ve heard of a Fire Stick, but have you ever thought of using one on the road? You can easily plug in a Fire Stick to any hotel TV and watch your favorite moves and shows on the big screen. This has been absolutely life changing, and I now take my Fire Stick everywhere I travel.
Here are some of the things you can do every single day on the road with this travel hack:
Play music from your TV (that’s right, no more bringing speakers if you like to jam out in your hotel room!)
Stream workout videos from YouTube and get in shape
Live stream your favorite shows & sports games
There are so many incredible uses for a Fire Stick when you’re on-the-road — it’s really hard to believe that many consultants and travelers don’t have one. After the first few days of using it for travel, over half of my project team bought one for themselves and had me to thank!
Bottom line, this is a must have for consultants and quite possibly the best travel hack I have come across after years in the industry.
Having a pair of quality headphones is a must for all working professionals, especially consultants. The Bose QuietComfort 20 headphones are hands down the best headphones I have ever used — they have great audio, are travel-friendly (not bulky, over-the-ear headphones), and drown out outside noise with the flip of a switch. While these headphones may not be the right choice for everybody, they are perfect for the traveling consultant.
Amazing Sound Quality
Bose is world-renowned for producing top-quality consumer headphones. The QuietComfort 20 is no exception. These in-ear headphones deliver excellent sound quality using Bose’s proprietary Active EQ and TriPort technology.
Noise Cancelling Capabilities
Normally, noise cancelling headphones are over-the-ear; there are very few in-ear noise cancelling headphones that exist. These headphones are able to deliver noise cancelling capabilities that rival even the top over-the-ear headphones. CNET calls these headphones “top performers in the noise cancelling earbuds category”, and Amazon reviewers agree. Here’s what one reviewer said:
“I think that these may have just saved my life. […] My downstairs neighbor gets home every day around 2 a.m. and without fail he is always on the phone. I tried the silicon, foam and even some weird elastic ear plugs and none of them worked, nothing seemed to be able to drown out this guys vibrating voice. [With these headphones] I can no longer hear what felt like my neighbor’s vibrating voice, my neighbor above me walking and slamming things at 6 a.m., or even my boyfriend getting home and walking on the creaky floors; its all drowned out COMPLETELY.”
Needless to say, having an effective pair of noise cancelling headphones is a must for consultants, and these headphones definitely deliver.
I have never had a pair of in-ear headphones fit this well. They’re extremely comfortable and never fall out of my ears. I regularly used them for 4 hours straight to drown out airplane noise when flying coast-to-coast on red eye flights without any discomfort. As a bonus, Bose offers multiple size options in their Stay Hear+ tips so that everyone can find their perfect fit.
A pair of good headphones is a great investment for consultants, especially when traveling. In addition to taking day-to-day client calls and listening to music, these headphones are great for all-day (and night) use with their comfortable earbuds and noise-cancelling capabilities. For full specifications as well as customer reviews, visit Amazon’s website.
Consulting isn’t an easy job — we commonly work 80+ hours a week, fly coast-to-coast, and juggle conflicting priorities. Over the course of my time in management consulting, I’ve found the following essentials to be crucial to making the grueling life on the road survivable.
Headphones are probably the most commonly-used gadget for consultants (aside from their smartphones, of course). They’re used to drown out noise in airplanes, take client calls, and listen to music. I probably use headphones upwards of 6 hours a day — that’s over 2,000 hours a year! A great pair (or two) of headphones go a long way in making life just a little bit easier. Here are the two I use:
If you travel for work, investing in the right luggage is a must. Luggage should be the right size for your belongings, easy to use, durable and stylish. I use two pieces of luggage on a daily basis — my carry on luggage and laptop briefcase.
Wearing a nice watch to work can go a long way. An often overlooked and understated accessory, a watch can add flavor and style to any look. That being said, a nice watch does not mean a $10,000 Rolex. There are dozens of well-crafted & well-priced watches on the market for both men and women.
Taking some time away from work to unwind and relax is important to manage day-to-day stress. I love to read books during my free time, and a Kindle is an affordable way to have access to a lifetime’s worth of reading material.
It’s not uncommon for folks outside of consulting to really wonder, “What is consulting?” What consultants do on a day-to-day basis depends on client / project, travel schedule, and level. While there is no “typical” day in consulting, I’ll try to take you through what a day in the life of a consultant could look like from my own personal experience after 2+ years in consulting at a Top 5 firm.
6AM – Alarm
My 6AM alarm rings and I remember the promise I made to myself the night before: to work out. Feeling tired and slightly hungover after a team dinner & drinks, I turn it off and wait for the next alarm to wake up. Truth is, I make myself that promise every night — it rarely gets fulfilled.
7AM – The Real Alarm
Okay, now it’s really time to get up. Before I get out of bed, I immediately reach for my phone to check my email and make sure there were no fire drills (i.e. client emergencies). I start getting ready, thankful I remembered to pack all my personal care items this week (this kit has pretty much everything a man could need, travel sized).
(Pro Tip: For a quick & comfortable shave each morning, try Philips OneBlade — this changed my life).
8AM – First Call & Leave for Work
After getting ready, I quickly call an Uber to work and take out my AirPods to hop on my first call of the day with our offshore team in India. I’m hoping I don’t have to speak because I’ll probably lose service in the elevator down and will have to drop the call when my Uber driver inevitably calls to tell me they have arrived (to all the Uber drivers out there, we know when you arrive. Give us a minute.).
8:30AM – Coffee
Once I get to the office, I put my things down, grab a co-worker or two, and go get a coffee to start my day. I prefer higher-end coffee shops (e.g. Blue Bottle), but I can settle for Starbucks. My order is a trenta cold brew (black), in case you were wondering. After numbing myself to the effects of coffee over time, caffeine rush lasts only about 3 hours.
10AM – Daily Scrum Meeting
After firing off emails and sipping on a burnt-tasting cold brew for most of the morning, our team’s daily scrum meeting time approaches. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is when the whole team gets together in a room and talks about what they are working on. In my opinion, a colossal waste of time. But yes, we do this… every. single. day.
11AM – Client Calls
I don’t like to schedule my client calls first thing in the morning because I’m typically still half-awake, so I take a couple from 11 till lunch time. These calls are typically either design / requirements gathering sessions (common when working on a technology project) or meetings to work through some sort of issue or fire drill (most of the time they aren’t even real issues — they were self-created through one misinterpreted client comment followed by several games of telephone down the chain of command).
Pro Tip: Always offer to schedule meetings for your team and client. It’s a bit of manual work, but you get to choose a time that works well with you.
1PM – Lunch
It’s finally time for lunch. I try and push myself (and my team) to eat as late as possible because it makes the 2nd half of the day seem shorter, but since I don’t eat breakfast I’m famished by this time. I offer to order for the team in most cases (this way, I get to pick the restaurant), and we get it delivered through Uber Eats or Postmates. I’m typically still in calls when lunch arrives, so I send an analyst down to go play Where’s Waldo with the delivery guy.
2PM – More Meetings
If you haven’t noticed, meetings are a trend. I spend roughly 80% of my days in meetings, which leaves me 20% of my time to do actual work. This is the cost of keeping senior leadership and the client happy and informed while still trying to get your job done.
3PM – Leave for Airport
I traveled from the west coast to the east coast and back during the work week, so I pack my beloved Tumi laptop bag and leave for airport earlier than most folks. On the way to the airport, I take another client call (it’s incredible how many calls you get invited to when you have a little subject matter expertise).
Pro Tip: Remember to block off time on your calendar if you don’t want meetings scheduled — when I was on the west coast and had east coast clients, I always blocked off 5-8am so I could get a full night’s sleep.
5PM Take Off & PowerPoint
I rarely get time to stop by the airport lounge, so I have my first drink on-flight (double Bloody Mary). Shortly after, I bust out my laptop again and start working on presentations. These presentations are typically for next-day leadership status updates or client design sessions. Airplanes are my quiet time, thanks to these Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones, and where I work the most efficiently. I love these headphones now that I no longer have to hear the first-time flyers complaining that they can’t connect to the wifi or annoying babies crying all flight long (send ’em to the back of the plane!).
8PM Land, Groceries, and Home
There’s no better feeling than landing home on a Thursday evening. With a smile on my face, I rush out to find my car and get to Trader Joe’s to do my grocery shopping for the weekend so I can get home and sleep! Looking back, I probably would have saved a lot of valuable time with Amazon Fresh. After I get home, I turn on Netflix for an hour and slowly fall asleep after another long (yet rewarding) week on the road.
If you still use old, worn out carry on luggage without all the bells and whistles of carry on luggage meant for road warriors, you could be missing out. Having a job in management consulting is not easy, but having the best carry on luggage can make your life just a little bit easier. Breezing through the TSA line like George Clooney in Up in the Air is a great, great feeling and requires the best carry on luggage.
If you’ve been to an airport recently, you may have noticed several business travelers and flight attendants with either Travelpro or Tumi suitcases. In my opinion, both are great brands, but my personal favorite is the the Travelpro MaxLite spinner. Travelpro has some of the best carry on luggage at a very reasonable price. This specific carry on is lightweight, moves around easily, and is expandable. For the price, you really can’t beat this suitcase.
If you want to splurge a bit (and maybe turn some heads, too!)
This Tumi bag is not only stunning, but one of the most sturdy pieces of carry on luggage you can buy. Tumi is known for making beautiful luggage that lasts, so you definitely can’t go wrong here. The only con here is the price tag, but if you’re willing to splurge for one of the best pieces of carry on luggage that can last a lifetime, this is a great option.
The AmazonBasics carry on luggage is a great option for the budget-conscious. For the price, this piece of carry on luggage is surprisingly well-built. Additionally, this piece of luggage has a built-in TSA lock, which should give you some peace of mind about the safety and security of your belongings. As an added bonus, there are 5+ color options to choose from!
Airline miles, hotel points and status are some of the biggest perks in consulting. First class travel, suite upgrades, and free international vacations (through airline miles and points) are all things you can achieve after spending some time on travel projects. Want to maximize your earnings potential and reach top-tier status as quickly as possible? Check out these 3 tips:
Take advantage of Status Challenges and Status Matches
Almost all airline and hotel loyalty programs offer status challenges and status matches to members of most consulting firms. A status challenge can allow you to reach top-tier status in fractions of the time. For example, Delta’s status match challenge allows you to get their Medallion status if you have status with another airline! On Delta and other airlines, the higher status you have, the quicker you earn airline miles. As soon as you join the world of consulting, be sure to check with your firm to see what status challenges and matches they offer.
Transfer points from your Corporate Card to Airline Miles and Hotel Points
Most consultants rack up thousands of dollars of expenses each month in travel and food costs alone. Transferring points earned through your corporate credit card (typically American Express) will allow you to rake in airline miles and hotel points really quickly — most point transfers are 1:1.
Pro Tip: For most AMEX Corporate Cards, you are not automatically enrolled in the Membership Rewards program. This costs $90 out-of-pocket and is a worthwhile investment if you spend over $750 in expenses each month.
Airline miles and hotel points are (and should be) worth more than 1 cent each
People typically consider miles and points to be worth about 1 cent each, but if you’re smart about how you use them, you can easily get 2 cents or more out of each point. When planning personal travel, be sure to compare both the cash price as well as the number of points needed to redeem.
For example, the JW Marriott in Cabo San Lucas costs ~$300/night. If you’re trying to redeem points, you’ll be set back 50K points/night. This gives you a half-cent value on each of your points and is not worth it — book this reservation with cash! I recently stayed in a all-suite resort property that cost over $2,000/night by redeeming 60,000 points, giving me a value of 3 cents per point.
Starting a job in management consulting can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. If you will be traveling — as most consultants do — your lifestyle will change dramatically. From the glamor of airline & hotel status, free vacations, and reimbursed steak dinners to the peril of delayed flights, long working hours, and living out of a suitcase, a job in management consulting can be a a bumpy (but rewarding) ride.
So how do you prepare?
Understand what kind of management consulting job you have
Management consulting is an umbrella term often used to describe several different types of jobs in consulting. The main types of management consulting jobs are those offered by some of the larger, well-known firms:
MBB Consulting Firms: McKinsey, Bain, and BCG
“Big 4” Consulting Firms: Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG
Other Consulting Firms: Accenture, ZS Associates, Oliver Wyman, etc.
These firms offer a wide variety of management consulting jobs, including: advisory, cyber security, risk management, strategy, technology, and human capital. Additionally, some firms offer these services to all industries while others specialize in just 1 or 2 industries. Understanding what work your firm does, where you fit in, and what industries your clients will be in is a great first step to succeeding in a management consulting job.
Prepare to be a road warrior
For the most part, a job in management consulting means that you will travel. It sounds fun — and it is — but also comes with several downsides you may not recognize at first. It is critical to prepare for traveling in management consulting.
Get your travel essentials
Investing in the right travel essentials (bags, headphones, toiletries) will help you have an enjoyable experience on the road. These are some of the key items you should invest in, along with some of my favorites:
Accumulating airline miles and hotel points is one of the best perks of a job in management consulting – make sure you pick one brand and stick with it for as long as you can. Top airlines include Delta, American Airlines, and United. My personal favorite is Delta, as they offer unlimited complimentary upgrades (upon availability) and have the best service from my perspective. After the Marriott / SPG merger, choosing Marriott as your hotel of choice is probably your best bet.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check with your firm to see if they offer any status challenges to help you get to top-tier status way quicker than anyone else!
Network, Network, Network
Your network will be your largest asset in consulting — be sure to go to company events and talk to your peers about topics you are interested in. This will help drive your success and career path in a management consulting job.