Life as a Traveling Consultant: The Perfect Storm

After making the leap into consulting, having been joyously dedicated to an established healthcare organization for close to 25 years, I realized that the one thing about consulting that was the most difficult for me to adapt to was the travel. Up until my first experience as a traveling consultant, most of my experience with travel was as a novice – mostly for vacations and a handful or two of work-related conferences over the years. Before I began as a consultant, I was sure to do my research, as it’s important to me – in work and personally – to always be prepared. I spoke with many other consultants I knew to discuss pros and cons, tips and tricks, and lessons learned.  Now, I had a knowledge-base, or so I thought…

State of Mind: Sunny Skies and Happiness! My first trek across the country, from my home-state of Ohio to my client partner’s state of California, brought me from 24 degree weather to 70+ degree weather. This change in temperature was a bit shocking to my system. Note to Self: Stock Up on Airborne and Vitamin C! The weather called for cloudy skies and light rain back in Ohio, so I was more than happy to be under sunny skies and warm temperatures. As I prepared for my trek back home after my first week onsite had wrapped up, I monitored the weather forecast in Ohio. While I was enjoying the warmth, I found that a huge ice storm was hitting the Midwest with power outages and travel delays lasting for days!

State of Mind: The Iceman Cometh! Just as my consultant friends had suggested, I continued to check with my airline and the airport to see if my flight was delayed. Low and behold, my flight was canceled and rescheduled for the next day. At this point, all of the knowledge and tips and tricks that had been shared with me didn’t prepare me for what I was to do next.  I was absolutely unsure of how to deal with a canceled flight. Was I to try and find another airline and cancel my existing flight?  Was I to sleep in the airport, or should I get a hotel for the evening? And the questions went on and on… A minor amount of panic set in as I realized just how little control I had over the weather and airlines.

State of Mind: The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow! Just as my 25 years of experience flew out the door, and I acknowledged what a travel novice I truly was – my fellow teammates came to my rescue! Two of my teammates were also flying that day, and they helped walk me through – step by step – what I needed to do.

1. Take control and do what I can to make an uncontrollable situation just a bit more convenient.

2. Call my manager from both the client partner and my consulting firm/employer to be sure they were aware of the situation.

3. Ensure I was booked on the next possible flight out, while making sure to compare costs and keep them as low as possible (without jeopardizing my safety, of course).

4. Find a safe, appropriate hotel to stay in that evening.

5. Compare costs to determine if I should take a cab or rent a car, so I could arrive at my hotel for the evening as well as return to the airport the next day.

I made it home the next day, safe and sound, to the familiar cold and snow that I know as part of “home.” After six (6) days onsite, travel delays and cancellations, new time zones, a different climate, meeting many new people, and navigating a new facility – I can say that I have jumped into consulting and was able to hit the ground running!

The main lessons I learned from this particular travel experience was to be prepared for travel cancelations or delays by:

1.  Knowing which numbers to call if your flights are delayed or canceled (e.g., client manager, consulting firm manager, travel agency, airline(s), rental car companies, and nearby hotels.

2.  Come prepared with activities to keep you occupied, such as: client work, a good book, bills to pay, crossword puzzles, and more.

3.  Remember that you do not have control over the weather and airlines, but you do have control over how you handle the situation. You can either become angry and upset, or yell at those at the airport that you actually need help from, or throw your hands up and feel helpless; or, you can make a list of what you need to do to make the best of the situation at hand.

Best of luck to you with your upcoming travels!

Read more from other consultants on our Consultant Lifestyle blog.

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