If you work in the consulting industry and live in the metropolitan area of any major city, chances are, you’ve dealt with a long commute at times.
Living in the Chicago suburbs, I’ve had my share of dealing with a long commutes. I’ve had clients range from Gary, Indiana to Kenosha, Wisconsin. I’ve been downtown in Chicago’s loop and in the far western suburbs of St. Charles.
That’s a variance of ninety-five miles north to south and forty miles east to west.
In consulting, there’s a fair amount of out of state travel as well. I live forty miles from Midway Airport and forty-five miles from O’Hare.
The ideal commute
Ideally, one would live in as central of a location as possible, close to expressways and equidistant from each direction and both airports. Oak Brook would be terrific. There, the homes in the gated communities go for well over a million dollars.
You can certainly branch out from there to more affordable housing. But for a young consultant saving to buy that first house, it would appear that the further west you go, the more affordable it is.
When considering joining a consulting firm, it’s a good practice to determine where the majority of their clients are. Some firms assume 100% travel. In that situation, it may be best to live close enough to your city’s airport that the weekly commutes to and from are not too much of a burden.
If the majority of their clients are in a specific area (i.e. north suburbs or in the city), it may be best to find a place in that area.
Other commute considerations
Public transportation: Living near public transportation enables you access to many areas within the city, including airports without the need of a car.
Parking: If you own a car, even if you can take public transportation, you’ll need a place to park it. Whether you rent or own, that’s a luxury that isn’t always included in a metro area.
Work location of spouse/significant other: You can find a place to live that’s within ten minutes of your work. That may be nice for you, but if your spouse’s work is forty-five miles away, you may face pressure to move.
Over the years, I’ve learned that there is no ideal location for a consultant to live. I’ve learned that short cuts are quickly learned by other and have as much gridlock as the main highway.
Ways to deal with it
I used to come home from work ready to kick the cat and yell at the kids. Through experience, I’ve learned many ways to deal with long commutes.
Audio books: I listen to a lot of audio books. I’ll get CD packs at the local library for free. You can also load them to you smart phone from Audible, iTunes and other sources. I used to listen to almost exclusively to business and self-help books. I’d find myself getting bored eventually. I learned to alternate between fiction and non-fiction to keep my interest up.
Podcasts: Similar to audio books, listening to podcasts is like the DVR of radio. You can select sports, business, religion, comedy, essentially any topic you are interested in. Load them to your phone and listen away.
Music on your smart phone: I’ve caught myself scanning through the radio stations looking for some type of music that I like. When it scans the dial three or four times, I finally realize that I have all of my favorite music on my own phone.
Satellite radio: Although a monthly subscription can be expensive, if the commute is that long, it might be worth your sanity to get satellite radio to give you enough options to never get bored.
Comfortable car: If you have a car in which the air conditioning or heat do not work, your commute is going to seem longer than it already is. Purchasing a car with a comfortable seat, working air and heat and other amenities will at least make you comfortable as you count the license plates in traffic.
Working in a consulting environment, facing demanding clients on a daily basis can be demanding enough. Getting in a hot (or cold) car and spending the next ninety to one hundred-twenty minutes in bumper to bumper traffic will just make things worse.
Finding ways to deal with it will improve your sanity and possibly even help you be more productive, advancing in your consulting career.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.