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My girlfriend started with one of these worldwide consulting companies around a year ago. This is her first job, and she was quite excited to start at a company with a big name just after graduating from college. The pay is not bad for a junior position, plus she got to learn new technologies that might be useful in future employment.

Now she is facing this problem: As she works on consulting, she usually has to work in the client offices. Every new project she starts is at a client further away. The company headquarters, where she started, are around 40 minutes from home on public transport, which is acceptable. She has been asked to go to several different clients this year, but yesterday they asked her to move to another client's headquarters which are 2 hours from home. This means a 4-hour round trip. Besides this, the working hours are not so great: from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. This means that she has to get up at 5:30 a.m. (or even before) and won't arrive home until 8 p.m., just to go to sleep at 11 p.m. and sleep too little.

If that wasn't enough, she feels some pressure when leaving at her scheduled time. Some of her coworkers say that they had to work until 3 a.m. the night before, and things like that, which feel like insinuations to her.

I've asked her if she enjoys the work (ignoring the workplace and the company itself, but the things she works on) and she told me that she does, so I have been encouraging her to look for a similar job, closer to home and with better working hours, even if it means getting paid less. She has been looking for similar and related jobs with no luck so far. The problem she is facing is that most of the companies are not looking for junior positions, so she gets rejected.

Last night she started crying because of this new place she has to move. To be honest, I don't know what kind of advice I could give her. Until now, my advice has been, "Hang on a little bit more if you like the work, and eventually you will find something better." But with this indefinite situation, I don't know if I should keep encouraging her. On one hand, I'd like her to learn a little bit more, so she can progress in this sector, since she likes it (it is the company she doesn't like). That way she can end up getting paid well for work she enjoys and in a company with a better understanding of work-life balance. On the other hand, I don't want to see her like this. If it were me, I think I would resign and look for another, even unrelated, job.

My last advice, just yesterday, was to talk with HR to see if she can be moved to another client, but because of some things she told me in the past, I don't think she will has this transfer granted. If she doesn't, what do you think is the best move for her?

As additional information, we could live with just my salary and our savings for some time, and I am willing to support her on any decision she makes.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Rui F Ribeiro, gnat, Michael Grubey, ChrisF Nov 28 '18 at 12:48

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  • 1
    Where do you live? In some countries the time to go to the first client of the day as well as the time to come back home from the last client of the day are included in the working hours so she could simply work 4 hours at the client and end her working day early, or get 4 hours overtime each day (so earning like 14 ours of normal work per day). – Bakuriu Nov 23 '18 at 19:18
  • What about your options? Can you move for her work? – WernerCD Nov 23 '18 at 20:22
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    @Joe Strazzere. Yes, she did understand. She didn't think that there were going to be just short commutes, but anyway, this is farther than expected. – David Nov 25 '18 at 11:23
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    @Bakuriu this is happening in Spain. I would have to check, but I don't think it's an option here. – David Nov 25 '18 at 11:25
  • @WernerCD yes. The issue is that when renting another apartment, you usually commit to a year renting (at least here in Spain). We are also considering moving to a more centered location (thought is quite more expensive), but moving close to the client is not an option, because she would have the same problem with future clients. To put this on perspective, we live in a suburb city one hour to the center and the client is one hour to the center on the opposite direction. – David Nov 25 '18 at 11:29
44

In the short term:

  1. If she travels 2 h to the client and 2 h back, she should inquire about the possibility to spend the nights Monday-Thursday in the client's town. Presumably, the company reimburses her the travels anyway, so it may even be cheaper for them to let her stay. I actually don't know any consulting company that would expect 4 h travel every day Monday-Thursday. (Just as a side note: the travel policy is one of the most important factors when applying in consulting).

  2. She should ask her project manager (PM) about the possibility to stay on site less. This is normally difficult at the project begin but as you develop a trusting relationship with the client, it gets easier.

  3. Besides, she doesn't even know if she will be expected to go there every day yet since, as I understand, she was just asked to work there yesterday.

  4. Another option would be, in case 1. and 2. aren't possible to find out how her coworkers organise that and use this info. In consulting you don't normally work alone on client's site. For example, maybe there are other people travelling a similar route by car instead of public transportation and they could travel together?

In the long term:

  1. Consulting is famous for long working hours and plenty of people quit after 1-3 years because of that.

  2. How well consulting is paid compared to other positions differs a lot between countries and companies (normally MBB vs. everything else). I know one country in which consulting positions are the best financial choice a graduate can make. I know another in which you are paid what you would be paid in the industry/ banking but work much more and your overtime isn't paid in contrast to most other positions. Interestingly, consulting is considered prestigious in Country 2 too. Consider this consulting myth vs. reality when taking decisions.

  3. Let her apply for positions out of consulting if this type of work is not manageable for her even if this would mean going for a smaller salary.

  4. Till she finds something, it's important for her to gain as much knowledge and skills as possible.

  • I like your response, but I should have clarified better. No, she doesn't get reimbursed the travels, as they are all in the same province (Madrid). I wrote a comment on @gnasher729 response clearing this up. Also she tried to work remotely on the past once a week, but she got denied (by the same manager she currently has). Circunstances have changed, so I think she should ask again. – David Nov 23 '18 at 16:16
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    @David can she get a car? – DonQuiKong Nov 23 '18 at 18:58
  • @DonQuiKong yes, it is one of the options she is considering. However, due to traffic in Madrid, she wouldnt save that much time (around 1h/30m a day, depending on traffic), plus she would only need it for this client in particular (how long she will stay there is just unknown). – David Nov 25 '18 at 11:20
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4+ hours a day spent commuting is a lot (been there, done that!), and I really don't blame your girlfriend for not being enthused about it.

The nature of consulting gigs however sometimes means some unpleasant travel requirements so what she needs to decide is not really about whether she should be going to this particular client but whether she wants a career path that's going to throw this question up time and again. There's nothing wrong with her deciding that she doesn't "I don't want to spend 4+ hours of my day traveling" is a totally valid reason not to do something - but like I say, that "something" in this case is a consulting orientated career.

If it's upsetting her this much before she's even started at the new commute then perhaps the right things is for her to walk away sooner rather than later and look for something closer with a more static commute.

If she does decide she want's to give it a go I'd encourage her to give it a timeframe for her self - say "I'll re-evaluate this after 3 months" or similar. Otherwise it's very, very easy to get trapped on the conveyor belt where you just keep going because you're too busy or tired to remember to look at whether you want to be doing it any more.

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This is how travelling is supposed to work: Your company has an office, which is your usual place to work, and you commute to that office in your own time, and at your own expense.

If the company asks you to work elsewhere, then the commute from office to the place where you work counts as working time, and your company will also pay you travel expenses - at least that's how it works in the civilised world. Of course, if your friend doesn't ask for this, then she won't get it. Someone is probably already wondering how she manages the travel, because she hasn't asked.

If she needs to work at a place that is two hours away each way, then instead of paying her four hours overtime every day and an enormous sum for expenses, the company will most likely find her a hotel at the place, pay for a room, she will get some money for the extra expenses (food is not cheap in a hotel, that will be paid for), and pay her for the travel monday and friday.

All this will happen if she asks. And it will not happen if she doesn't ask. So make sure she asks.

I'm not travelling much for work at the moment, but not long ago I worked for three weeks 800 miles away from home. How do you suppose that worked? My company paid for an airplane ticket, for a hotel, and for all my expenses. That's how it worked.

PS. Imagine you are the client. You pay an outrageous daily rate to the consultancy company. And for your outrageous daily rate you get a consultant who is already tired out from two hours travel when she starts working for you. You wouldn't be happy.

  • 5
    Well, I'm talking about Madrid here. Legally they can move you around while you remain on the same province, and they don't have to pay you expenses or hotel while you are on the same province. This cause weirds situations, like while this trip shouldn't cause expenses: goo.gl/maps/YHoJfJPgpNM2 this trip would (Google can't calculate public transport routes, but there are): goo.gl/maps/rfghmF92evQ2 – David Nov 23 '18 at 16:11
  • Normally it is on the same city, not province. Whilst you cannot refuse to do it, here they have to pay you, and coming from Portugal I doubt it is much different in Spain. – Rui F Ribeiro Nov 23 '18 at 16:45
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My experience is that the "worldwide consulting companies" expect a very high level of commitment in terms of hours and personal inconvenience, and pay very well by way of compensation. You have to make a decision whether this is the kind of work-life balance that you want; I decided that it wasn't. It's right for some people and not for others. Don't be lured by the money unless you actually need the money; there's no point having luxuries and not having any time to enjoy them.

My experience was a bad one because the commitment and hours were being demanded not because the job needed them, but because of a macho culture. The project manager would call a meeting at 8am on a Sunday not because it was needed, but because he wanted to test your commitment. I said sorry, I go to Mass on Sunday mornings: I made it clear I wasn't interested in playing his game.

3

Coming from a neighbour country with similar law, labour laws dictate that travel expenses have to be paid. That said, it may depend on the type of contracts/the work place that is defined in the contract.

Nevertheless, there are per diem / per km values defined on law for those purposes, and we were paid those values when I was working as a consultant.

As @gnasher says, in most parts of the civilised world, such long travel times for clients are considered work time.

On other perspective, I would not be surprised if those factors, including consultant travel distance/time are being factored on the client bill, and they are just pocketing it. She is being taken advantage of.

As for distances, unfortunately I am not familiar with work law in Spain. Back in your neighbouring country where I come from, distances up to 30-50 km (cannot recall the exact value), have to be paid.

PS. As an example, in the past, I was paid in a 6 month project, hotel+full expenses+gas+tolls and stayed the whole week in at a customer city 1.5h-2h from my home. Often, when did not feel like making the trip, stayed there the weekend at theirs expenses.

2

You mention: " The pay is not bad for a junior position, plus she got to learn new technologies that might be useful on future employments. "

This sounds like a great opportunity for her, then. Those working hours are not impossible. 4-5 hours of commute a day can be awful, but some jobs are worth it. And if you can't find something better, 4-5 hours of commute are definitely worth it.

This is not opinion based, but a simple matter of demand and supply. The supply of jobs which pay as much or better for her experience is limited. The demand for junior profiles like hers is limited. To increase demand for her profile, she needs to acquire harder-to-get skills which will put her on the radar. Alternatively, she needs to completely change market, relocating somewhere else where there is more demand for her profile.

Sure, she could stay in the current company, but it's possible she is building a bad reputation for herself because of her inability to deal with the situation.

  • The market is Spain pays badly, I will abstain to say what I think of their work culture, and they are famous for their (mis)management abilities. More probably cause than lack of resources, as most are going abroad to avoid being mistreated. The young are often cannon fodder/warm bodies to bill customers. – Rui F Ribeiro Nov 24 '18 at 11:22

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