Why Travel And Living Abroad Prepare You For Consulting

Have you ever felt guilty about travelling extensively?

Have you ever wished that the money spent traveling could somehow pay dividends?

Well, I believe it can pay dividends, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about your past and future travel. I think that personal travel and strategy consulting go hand-in-hand, and I would even posit that those that have not travelled are at a serious disadvantage in the consulting world.

In this article, I will try to show you that travel – even travel for fun – helps you succeed, both because it teaches you skills critical to being a good consultant and because it allows you to fit in at the company.

Being a Good Consultant

We all know that travel is fun, exciting, and allows you to see things you never could have imagined. But travelling also nurtures and requires key traits that are present in a good consultant.

Perspective: Travel and living abroad give perspective and a new way of looking at the world. A consultant does this every single day. Each case is a new world (project and client culture), but is not completely unique. Great consultants are able to understand similarities as well as differences and apply past lessons to the current project and client interaction.

Agility/Adaptability: A good traveller can pop that fried scorpion in their mouth or jump into the middle of the dance floor to be taught the local dance. Likewise, a good consultant has to be comfortable with the unknown. Particularly in strategy consulting, both the question and answer are in constant flux. A good consultant can jump into an industry, client, and project type in which they have no prior experience. A good traveller and a good consultant both know how to embrace uncertainty and roll with the punches.

Communication: Written and oral communication is a must in any job these days. But what about when there is a language barrier? Or when you need to communicate with both a subject matter expert and a layman? Well, trying to get directions home in a rural village or bartering down market merchandise through hand gestures and a few garbled local words teaches a lot about communication without a common language. And, if you can communicate and connect without a common language, you can communicate and connect with anyone in a shared one.

(Creative) Problem-Solving: Your car breaking down, locking your keys in a locker, running out of gas, getting injured or sick. Although these types of incidents, while annoying, are easily fixed back home, these same situations can cause huge problems and stress in a foreign country. Getting through a bind in a foreign country is no easy task and requires a lot of creativity. And, as I think you’ve seen on every consulting application to-date, creativity and problem-solving are table stakes when it comes to consulting.

Being at Home

Even if travelling doesn’t strengthen the traits listed above, it prepares you for the consultant life. It teaches you to get used to the inevitable flying and general travel that will become your routine.

On a less obvious note, it prepares you to feel at home. There aren’t many people at my office at BCG who aren’t extensive travellers, multi-lingual, and/or an immigrant. The diverse people you will meet every day will make you feel like you’re travelling every day at the office.

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