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Thread: Input from the Road Warriors with a Family...

  1. #1
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    Input from the Road Warriors with a Family...

    Not sure what forum to put this in so I'll put it in "Travel":

    Without being too specific, I've been presented a job opportunity that is not easy to dismiss. I didn't go looking for it, it came to me. It would be a significant bump in pay -- like 20% -- with other benefits that would be good for our family in the long-run, but travel would be a regular part of the job.

    Right now I am a middle school principal so other than maybe 3 or 4 conferences per year, I'm in my bed in my house every night. If I accept this new opportunity, there will be regular travel involved. I worked for Deloitte back in the early 2000s so I'm familiar with extended consulting engagements where you fly out every Sunday night and home every Friday night - that's no fun... This is not that kind of travel. More like flying out on a Monday evening, presentations or meetings at a client site on Tuesday morning, flying back Tuesday evening or early Wednesday. This could be 3-4 times a month. Other than that, the work is fairly flexible and I would be in an office in my home.

    My wife is 100% supportive of this opportunity so it's really me who is nervous about getting in over my head. One positive trade off for me is that with the new job when I'm home, I'd be able to walk my kids to and from school (something I can't do at all now).

    So for those of you who travel frequently for work, how do you maintain a healthy balance?
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    Kudos to you for seeking balance vs. just the benefits and perceived success of the job. I am a stay at home schooling mom, but my dh has a job in transportation. He has two routes a week that result in irregular sleep and over night stays. He seeks balance by participating with the family activities when he is able. Because we homeschool, we adapt to our own schedule vs. that of those arond us and it works for us. If you are doing the right things to communicate with, support, and love your family, it will go a long ways towards helping your new schedule be something that is a benefit vs. a burden.
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    Something to consider.

    A principal is always needed to run a school.

    Is the 20% bump in benefits and pay worth not being there for 2 evenings with your family?

    If it is a consulting or sales position, you most probably will be required to stay at the client site until the product work or you make a significant sale.

    You need to research the company very thoroughly, a big name, lots of profit, doesn't not mean that the position will stay full time or stay in your state or even the U.S.


    It really looks like the ideal position but the fact that you have a little bit of nervous "think before you leap" is positive as it brought you here to get other's perspective.

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    Thanks to both of you for the input so far. I've done quite a bit of homework to even get to the point where I'm expecting an offer next week and I'm fairly comfortable with the stability of the job and the company. The good thing for me is that good principals are always in demand and the job involves working with schools and districts so I would still have a "foot in the door" to go back into a principal position down the road.

    I became a school administrator fairly young (at 29) and, honestly, ten years later the level of stress is significant. In addition to constant pressure to increase student test scores, events like Sandy Hook add a whole new dimension to the day-to-day stress.

    Certainly no job is perfect, but I'm wondering if it's time to try something new for a while...

    I should have mentioned earlier that my wife is an elementary school teacher and my kids are 5 and 8.

    Thanks again -- so much to think about.
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    This is wonderful and does look like a position that would be perfect for you!

    I have immense respect for people in education. fulfilling the vocation of teaching has always been a challenge, especially when clueless politicians and pundits (who barely read at third grade level themselves) try to impose drastic "reforms" to "improve" education but just end up creating more burdensome paperwork .

    I see that both your wife and yourself have a nice little collection of Tom Bihn bags.

    5 and 8 are such endearing ages, I understand why you would love to walk your children to school.

    Please keep us posted as we are really interested in following the doings of our fellow Tom Bihn forum members.

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    There's a big difference between 1-2 nights away three weeks out of four and the experience you had with Deloitte before your current position.

    I have been an SAP consultant since '96, and at times have been on long term engagements on the 6am flight every Monday morning and returning home around 10pm Thursday night or some time Friday. I changed role a few years ago which reduced my travel to the occasional 2-3 day trip, but I found my influence diminished as I wasn't in front of the client often enough. It was a trade-off with an infant/toddler, as I didn't want to miss his formative years. I went through a spell when I was working at home, from 6am to midnight or later five days a week, with 30 minutes family time on a morning and perhaps an hour on an evening. However my mind was rarely off work, and it showed in my interactions. In effect I was less available to my family than when I was travelling.

    Once my son started kindergarten last August I talked things over with my wife, and I started travelling more regularly again in October. This next week will be the first one that I haven't travelled since Thanksgiving, aside from scheduled vacation over Christmas. I consider myself fortunate on the weeks when I get to take my son to school on a Monday morning, and I'm back home before he goes to bed on Wednesday night. But they are the exception. Four days and three nights away is more usual; longer if I have a client on the east coast that I have to fly to the night before. When I'm away for 1-2 nights the impact on my family is less noticeable. But at 3-4 nights it's tough to be more than an observer, and my wife has the bulk of the parental responsibilities.

    My questions are on two fronts - Have you spoken to people who would be your peers at the new company? Is client-facing work the primary or secondary role in this job? Are overnight and two night trips are really the norm? Or is that an estimate that will get you in the door, that they will change once you're on the payroll? What is expected of 'top performers' in terms of travel? Will future pay rises and/or bonuses be dependent on being highly visible and available to your clients?

    Secondly, how will you be expected to contribute when you are not in front of the client? Will it require long hours working at home that could result in conflict with your family? You don't mention that aspect at all. Being home office based, it will have just as much impact on your family life as the travel, if not more.

    My company no longer talks about Work / Live Balance. These days it's Work / Life Integration. It's a not so subtle difference. What's the culture of your prospective employer?

    Good luck in your decision.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Thanks again so much for all of your help weighing this decision...

    The position is a regional one, meaning that there are several states that are covered. Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada. There is currently one person already covering this geography and this is an additional position to support growth in the region. I know the person who is currently in the position right now. We have been friends for several years and I've often talked to him about "taking his job" when he retires. The addition of this new, second position in the region kind of came out of left field and is a pleasant (if stress-inducing) surprise.

    I have had lengthy conversations with this person, even as far as him sharing with me his work/travel calendar for the previous 12 months so I am pretty comfortable that the travel is being accurately represented to me. Being on a "school-like" calendar, there are definitely heavier periods and slower periods (like July). My understanding is the job is very flexible and very independent.

    The work when not in front of a client will be primarily working on presentations, conference calls, etc. Luckily, there is quite a bit of work locally on the Front Range of Colorado which would not require overnight stays. In talking to the person currently in the job, he has grown kids and is very willing to "ease" me into the travel by letting me start to take over more of the local work.

    I'm trying to describe the work without giving too much away, but it's for a company that I guarantee you have heard of and for which education is a significant market. The position is NOT a sales position in the sense that there are no "quotas" for me to meet. It's also not a consulting kind of position that involves extended, on-site support. It's really more of a sales support position where they want to put people with school leadership experience in front of other school leaders who may be making decisions. No question I'd love the work. Just a question of whether it's the right move for me right now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    This is wonderful and does look like a position that would be perfect for you!

    I have immense respect for people in education. fulfilling the vocation of teaching has always been a challenge, especially when clueless politicians and pundits (who barely read at third grade level themselves) try to impose drastic "reforms" to "improve" education but just end up creating more burdensome paperwork .

    I see that both your wife and yourself have a nice little collection of Tom Bihn bags.

    5 and 8 are such endearing ages, I understand why you would love to walk your children to school.

    Please keep us posted as we are really interested in following the doings of our fellow Tom Bihn forum members.
    Thank you so much. The job definitely has a different (and constant) set of pressures that continue to increase as everyone else attempts to figure out how we should be raising scores on state-mandated tests. Sadly, the community in which I work is generally not as supportive of public education even though our schools are very good. This is part of why I've been looking this year to make a move back to high school in a neighboring district to the north or south. Then this other opportunity came out of the blue.
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    It sounds as you've done your due diligence. You've also acknowledged that the status quo is unappealing, so it's time for a change of pace. Changing school districts may recharge those batteries, but the statutory requirements will still be in place. Taking a spell as a supplier may help remind you why you chose your field, and give you new perspectives as to how you can make the greatest impact on students. You'd maintain your contacts in the education field, and so it's not like you'll be burning your bridges in case you decide to return to the administrator side.

    If the offer is to your liking, and the transition plan meets both parties needs, and your family is supportive, then I think you've answered your own question.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Quote Originally Posted by lotuseater View Post
    If the offer is to your liking, and the transition plan meets both parties needs, and your family is supportive, then I think you've answered your own question.
    Thanks. I guess that's about where I'm at.

    Switching gears, as a parent of young ones, what are some of the strategies you use to stay connected when you're on the road?
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  11. #11
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    My Dad traveled a lot when I was growing up- maybe 2-3 months out of every year. At the time there were no cell phones but he did a great job of being "present" by having phone dates with me and my siblings. We often fought over who got to speak with him and this really solved the problem. We each spoke on different nights and we got to tell him about our day/games/projects/exciting news. Also, it was the time when he raised behavioral issues that my Mom told him about and he would say things like: Be nice to your mom or your brothers etc. The calls were only 10-15 minutes long but we looked forward to our phone dates. He always brought back treats from trips- hotel mini shampoo bottles, Kinder chocolate eggs, and Toblerone bars- and that felt special to us too. We also made signs for my Dad when he got back into the country. Picking him up at the airport gate (this was a different time) was a family event and we loved coloring the signs. Those are my suggestions.

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    Awesome suggestions from nsh. Consistency is key - make sure you don't undermine your spouse by inadvertently contradicting them or introducing a different set of standards expected in terms of behaviour, etc. Be predictable - set a constant time for your conversations. If you're always going to be on Mountain Time that should help. It's tough if you're on the East Coast one week and the West Coast the next.

    On the technology front, I find eye contact to be a huge differentiator in getting and retaining my son's attention. Skype or Facetime web chats are great when I can call from a hotel room with a decent wifi connection.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Thank you both so much. I like the idea of consistency and the 21st century benefit of having eye contact with the family. Luckily, I expect most of the travel to be regional so time zone won't be a major issue.
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    I just noticed lotuseater and I are practically neighbors... I'm in the Loveland/FoCo area.
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    I'd suggest a Front Range TB meetup, but we'd be most successful in holding it at DIA. One of these days, perhaps, we'll find a way to meet locally.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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