Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Have job, will travel


I love to travel. I spent several years shuttling from coast to coast as a graduate student to visit family and my then-fiance across the country. The traveling continued up and down the state once I did come back to California. And since I've been married? We're in Southern California several times a year, me more than him, to visit family and friends. Add on top of that other random trips to different states and countries for family weddings, births, and funerals, and on average I probably take about 6-8 trips a year (most of those being quick one-hour jaunts up and down California).

And then there is work travel. My younger cousin asked me a few months back, how do you find a job that travels? My first answer...be a flight attendant. I'm pretty sure that will be my retirement career.  How awesome would that be?  My second answer, find travel opportunities.  My job description says "minimal overnight travel" and compared to some jobs it is indeed minimal, but that doesn't mean I can't plan for one or two trips a year.  But that wasn't always the case. I didn't leave my desk for the first year and a half of my job, until my first conference last year.  Since then I've been to three other conferences and a few other trips for work.

Some business travel pointers:
  • Pack appropriately. "I didn't want to pack too much" isn't really a great excuse for not being dressed properly for a meeting or event. Make sure you have your business basics...a suit (if your job may require it), a modest dress for cocktail hour, and clothes appropriate for your trip.
  • Beware the pool. What's more awkward than staying at a conference hotel and wanting to hit up the pool, only to find it crawling with other conference attendees? Not much. Go ahead and pack your swimsuit if you want, but just be aware you may not use it.
  • Workout gear.  Sweating off the stress is a great way to deal with an impending important meeting or presentation, and your hotel probably has a gym.  If you're anything like me, "free gym" screams "use me," since I don't have the luxury at home.
  • Small and snazzy. If you don't have space for lots of fun fashion pieces, pack along the accessories...jewelry, scarves, rings. It's an easy way to dress up basics without bulking up your baggave (and a scarf is a great to beat the cold on the plane or in the conference room).
  • Be considerate to your coworkers. You're still coworkers.  Gauge your level of comfort if you're sharing a room with a coworker.  
  • Be professional. Don't forget that you're still on the clock (during the day, at least).  Be punctual to meetings, conference sessions, and dinners.
  • Have fun! If you're in a new town and have some free time, go exploring and get a taste of the local flavor. Don't forget to bring your boss back a souvenir.
So how can you find travel opportunities in a job that doesn't require travel? A few ways.
  • Professional development.  Look for training opportunities with professional organizations. If the travel is extensive and fees are steep, narrow it down to just one ideal conference and be prepared for a "no" in this economy.  Even if your company doesn't commonly send folks to training conferences, it doesn't hurt to ask and make your case.
  • Presentations and proposals.  If getting training isn't possible, or enough of a motivator, trying giving training.  Figure out what your team's expertise is in, and find a conference to submit a proposal presentation to.  Not only do you get to travel, but you're building professional cred.
  • Combine projects to make one multipurpose trip.  My last trip, a three-day jaunt in LA, was quite the whirlwind that include seven appointments, including photoshoots, videoshoots, and interviews ranging from south Orange County to the San Fernando Valley.  It started with one project, then another program wanted in, and then another.  They split the trip costs, since we addressed three different program needs in one trip.
What are your favorite business trip tips? Have you created your own travel opportunities at work?
[photo credit: shyb]

9 comments:

  1. Well it should go without saying, but it often doesn't... be wary of cocktail hours at conferences and such. Remember there is always going to be someone sober around to remember who acted like a fool. Personally I'll get a drink to nurse all night, but I always limit it to one.

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  2. You are on the money...it SHOULD go without saying, but usually doesn't. I've heard of (but luckily not experienced) conferences where people are drunk by the time the after-cocktail hour awards dinner starts, or even just in general at work events after hours. Not good. It gets around. People talk. Personally, alcohol just knocks me out (a half glass of wine = 3 hour nap), so I stick to Diet Coke when I go out, which isn't often. If I'm celebrating I'll have half a mojito and give the rest to my coworkers (they're cool like that).

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  3. Fantastic advice! I haven't had to travel much on the job and if I do, it's a quick 45 minute train ride to the White Plains courthouse and I'm usually going it alone. I fear for the day I do have to fly on business: I have a serious problem packing light. I pack a million outfits with the idea that I want "options" but in the end, I wear half of what's in my suitcase. This is especially the case with shoes. Ahhh, such is life.

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  4. I travel at least 4-6 times per year for my job (usually only around the state).

    We've met up in the hotel bar for drinks... I'll get one, just like Jenni said. I may be only 24, but I don't need my coworkers thinking I'm a lush!

    I SUCK at packing in general. I always take way too much!!

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  5. @missvinylahoy - Usually when I travel I pack super-light (like, one carryon + big purse for a one-week trip), but when it comes to a work trip, I give myself a little leeway. I also only check bags when I travel for work (helloooo bag fees).

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  6. When I travel for work, I usually check a small suitcase because I don't like dealing with the liquids limit in carryons and because my carryon usually includes my work computer & other work stuff + I carry a purse.

    Here's my #1 work travel tip: Even if you are told that everything is close by and walking will be minimal at your work event, etc. -- take a good pair of broken-in dressy flats with you. You don't want to be the miserable person trying to look professional while limping around town in heels.

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  7. @ Jeanna - Great tip on the shoes! That's definitely a good one also if you're going to a new town...you'll want to get out and see the sights.

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  8. great travel tips! i love that you already have a retirement career planned.

    work drinks are tricky. depending on your company culture...i've had CEOs hand me tequila upon entry to work, and other offices where alcohol is definitely frowned upon even at the holiday party. as usual, observe and assess. moderation is key.

    i don't get to travel much for work but i do visit my vendors and factories in Taiwan. requisite gifting and big seafood dinners to maintain camaraderie!!! my favorite trip was with a boyfriend to sonoma. his vendors put us up at a resort and took us to crazy 5-course meals.

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  9. @ Annie - Big dinners in Taiwan sound amazing...I think the key to the drinking thing is making sure you know your own limit...if you can handle what they're dishing out then go for it, but I've been in at least one awkward situation where a coworker was drunk and I wasn't...it's hard to forget those things once the event is over and done.

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