Business Travel For Beginners

Guess who I’m writing this article for?  Myself and those young professionals like me who are starting to move up in their careers and now must travel for work.  Over the current fiscal year, I will take 20 business-related trips so I’m about to make up some rules that, to me, seem like common sense but may not be to everyone.

  1. You’re still on the clock.  Act like it.  You are not on vacation so don’t plan to do too much sightseeing.  If you do want to see some sights and the conference is on a Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, try getting there on Sunday or leave on Saturday, respectively.
  2. PlanningAt a conference, there may be a happy hour portion after the business sessions.  If you drink, it’s okay to be social.  Networking, when done appropriately, is a part of work and can strengthen your relationships.  But that is not the time to get drunk.  It reflects poorly on your company/organization and could get you fired if it gets back to HR (which many things have a way of doing).
  3. If traveling with others from your company/organization, be friendly.  Let’s be honest, coworkers can be like family: You can’t always choose them, but you really can’t get rid of them.  So why not make the best of the situation?  Don’t sit at the airport on a bench across from your colleague and act like a complete stranger.  Strike up a conversation.  You never know, maybe that trip could be just the bonding experience you two needed to develop a friendship.
  4. Don’t break your regular routine if you can help it.  If you workout in the morning, workout at the hotel gym.  If you eat breakfast, make sure you put something on your stomach before the first session.  Try to keep your bedtime consistent.  I say that to say this: You have to go back home after a couple days and you don’t want to be straggling in the office.
  5. (Maybe this should have been number one because it precedes any travel) Get ahead on your work.  There is nothing worse than going out of town (whether for business or pleasure) and having to deal with stuff back in the office.  So give yourself some breathing room.  When you know you’ll be gone for a couple of days, get far enough ahead on your work that coming back won’t feel like you’ve missed an entire week.
  6. See what else you can get done on the trip that will help your company.  For instance, I currently work in the development and alumni relations department for a university so, when I’m up in Chicago, I will be seeing if I can make a couple appointments with alumni either day before or the day after the conference.  Even if it’s just to say hey and update them on what’s going on at the school over a cup of coffee, it will help me build relationships that the university needs.
  7. If you’re driving, drive safely.  Everyone is not the best driver.  That is understood.  But when you’re driving for work, follow the rules of the road and realize that, once again, you are a representation of your company/organization.  Even if you’re the only one in the car, safety should be first.  So leave the 90 mph mindset at home and play it safe.
  8. Have fun.  Even though you’re there for work, you’re in a city that isn’t home.  So check the conference agenda and try to plan a couple things outside of the business sessions either after or during a lunch break if your hotel is in a central location.

I always wanted a job where I could travel for free and now I have it.  But I want to make sure to keep the job so I’m going to try to follow these rules.  Maybe you should too.  Feel free to leave any additional ones you think of in the comments.

Make professional development a priority.

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