Holiday! Celebrate! Well no. Not quite…
So you’ve been handed the news that you are required to travel abroad for work. It might be for a night, it might be for a few days. It might be transatlantic or it might be just be across the sea to Europe. Wherever it is, work trips abroad can be exciting, terrifying and the most awesome opportunity. But only if you handle it dead right. Before you grab your passport and bikini, take stock of a few of these top tips from my time travelling for work.
Do your homework
If you’ve been asked to go on this trip, chances are you aren’t organising it and you’ll need to do a little reconnaissance. You’ll have lots of questions (where is the nearest bar, what is the hotel like etc) but you’ll need to do that sort of research on your own time. In order to make the most out of this trip and deliver what your employer expects of you, you’ll need to find out more.
First up, find out why you have been asked to go – is it because of specific expertise, the project your work on or because of your role? Or is it to give you exposure to something new? It’s really important you understand why you are going to ensure you get the most out of it.
Do as much pre-research as you can – is it a conference? What’s the agenda? Who will you be meeting and what can you find out before you go? I’d also really recommend having a meeting with everyone involved (whether they are travelling with you or not) to ensure you have all the key information and can discuss expectations face to face.
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You’ve prepared your mind and your work brain – but are you physically prepared? Just because this is a work trip, you will need to ensure all the essentials are ready to go, especially if it is a short notice trip. Here are a few things I’d check up front:
- Passport – seems silly but I have known people embarked on work trips abroad with an out of date passport. Ooops.
- Visa, insurance etc – For the US you’ll need an in date ESTA and if you are travelling in Europe, ensure you have an in date European Health Insurance Card. Check to see if your work has a blanket travel insurance policy, and if not, book one up immediately!
- Phone/laptop – If you have a work phone and are expected to be in touch, make sure your boss has turned on data roaming, and while you are there, make sure you can access important work files via the web whilst you are away.
- Expenses – be really clear on what is and isn’t acceptable to claim whilst abroad, and how you claim on your return so you are not left out of pocket.
- Hotel/flights – most importantly, find out who is responsible for booking your hotel and flights, and if it is you, get on it pronto with the work credit card!
You know I said this wasn’t a holiday? Well it isn’t. Soz about that. You’ll not only be representing your employer, but you’ll be representing yourself too. Trips abroad can be exciting (just me that gets super stoked about travelling away with work like I’m some hot shot business person?), but they are for work.
If you want to be invited on one again, you need to work hard for it, and that is by representing yourself well.
- Turn up – sounds silly, but if you are there for a conference, turn up when you are supposed to and that means attending all the sessions, not sneaking off for a sightseeing bus tour.
- Be friendly with others – even if it is scary, try and connect and engage with those with you. You never know how they might help you in the future.
- Behave appropriately – casual work trip sex and too much booze? No. No no. This is not Ibiza Nights.
- Get some sleep – conferences can be tiring at the best of times and when you add travelling into the mix, those all night party raves don’t seem that sensible.
Learn and connect
This is your big moment! Have I made work trips abroad sound epically boring? Possibly. But they are also a fantastic way to gain experience, respect and to learn. The two major trips that I have been on have involved conference style learning, and I am still in touch with many of those I met in the US – in both a social and work related capacity. Being given responsibility to travel for work if it isn’t usually part of your business is a clear signal that you are being trusted – so don’t let it slip through your fingers.
Take business cards and give out liberally, and chat to others about their work and projects. After collecting business cards I then made an effort to connect via Linkedin when I got home and sent an email to those I wanted to stay in touch with for work.
As well as taking business cards, take copious notes (and photos too!) so you can reflect on your learning. At the end of each day of both my major trips, I’ve typed up key actions from my notes into a list that I would do on my return to ensure nothing gets missed or forgotten.
Create a report or presentation to give colleagues on your return. There is nothing that says value for money like a staff member who actually shares their learning and thinks of ways into which to implement into day to day work when back at the ranch. Want to go next year? Then definitely do this.
Work trips abroad can be so much fun and you can have downtime too (I hiked a mountain in Utah and sampled Catalan cuisine in Bilbao) but you need to handle it right – do that, and you never know what might come of it!
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