How To Survive (And Thrive) On Your First Business Trip
Your boss has asked you to head to a conference out of town to represent your company. Great news, right? There’s just one problem: You’ve never been on a business trip.
It’s normal to a bit anxious and nervous. Going on a business trip is a major work responsibility, but keep in mind, the more prepared you are, the less apprehensive you will be and the more you will get out of your trip. In fact, going will probably give your career a boost.
Like you would with any new work assignment, the first step in preparing for your trip is to have a talk with your supervisor. “Not discussing [the trip] with your boss will show you aren’t fully engaged in the experience and prepared to succeed,” explained Tyler Morin, founder of EntryRevel.com, a website created to help young professionals advance their career. “Always try to get some hints and tips on clients, contacts, etcetera. Also, more likely than not, they have been on a business trip before and can give you some advice or just calm you down if you’re a bit nervous.”
You should also have a chat with your co-workers, especially those who will be covering you in your absence. Make sure your team knows where you’re going and how long you’ll be there well enough in advance to prepare themselves. Let them know how they can reach you if there’s an emergency and if you know you’ll be out of touch most of the time while you’re away, consider appointing a trusted team member as the point of contact for any questions or concerns. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, also advised to “Prep your out of office message and make sure you tie up any loose ends or assignments before heading out.”
With the organizational details out of the way, now it’s the time to begin the self-preparation. “A good way to look at this is like an interview,” Morin said. You don’t know who is going to be there, what it’s going to be like and what your surroundings are. You should prep for anything — mentally and physically.”
Here are a few ways to do that.
What to pack: “First and foremost, pack the clothes you need to wear to whatever meeting/event you are going to be attending. Also make sure the materials, laptop etc. you need are packed,” said Morin. Be sure to pack your business cards and an extra top and pair of pants just in case you spill something here or pop a button there.
How to organize: “Depending on where you are when you arrive, figure out if you will need to rent a car, take a shuttle, or call a rideshare to get to where you need to go,” Sweeny suggested. “If you’re supposed to meet up with a colleague first, coordinate where you’ll meet and when so everyone is on the same page.”
What to expect: Since it’s your first business trip, everything will be new for you. But don’t sweat it. Be flexible and go with the flow. “Expect the unexpected. Expect everything to go wrong–especially the flight, traffic etc. Plan accordingly, leaving enough time for your transportation. Expect to meet new people. Do as much research (i.e. Linkedin lurking) as possible. You will be out of your comfort zone so be prepared,” noted Morin.
How to act: Just because you’re away from the office doesn’t mean you’re still not handling business. “Don’t be a tourist and don’t treat this like a vacation. No matter the locale/dress code etc. you are not on Spring Break,” said Morin.
Added Sweeney, “Behave professionally throughout the duration of the trip and always arrive on time according to your schedule. Don’t treat your business trip like you would a vacation–no sleeping in, skipping out on meetings to go sightseeing, or meeting up with outside friends, or excessive drinking.”