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Don’t blow your first business trip — here’s how

By Alyssa Goldman

When my boss invited me to join her at a two-day client conference, I was ecstatic.  As a 23-year-old who had just landed her first full-time gig, this was going to be my first business trip. Never mind the fact that the conference was an hour away from my house — to me, this was a big deal.  So, obviously I had to pull out all the stops. New three-piece suit? Check. Pumps? Check. Jewelry? Check.  St. Charles, IL, here I come!

Aside from the fact that my boss thought my hanging bag was a sleeping bag (more on that later) things went pretty well considering.  Here are 4 tips to make sure your trip goes equally well:

Pack light (and professionally). When you live with your mom, like I do, you probably get unsolicited (and impractical) advice from your best-intentioned, biggest fan.  I wanted to bring a suitcase with wheels, but was warned that doing so would wrinkle my suit.  I caved.  When my mom saw my gaudy floral print garment bag she asked, “Did we need to bring our own linens?”  I was mortified. I also brought along a bulky backpack.  Traveling with more bags than my boss made me seem high-maintenance, and holding that garment bag made me look ridiculous. Takeaway: bring only what you need and invest in a black roller bag.

Thrive in listen mode. While there were a few awkward moments standing silently next to my boss as she spoke with clients, I quickly realized it was more beneficial for me to listen in and learn the ropes rather than speak for the sake of speaking.  During my boss’ presentations, I didn’t just sit there — I actively listened and transcribed the Q&A with the audience.  This simple task, turned out to be very fruitful, as some great blog post fodder came from participant questions.

Don’t be a wallflower. Other than my boss, I didn’t know anyone at the conference.  On the first day, I had the nightmarish experience of being seated alone at a networking lunch.  I was intimidated and felt out of place as neither a company employee, nor a presenter.  But I put my feelings aside and focused on those seated at my table.  I was genuinely interested in learning about each person’s role in the company and the path they took to get there. My takeaway: When networking, don’t make it about you and how you feel. Instead, focus on those around you, what you can learn about them, and what you can add to the conversation.

Be one step ahead. Looking back on the conference, I can now see that I missed some (obvious) opportunities to assist (without having to be asked).  For example, if a presentation involved handouts, I should have offered to pass them out.  Before each presentation, I should’ve brought my boss a glass of water.  I wish I hadn’t waited to be asked to do these simple tasks. My advice: realize your boss’ needs before she does.

Did I miss anything? Add your own business trip do’s and don’ts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!




2 Responses to Don’t blow your first business trip — here’s how

  1. ADT says:

    Great tips! I would have loved something like this the first time I took a business trip.

    I do think you can do a rollaboard other than black, as long as it’s not something too crazy. Mine is a burnt orange, and it works well because it’s easy to spot but it’s still a professional neutral.

    If you’re worried about suits wrinkling, there are some really good tutorials on youtube about how to fold a suit to avoid wrinkles. Also, hang everything the moment you get to your room (before dinner or other meet ups!)

    My tip to add is to be efficient. In addition to packing light, make sure your liquids are in the approved containers/baggie at the top of your luggage and your laptop is easily accessible. Put your id and ticket in an outside pocket of your purse or bag so you can take them out without having to hunt for anything. I have a large briefcase-type purse that I use for anything that has to come out (laptop, baggie of toiletries, weirdly shaped metal objects, ticket). Remember you can always rearrange your stuff if you need to, but you don’t want to hold up the security line while digging to the bottom of your suitcase for the baggie, praying that your undies don’t fall out on the conveyor belt.

    • Alyssa says:

      Thank you for sharing these great tips! The first business trip is always an adventure …

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