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7 Tips for Your First Business Trip

Originally published on LinkedIn March 4, 2014

Guest Post by Alexandra Levit

My good friend Alexandra Levit is the expert on making the transition from college to career. To celebrate the 10 anniversary of her breakthrough book, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, Alex weighed in for me on some of her favorite tips to handle that all-important first business trip. Here goes:

The first time your boss tells you that you’re shipping out of town, you’ll probably jump for joy— this is exciting stuff! Not only do you get to escape the office, but you also get to spend your company’s dime sleeping in a king-size bed by yourself and sampling cuisine from a new city’s finest restaurants. And don’t forget about those free mini-shampoos in the hotel!

After a while, the magic of business travel wears off. You find that your trips away from the office involve working more hours, not less. You return, exhausted, with a bag full of dry cleaning and a week’s worth of emails to catch up on. But for better or for worse, business travel is a part of life—here’s how to make the best of it.

1. Know before you go. Review your itinerary ahead of time. Go over your schedule to make sure you know where you’re supposed to be at all times and how you’re going to get there. Leave cushions of time in between activities so that you can make it from one place to the next without having a heart attack.

2. Cover your bases. Assign colleagues to share your workload. Keep the machine running by making a detailed list of tasks you need covered while you’re gone and delegating each one to a trusted colleague. Set up your email and voice mail systems with an “Out of the Office” message, complete with emergency contact information.

3. Go low tech. Print out important materials. You never know when your iPhone or laptop is going to decide to have a temper tantrum. Technology often fails us on business trips, so if you really need something for a meeting, carry both hard and virtual copies.

4. Dress up, not down. When you’re attending meetings in unfamiliar surroundings, wear business-appropriate attire. Even if the folks you’re meeting with are dressed casually, no one will fault you for being the only one in a suit. Pack your clothes in a garment bag and give that iron in your hotel room a try to keep you looking neat and wrinkle free.

5. Taxi please. Pay someone to drive you around! Even if you take pride in your sense of direction, do you really want to be bothered with navigating a rental car through the bowels of a strange city? If your company will allow it, stick to taxis or corporate cars. And don’t forget to carry extra money—you may need cash to pay your driver, so make sure your wallet is ready.

6. Don’t go MIA. Check in at the office frequently. Never allow your boss to think you’ve dropped off the face of the earth—even if you’re super busy. Drop her a text or an email to update her on your whereabouts, and don’t let her catch you spending half a day gambling in the Las Vegas airport.

7. Carry on. Pack necessities in your carry-on bag. Once your Samsonite disappears down the conveyor belt and into that black hole, you can’t control where it ends up. You’d hate to be the only one at the meeting in sweats and sneakers. 99% of the time your luggage will make it’s way back to you, but Murphy’s Law says it will never be in time.

How’d your first trip go? Let me know…


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