I’ve been thinking about the privilege of travel as an administrator. It’s been a wonderful adventure to be asked to travel to another country for work, to be an important element of a project and to know my insight is necessary and essential. What I’ve discovered is that work travel is travel, regardless of where I go and to make the most of the opportunity.
In the past ten years, I’ve travelled to the USA, Singapore, India, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Malaysia, France, Switzerland, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Bratislava for clients, many of those multiple times. I want to share with you 4 key points that I have learned during my travels as an administrator.
- Planning for others is essential
It’s very rare that I travel alone for work. I am usually with a team of people, including my manager. Along with my own plans, I always make sure I have travel information for the entire team. Travel plans will change at the last minute and I’ve learned very early on to make sure that I have all the flight and accommodation details for the team. You can’t predict everything, but being able to assist on the fly can make a big difference to keeping the team calm and keep work on track. Having all the local transport planned, taxi numbers, and other contact numbers to hand show foresight and will be appreciated as well as remembered. Planning ahead helps with keeping the budget in check, as flights that are booked earlier are cheaper, and by planning and booking public transport in advance it can help to keep the travel costs down.
- Plan time for yourself
Work starts from the time I leave the house (usually very early in the morning!). I know that I am being reviewed throughout the trip to justify sending me on work travel so impressions are very important. I know the value of checking emails before and/or at the airport, making sure there are no last-minute surprises, or if there are I make sure I am on top of them. My time is on the plane when I’m disconnected from the world for a while. I try not to sit with the team, as this is time to relax and calm myself prior to hitting the ground running. I sleep, listen to music, watch movies, read, whatever relaxes me, and I try not to think about work.
Once I’m off the plane it’s work time again, and this will continue until I am finished for the evening (possibly after dinner if scheduled). I know my hours, but also know my breaks. I negotiate with my manager free time once the work day is finished, or during the day if it is extremely intensive work days. If I can, I walk to and from the hotel to the work location. It may not always be possible to get a break, but if I don’t ask I won’t get, and a couple of hours will usually help to refresh me – my manager is usually very understanding if we talk through the situation and discuss opportunities for a break during any downtime.
- Get to know your colleagues/clients
No matter how tired I am, I always make sure I attend social events and go out if invited with work colleagues, or the clients I am working with. Work will be stressful – I’m not only doing the job I’ve travelled for, but I also need to be on top of my usual work as well – the work doesn’t stop. There’s a lot to do, but some of the most helpful conversations have been over a drink or dinner, as people will relax a bit more and I get to know how they tick. I cannot overstate the value of face-to-face contact so I use every networking opportunity available. This is not the time to promote myself, it’s about understanding and listening to others. A lot of time work becomes easier once I know someone a little better, and professional friendships have been formed that have lasted years. I may have a little less sleep, but it’s a valuable use of my time and helps me to be a better administrator.
- Enjoy the adventure
Every trip is an adventure, regardless of work or pleasure. It’s a privilege to be invited to travel for work so I always think of it as an experience. It is hard work, and I’m assessed for how I handle myself, and I need to show my value and professionalism, but I find the fun we well. It can be such a rewarding experience when I find the right balance. I always hope for a positive experience, but regardless, I always learn from each trip I take. I make sure I prepare a report for each trip noting who I meet, where I went, what happened and what I have learned – this is presented to my manager as an evaluation of my value, and helps justify future work trips.
If you are in a position to travel for work, see it as the opportunity that it is. Administrators are not always viewed as essential for onsite work, and it’s important to communicate with your manager your responsibilities and your value. Work trips can open doors, allow you to better connect with others and feel (and sometimes be offered) as a reward for good work.
Enjoy your jet-setting adventures!