I have been working for a global company for 11 years. Luckily, I was asked to travel as a part of work since day one. Believe it or not, I had zero experience traveling, either by myself nor for business when I started.
I am not going to lie and tell you that every business trip was excellent and had no issues. In some occasions, I lost my luggage and had nothing to wear for an early meeting the next day. On another trip, during a face to face meeting, the client had the wrong expectations of my visit and I ended up crying at the end of the day in my hotel room due to frustration.
There are a lot of people that can tell you that traveling for business or work is the worst; but I can assure you that from a professional perspective these have been the most enriching experiences for me, both good and bad.
What advice can I give you?
1. Find out what the real dress code is
Ask what the weather is like. Check the internet, but also ask a colleague or client what the weather is like. Ask not only if it is hot or cold, but also what the dress code in the office is. Believe me, your “business casual” may not be the same as theirs.
One time, I had to meet with the client in their main office at Munich, Germany. I asked about the weather and they told me that it was spring and business casual. I packed a red knee length dress and nude high heels for the first joint meeting. It wasn't exactly bad, but I was the only person in the entire building wearing red….so yea, I felt a bit uncomfortable and out of place. I asked one of the female clients if it was inappropriate. Her answer was “oh no not at all, it’s just that we all wear dark colors…” So with this I am not saying you should change your wardrobe, but it would had been better to wear a darker color dress for the first meeting and then decide on the next day’s outfits.
2. Always include backup outfit options for your meeting.
You have to travel light. That mean you should not travel with 3 suitcases for a 1 week visit. So you should plan your outfits. Try each of them at home first; be sure all look good and professional. Try your shoes, accessories and even hair and makeup. Then, the most important advice: you should always pack an extra pair of pants, two blouses, and a pair of shoes. Believe me when I say to pack just in case; you never know if the weather will change or if by some reason your business trip gets extended and you have to stay. You can always go and buy something, but sometimes you do not have the time or the money to do so.
3. Review the meeting topics in advance and be prepared
I am not going to tell you that you can always say, “I do not have the answer now but I can work on it and get back to you”, but it´s better to be as prepared as possible.
Get prepared in advance of the trip:
- Take into account that your flight schedule can change in the last minute, so checking while flying may not work.
- Jet lag can affect you more than you imagine. When I went to Manila from Costa Rica, it was my first time traveling that far. I can assure you I have never felt that bad. The first days I thought I was floating on a cloud and could not concentrate enough. It took me two days to feel on my game to start working with the team.
4. Participate in the after work dinners or try to go around the city if possible
Sometimes you are not in the mood to go out with your coworkers or the client for a drink or dinner, but it’s also good to share another side of you and establish a good relationship.
If there are no after work activities planned, you should try to go around the city at least one day before returning back home in order to take advantage of your trip. Take some pictures or enjoy their cuisine a bit. Every memory counts!
My final advice is to be confident.
There could be moments or situations that can affect your confidence. As a professional women you may be judged a bit harder than others, but be assured that you are there for a reason.
Think positive. Always let your work speak for you. I can assure you that with every business trip you will feel different, better, and more confident.