Business trips may not be as glamorous as you imagine, but they offer a great chance to network with colleagues and vendors from other areas and to help you develop some critical skills. Read on and you’ll be signing up for the next business trip before you finish this post!
The impact of business trips on professional development
Business trips are on the rise, especially among Millenials. While most people take 6.8 business trips a year, Millenials take 7.4 trips and plan to increase their travels. This is according to a study conducted in 2016 by MMGY Global among 1,007 U.S. residents who took at least one domestic or international business trip in the previous 12 months.
What’s driving the desire to travel more for work? For some, it’s the perception that business trips are just an all-expense paid trip for a couple of meetings, leaving ample time for sightseeing. The reality, however, is that most business trips are filled with meetings leaving you with little personal time. But the true value of a business trip goes beyond the immediate perks and it’s much longer lasting than a day tour of the city you are visiting.
1Business trips help to increase your cultural intelligence, particularly international ones
Cultural intelligence means having the ability to recognize and respond to cultural diversity and to make better decisions based on that understanding. My experience in traveling globally and domestically for work has raised my cultural intelligence and ability to connect with people. It will do the same for you, regardless of the number of trips you take each year.
Think about the business trips you have taken and make a note of what you recall were the differences and similarities of the intercultural exchange. Keep in mind intercultural exchange does not only happen when you travel abroad. It also applies to when you travel domestically. It’s very likely that the vibe, energy and culture of your office in LA is very different than the ones in your office in Dallas or New York.
Possessing cultural intelligence today is more important than ever as globalization has made companies more complex and competitive. So make the most out of your business trips by increasing your cultural EQ. Employees who have a high level of cultural intelligence play an important role in bridging divides and knowledge gaps in an organization: educating their peers about different cultures.
2Traveling for work will help you breakout of your comfort zone
Business trips will help you break you out of your comfort zone, leading to personal and professional growth. When you travel for work, for the most part you will be traveling alone and navigating through a new city or country on your own. That means, learning to use a public transportation system, figuring out certain customs, perhaps learning a few words in a different language, and a million other little details that have likely become second nature to you at home. Having to manage these new experiences on your own may be hard at first but they’ll make you stronger. So regardless of where you travel or how long the business trip is, the experience will leave you feeling more confident.
On the other hand, you will also be representing your company and team, so you have to present the best version of you. Which means that you’ll do your best not to appear insecure, or tentative in this new environment. Even keeping your composure in a new circumstance will build your character and stretch you out of your comfort zone.
3Business trips lead to stronger working relationships
Every business trip that I’ve taken has led to improved working relationships with old and new colleagues. It’s an opportunity to nurture relationships with business partners (suppliers, clients, etc.) or colleagues you’re traveling with. It’s a particularly good chance to have some face time with partners with whom you collaborate remotely to fine tune any challenges you’re confronted with when working in different locations.
As you prepare for your business trip set up time to connect with your partners outside of business meetings. For example, schedule coffee, lunch or dinner, if possible. A former boss gave me the best piece of advice, “Teresa, during your next business trip your days need to be spent having face time with local suppliers, insight partners, and marketing partners.” She was completely right and taking her approach helped me establish strong relationships. I still keep in touch with some of the former business partners in other countries and we don’t even work in the same company any more!
Each business trip is an opportunity to gain cultural intelligence, to break out out of your comfort zone and to nurture relationships within your business ecosystem. To make sure you take advantage of all that a business trip has to offer you must do your part. This means, you must go beyond making logistic preparations for your trip and being present at the scheduled meetings. You should go with an open mind, ready to listen to people who might be very different from those in your own office, and seek to learn from everyone you meet.