Finding a great job is one thing, but finding a great job that allows you to travel abroad can be a real dream come true. Traveling for work means your employer pays for airfare or a rental car (or at least mileage), accommodations (for overnight travel), meals and other related business expenses. If you sign up for a credit card from one of the hotel chains or airlines, you can earn valuable points or miles for a future trip on your own.
While it may sound glamorous to travel to New York, San Francisco, or even London or Paris on business, you have to seriously consider if traveling for business is for you. There are a lot of plusses, but a few minuses as well. It can be too late after taking a dream job to find out you don’t like flying or sleeping away from home for extended periods of time. If a prospective job requires travel, here are a few things you should ask in the interview and some questions to answer for yourself.
Do you enjoy traveling on your own? Traveling with family or friends is one thing, but most business travel is solo. You have to be able to handle the details of travel in unfamiliar surroundings. Are you resourceful enough to make alternate plans if your original travel is disrupted? Can you handle long international flights of eight or more hours with a bunch of strangers in close quarters?
Business travel can take you to exotic places, but the language, food, water and customs can be very different from your own. How well do you operate in unfamiliar surroundings? Can you make your way on the metro in Paris without speaking the language? Can your system handle the food in Beijing or Sweden? It’s true that in most major cities people speak English. Get away from the city center, however, and you may have to resort to gestures or pictures to make your needs known.
Accommodations can be very different in some countries. Beds are smaller and harder. You may have to share a bathroom in some four or five star hotels in some cities. The rating systems are different, and a four-star hotel in Berlin may be more like a motel in the U.S.
You’ll be traveling for business, so you employer will expect you to be able to adjust quickly to another time zone in order to meet with clients or customers the next day. The morning in the other country is the middle of the night in the U.S. You’ll need to be able to navigate the different electrical systems in order to safely charge cell phones, laptops and other electronic communication devices in order to keep in touch with the office. If your hotel doesn’t have WiFi, you’ll be working on your own, with a laptop perched on an airplane tray table or in a coffee shop with Internet access.
Traveling for business takes flexibility, resourcefulness, patience and a willingness to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. If the job requires travel, the interview is the time to get all the details about what the company expects and requires on a business trip. Carefully consider all the information to be sure that business travel is something you can handle and enjoy. Then, update your passport, get a regulation carryon bag and enjoy the trip.
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