A few weeks ago, I spoke on a panel at Hostelling International Boston – “Travel as A Young Professional” – about how to balance traveling with building a career. I asked my fellow panelists – all incredibly inspiring and accomplished professionals much younger than me! – to share their top three tips on how they’ve done it, and Leah Moschella provided some fantastic advice on how travel can actually benefit your professional development.
1.Talk to strangers and show up to events.
Let’s face it, if I never talked to strangers I never would have taken my first trip to North Africa, and frankly, I never would have been participating in this panel or blog post. So next time you’re on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the person who has the job you want and ask to grab coffee. Turns out people love to talk about themselves! Plus, more often than not, they are happy to introduce you to their own networks.
I know that at the end of a busy day it can be a challenge to show up at an event over choosing to binge-watch Netflix, but it’s the few people who take the time to attend events, networking sessions and talks who meet connections, build relationships and are the first ones offered new opportunities. I’m still waiting for my binge-watching of House Hunters International to manifest in a plane ticket, but can honestly attest that simply asking a question after an event exposed me to the opportunity to a free trip to Toronto for a conference.
2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!
From the initial job offer to continued performance evaluations, make sure you are negotiating your salary and benefits. Benefits include vacation time and professional development so don’t be afraid to negotiate travel as part of professional development or tuition reimbursement. Just remember to be able to explain precisely what you plan to learn and how it will value the company or organization where you work. The easiest way to get results is to quantify your value.
Maybe you’ve already put in three extra Saturdays and a few evening hours this year – calculate that and get your worth. Maybe a new product that you developed helped save the company thousands of dollars – calculate and remind your supervisor your impact on the company’s bottom line. My favorite resource for salary and benefit negotiation is Katie Donovan of Equal Pay Negotiations.
Here’s a completely hypothetical example: Traveling South America for a month will allow you to return back to work fluent in Spanish. Having a staff member who is fluent in Spanish saves your agency an average of four hours a week in struggling to communicate with Spanish speaking clients and $2,000 that is outsourced to translate documents into Spanish. Now calculate. Four hours a week equals 208 hours a year. If each hour is worth a low estimate of $30/hour, you could save the company over $6,000 in time and $2,000 in outsourcing document translation just by traveling!
Get the idea? Numbers, dollar amounts and tangible skills developed are a powerful way to communicate and negotiate directly with supervisors.
See an opportunity the sparks your interest? Maybe it’s a fellowship, delegation or travel scholarship? Well the fact is that many people probably saw the same opportunity and had the same reaction you did: Applying seems like a lot of work, there’s a chance that I’ll put all that effort in for absolutely no result! That seems like a logical gut reaction.
Well, the fact of the matter is that many travel fellowships and scholarships have low application numbers. Maybe you have to write a couple of essays or get a recommendation, but think about it – you spend about five hours applying for an opportunity that will provide lifetime benefits. Plus, once you’ve written one or two applications, the process gets much easier. You will never know until you try!
Leah Moschella manages a workforce development program and is the founder of Boston GLOW, which fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens. She recently was named a 2015 Gabr Fellow and will be representing the U.S. in Egypt this October/November. The goals of the Fellowship are to foster civic leadership and understanding among Middle Eastern and Western young/mid-career professionals.
Connect with Leah: Twitter