I went to Palo Alto on business recently and as a formerly frequent traveler, I really value a stress-free trip. Whether you’re a university student going on interviews, or an experienced business traveler, I’m betting that you do too. Here are tips on things I do to make my life a little easier when I travel. Share your tips in the comments!
- Check in for your flight online 24 hours ahead of time, check and update your seat selections, using www.seatguru.com to make sure you have a decent seat. Print your boarding passes and your itinerary. Put both in a clear plastic file folder, back to back, in a designated spot in your laptop case. This will give you easy access at the ticket counter and through security. Always put it in the same place; searching for things is annoying.
- Print maps to where you’re going, and your schedule/calendar for the duration of the trip. Even if you have your info on a PDA, the paper will save you if you run into issues. I’ve had hours-long flight delays that burn through PDA batteries, and that can leave you without your online maps and details.
- I don’t carry-on my suitcase, don’t want to stress out about limited overhead storage space. I fly regional planes, which are smaller, so I have a tall and narrow briefcase, which is narrow enough to roll through airplane aisles, and small enough to fit under the seat in front of me.
- When you check your bag at the airport, take the luggage sticker and stick it onto your itinerary that you’ve printed. Most people absent-mindedly stuff that sticker somewhere with their boarding pass. Not a big deal, until you need it due to misrouted luggage. If that happens, it’s frustrating enough without having to search for your luggage receipt. And know ahead of time what brand and size your luggage is.
- Wear short sleeves and bring a cardigan-type light jacket. Airplane temperature is unpredictable. Bring a snack (almonds, energy bar, etc.), so you have something to eat if you run into delays. Bring a bottle of water, but buy it after you pass through airport security.
- Speaking of security, wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, empty your pockets of any loose change before you even get near the security area. Don’t wear metal belt buckles, take off your outer jacket, and take your laptop out of your bag while you’re in line. Grab 2 bins - your laptop goes in a bin by itself, your other stuff goes in a second bin. If you don’t do these things, please let me go in front of you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable, but would be appropriate to show up in wherever you are going, if your luggage gets lost. No one wants to show up to an important meeting in a t-shirt and sweatpants, because of lost luggage.
- Ever spend too much time trying to straighten a dollar bill to go into an airport or hotel vending machine? It’s usually not the wrinkled bill causing the problem, it’s dirt on the bill, making it hard to read with the reader. Instead of standing there and trying to smooth out every wrinkle, take the bill, and clean off the surface by rubbing it on your pants leg. Seriously, try it, it works.
- Build in extra time. I had a flight to India that was delayed for a full 24 hours; the guy next to me missed the majority of the meeting he was going there to attend. For domestic flights, go the day before, and never on the last flight of the day. For international flights, build in more time. That will also give you time to rest before your meetings.
- If you do build in time, try to visit at least a little of the place you’re going, at your own expense. One of the best things I’ve ever done was stayed over a weekend in Beijing and went on a tour arranged through the international hotel. This gave me a much better understanding of the country and the people, and was an incredible experience on top of it.
- Along the same lines, don’t skip meals and activities that are planned with the local team. Yes, you’ve got a lot of work to do and email to catch up on, but you can really enjoy and get more from your trip by spending time with your hosts.
How do you reduce the stress of your travel?
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This continues my series on my first adventure race, and lessons you can apply to strategically manage your career.
Here’s a recap - Lesson 1: Have a goal, agreed by the team
Lesson 2: Have a plan on how you’ll meet the goal, and adjust when needed.
Lesson 3: Help others along the way
Lesson 4: Don’t let others determine your definition of success
“The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself”. The quote I like for lesson 4 is from Baz Luhrmann’s song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen”)/created from Mary Schmich’s Chicago Tribune column. Listen to the song if you get a chance. It’s chock-full of good advice for all of us, even if it is from 1997. Plus it’s catchy, so the advice continues to run through your mind.
Lessons from the race:
When most people enter a 5K race or a marathon, their goal isn’t to come in first place. Sure, the elite runners will, and should, set this goal, but for most of us the goal is going to be different. Some folks are running for the first time and they are happy to complete the distance. Others are trying to beat their “personal best” record. Some are recovering from illness or injury and are grateful to be able to run at all. An experienced adventure racer might look at our team’s results and scoff. But that’s not like the racing community. They understand that their goal is not your goal.
Lessons for your career:
Set your own goal. Don’t worry about what your classmates’ or colleagues’ goals are by comparing your progress to theirs. Set your goals high, but set them for you. My good friend works part time as an attorney from her home office. She’s a success because she’s meeting her goal of having a great job and using her skills and education, plus time for her kids. Comparing herself to former classmates who aspire to be partners at a firm would be an apples-to-oranges comparison.
If you want to be a CEO or general manager, plan your career path for that. If you want to work as a researcher, align your plans to that. If you want to travel the world, pick a path that allows you to do that.
Here’s how I learned this lesson. I once mentored a guy who was an engineer at a tech company and he told me his goal was to be more into sports and he wanted to golf more. I thought that was a strange goal, given his current job. That is, right up until he told me 6 months later that he was leaving the tech company because he was hired by a company that makes golf equipment.
What has been your experience with setting your own goals? Any other advice you’d share?
Next/final post in this series – Lesson 5: Attitude is everything
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Adventure Racing Lessons for Your Career – Lesson 2: have a plan on how you’ll meet the goal, and adjust when needed.
This continues my series on my first adventure race, and lessons you can apply to strategically manage your career. Lesson 1 was to Have a Goal, Agreed by the Team.
Lesson 2: Have a plan on how you’ll meet the goal, and adjust when needed.
After a race briefing, teams had 30 minutes prior to the start of the race. Teams use this time to strategize on their route, plot the first checkpoint and generally figure out what they’re doing, or wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. Being newbies, our team didn’t realize that there was no way we’d come close to achieving the total number of checkpoints. We had a tough bunch of competitors – marathoners, triathletes, mountain bikers, runners, former high school sports stars, etc. We determined that our strategic advantage would be that we’re familiar with the area. It was definitely not going to be our athletic ability, and our training had been pretty light compared to what the race would entail. We’d get a head start by knowing exactly where we were going for the first few checkpoints, then we’d figure out the rest of the plan from there. Hmmm, as they say, FAIL!
We lost our early advantage when we failed to notice an item that we were supposed to take with us to a future checkpoint, which we discovered when we arrived at that checkpoint, and the item we were missing was needed to complete the task. There was a time limit on this segment of the race, so we had to quickly backtrack to previous points, figure out and grab the missing item, and get back to the checkpoint and complete the task. Sticking with nearby checkpoints, we completed the Paddling leg via a couple miles of canoeing and several checkpoints. Onto the ropes course (see Lesson 1). After the ropes we realized we had about 2 ½ hours remaining, and had collected about ¼ of the checkpoints. This is when we realized we’d be happy to complete about half, and we revised our plan to include the checkpoints we felt were the most achieveable, and exclude others. If we didn’t adjust the plan, we’d end up too far from the finish line.
Lessons for your career:
Be observant, pay attention to what’s going on around you. We were so focused on the goal of punching our passport at the checkpoint, we missed, and watched other teams miss, key elements. There’s a reason for the saying “don’t lose the forest through the trees”. As you’re reaching toward your goals, even when you’re just starting out, remember to look for those things that can help you, and keep your view on the big picture.
Build your skills: I know people who have focused in only one area in one job, and neglected building other skills. When a new opportunity comes up, the person who has built both depth and breadth will be better positioned. If you think about your career as an adventure race, it doesn’t help you to be only a good runner if success depends on you knowing how to orienteer using only a compass and map in addition to running from point to point quickly. Running fast in the wrong direction isn’t going to get you anywhere, except off-track faster.
Next post: Lesson 3: Help Others Along the Way
This weekend I participated in my first Adventure Race. As a newbie racing team, my teammate and I learned several lessons, and as I thought about it after the race, those lessons are good advice for managing your career strategically. Stick with me here.
What is an adventure race?
Adventure races combine a number of different sports and activities into one race. They vary from 4-6 hour “sprints”, to off-road triathalons, to 7- to 10-day excursions in places like Tibet. This one was a beginner to intermediate sprint – still awaiting our results, but last year’s winners completed it in 4 hours, finishers completed as much as they could in 6. It involved orienteering, mountain biking, running, rowing, climbing/ropes, and surprise elements.
In our race, the winner would be based on the teams with the most checkpoints, followed by time completed. So a team completing 30 checkpoints in 6 hours would win over a team who finished the race in 4 hours with 29 checkpoints. Checkpoints could be completed in any order with a few exceptions, and almost all of the checkpoints were optional.
Lessons from the race:
1. Have a goal, agreed by the team
One of my favorite quotes on strategic planning is the one from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice was asked something along the lines of, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” For the race, our team’s goal was to finish it, preferably not in last place, and enjoy it. Many teams don’t finish for a variety of reasons, so we decided ahead of time that we’d consider ourselves successful to just finish, and to still get along afterwards.
The second part of this lesson is that adventure racing is a team sport. I learned from the orienteering clinic I had attended that a lot of teams get into issues because they don’t have the same goals. One person wants to just finish the race no matter how many checkpoints they get, the other wants to get as many checkpoints as they can.
Our goal was tested along the way. At the high ropes course, we encountered a line of other racers ahead of us. Completing the checkpoint would take up a lot of time and was worth only 1 point out of 30, but we really wanted to do the ropes – to build our skills, to fully participate in the adventure aspect of the race, and because it looked fun. Reflecting back to our goal, we spent a lot of time at the ropes course with no regrets. Our goal was tested again at close to the end of the race, we figured we had 20 minutes remaining to collect one more checkpoint. We picked one, biked about 7 minutes and stopped our bikes to go into the woods. This meant that with the 13 minutes left, we’d need at least 7 to get back to the finish line, leaving us only 6 minutes to find and punch the checkpoint, and no room for error. If you arrive at the finish after the race ends, your results are DNF – Did Not Finish. Reminding ourselves that our goal was to finish, we skipped the checkpoint and crossed the finish line with a few minutes to spare.
Lessons for your career:
Have a goal. The best way to get to where you want to be, is to know where you’re heading. People with the clearest career goals have an easier time making their decisions about what to do, even when they are tough decisions. I work with a guy who is a great example of that – he knows exactly what skills he has gained, and exactly where he wants to build new skills or improve. He has an actual checklist of skills and experiences that he has created for himself. Using that as his compass, he can make his career moves based on the type of work that will get him closer to his goal. And smart career strategists will focus on their skills they’re building, not just the job they’ll be in. Even if the job you’re in isn’t the one that you ultimately want, focus on how you can use that job to build more of the skills and relationships you need to get to your next goal.
It’s a team sport. Careers, like adventure racing, are often a team sport. Your career decisions are best made when considering the needs of the whole team and getting agreement, or at least alignment, about what the goal is for your team. Even when it means making tough decisions. No matter if you’re a dual-career couple w/ kids like me, single parent, single person, sandwich generation, recent grad, empty-nester, world traveler, etc, etc., be sure you know who you need to factor into your decisions (your “team”) and make your decisions with your whole “team” in mind. This doesn’t mean every team member gets everything they want at all times, there are always compromises along the way. It’s not easy, but your overall satisfaction will be higher if you remember that it’s a team sport.
2. Have a plan on how you’ll meet the goal, and adjust when needed
It is “technology in HR week” for me. “HR Bloggers: Who are these people and why should I care?” was a panel session at the SHRM annual conference (Society of Human Resources Management, for those of you not in HR), which I attended via web streaming. It was a good session and really has me thinking about HR blogs, tweets, and how to add the most value as an HR professional via my blog. You can see the replay and additional commentary on Fistful of Talent.
I’m usually an early-adopter when it comes to technology, but this session made me realize that there’s a lot left to learn. Fortunately, I had just received an invitation to “Tweet Twaining”, so I decided to round out the blogging topic by setting aside my doubts about Twitter and seeing what the experts are saying.
Here are the key things I learned that I want to share with you –
The “HR Bloggers” panel was moderated by China Gorman, COO of SHRM, and included these experts on HR Blogging: Kris Dunn from HR Capitalist, Jessica Lee from Fistful of Talent, Laurie Ruettimann from Punk Rock HR, and Lance Haun from Your HR Guy. Key points I took from the session:
· Just do it - Kris Dunn from HR Capitalist talked about how he started by committing to write a post every single day for a year, and recognize that in doing that, he’d have some good posts and some not-so-great posts, and that’s ok. You’ll get better at it, they’re not all going to be perfect. Lance Haun emphasized that you have to engage at a level that works for you and your other responsibilities, so he posts less frequently. Both of them are right.
· Join the community – I think it was Jessica Lee over at Fistful of Talent, who advised that the best way to get started is to engage in the community. Start by lurking, then commenting, and become part of the social media scene that way. Or do a guest blog as another way to get your message out, without starting your own blog.
· Seek help from others – the panelists encouraged the audience to learn from others, as that’s how they started out.
· I realized that a lot of this advice applies to traditional networking too, so I’ll draw some parallels in a future post.
From the “Tweet Twaining”, a good introductory session on Twitter from Geoff Peterson:
· Pay attention to your profile – carefully select your username, post a professional picture and write your profile with purpose.
· Twitter has value in business – frankly, I suspected this, but wasn’t convinced until the training. 32 million current users, according to Geoff. I still think business use is in the early stages and evolving, albeit very quickly.
· There are a lot of tools out there which can help you use it effectively – too many to highlight here, better to go straight to the source and follow Geoff.
So, here we go… follow me on Twitter and join me on my learning curve! (Thanks to my colleague, Shaazia, for the tips in HP’s blogger forum on how to add the Twitter link, and to Mumu over at another tech company who suggested that I might consider adding Twitter to my approach.)
I welcome your advice and tips on how to make the most of social media in helping you discover HP. Leave me comments with your advice and become part of the conversation.