- Wise Words -
The Mile High
Early Stage Professional
by yahya altaf
The Dream of Mile High
In college, I idolized the corporate road warrior. Whether it was sales, consulting or even bloggers, I saw those professionals as the pinnacle of Early Stage Professional success. The monotony of driving the same route to work, greeting the secretary at reception and having to look forward to Taco Tuesday from the same cafeteria was just not appealing to me. I wanted change. I heard stories of burnout and monotony from superiors and knew that in order to be happy in my career I needed a healthy amount of variety.
Some people agonize at the slightest sign of change. But for many go-getters, adapting to dynamic environments and breaking the figurative shackles of the cubicle is the very thing that ensures long and satisfying professional lives. I wanted to make the type of living where I met new people, gained perspective from different geographies and cultures and had meaningful takeaways each and every day.
By now you’ve probably deduced that I indeed travel for work! I am remote for 100% of the time and travel 60% of the time. I debate its pros/cons often (I have a lot of time for this: I fly a lot and so not just spend time on a plane but also at the airport waiting for one!). It's either an extremely beneficial perk or an exhaustive task added to general operation. You can travel for the length of your career, and will want to, if you do it right. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned in my journey from the back of the plane to the more comfortable middle (thank heavens for the status upgrades).
Plan ahead and book travel as early as possible, ideally 3 weeks or more.
Keep your calendar updated and know what the next day has to offer. When you travel, the hustle and bustle of running from gate to gate and city to city often leaves the unorganized dazed and confused. When I first started traveling, I checked in at the Delta counter and the representative asked, “Where to today, sir?” I had to pull out my phone and catch myself several times before I pulled up the right itinerary and answered him accurately. The guy thought I was a mad man for not knowing my destination! Don’t let that happen. Know where you’re going and prepare to put your best foot forward, whether that’s New York City, New York or Mobile, Alabama.
Plan attire for the entire trip and be prepared for delays.
Like I said before, your attire is important. Looking good, feeling good and performance are interconnected. Always be on top of your game (especially if you deal with clients regularly). I know that my confidence is always at its peak when I’m comfortable and prepared. Plan for the delay or the cancelled flight and ensure your checked bag or carry-on is equipped to handle such inconveniences. When you travel, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s timeline, more than likely Mother Nature or mechanical failure (that’s always reassuring to hear). Always prepare for the worst but expect the best.
The snowball effect is a real phenomenon. Prioritizing while traveling is of utmost importance and keeping up with expense reports, time-sheets and other minuscule tasks ensures more time for meaningful responsibilities, such as that email to your manager about your career and developmental goals or adding to your diabolical plan of world domination. Putting off tasks loads everyone down and is simply not a good look. Bite the bullet and buy in-air Wifi (try and expense it if possible) and utilize your down time wisely.
Eat healthy and hydrate.
Be the best version of yourself, even when you’re at the mercy of the airport. Electing healthier meals is definitely more difficult on the road but choose the salad over the burger if you can and use snacks to breakdown urges. Greasy food before flights is never a good idea, especially if you get queasy at take-off and landing. Also, cabin air isn’t the best (often it is quite humid which leads to dehydration). My policy is always to have a water bottle at arm’s length.
Give yourself recovery time.
For all the reasons above, extensive travel is exhausting so if you travel frequently give yourself some recovery time. To maintain a sane mindset and reset for the next round of travel, try to work from home some of the remaining time (it is easy for me to do this as my company headquarters are in Texas and I live in Minneapolis). Utilize the time spent at home to prepare for on-trip success, follow-up from latter visits and complete other tasks such as expense reports and regular debriefings with your team and don't feel guilt if you have just got off a red eye and are not going to head into the office. Pace yourself and focus on the quality of your output not being the jaded warrior who can't function in the office!
Stay loyal to one airline, hotel.
Commitment is everything. In this model, putting all your chips in one basket is definitely the way to go. It gets you through the tiers (i.e. bronze, silver, gold) much faster to take advantage of the benefits. Often airlines, hotels and even car rentals will form alliances with one another to attract a broader customer base, so align to 1 group as much as possible (you can transfer points between them as well). I have had free vacations based on my loyalty and hope to
I've been a mile high now for almost three years and am still not peaking. Hopefully these tips will help you maximize your cruise speed if your career takes you "up, up and away"!
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