5 tips for the first trip with coworkers

What should a young woman do to make a good impression on her first trip with coworkers? Reader C asks…

I started a new job a few months ago and in three weeks my team will be traveling across the country for a new job. I am in my mid-twenties and the youngest person on the team by almost a decade. How do I make a good impression and avoid coming off too “young”?

This is a great question. There are a number of things someone early in their career would want to keep in mind when traveling with coworkers or their boss, especially for the first time. The overall goal is to exude confidence and competence at all times, during work hours and off hours. It’s not fair, but this goes even more so for young women. Here are my tips for women on their first business trip.

  1. When traveling with your boss or more tenured colleagues, you want to be on your best, and most competent, behavior. This starts with your suitcase. While I always recommend carrying on your luggage, this goes double for when you’re on a trip with others. You don’t want to be the reason everyone is waiting around at the baggage claim when dinner and bed are calling. Be familiar with the airline’s guidelines so that if you are carrying on, your bag is within the correct size requirements. Also, make sure you can lift it into the overhead bin without throwing out your back. Note: When choosing your luggage err on the side of subdued patterns and colors, like blue, black, olive, or plum.
  2. If you’re on the plane during work hours bring some work or industry-related magazines to read. If it’s after work hours you are probably fine to read or watch a movie. An eReader would come in handy here, allowing you to read whatever you want without anyone knowing the title.
  3. Be on top of your logistics for travel. Once you arrive have any addresses you need handy, including the hotel or office. On your last day know when you need to leave for the airport in order to make your flight.
  4. During any downtime that you spend with your boss, wear something comfortable but cute and well put together. I usually choose a pair of dark jeans, a nice top, and cute shoes. Don’t wear anything reads “night on the town,” nothing revealing, no too-tall shoes, etc.
  5. And I hope this would go without saying, but just in case. Please, please watch your alcohol intake. Getting drunk and throwing up in a cab with your director looking on is not going to make the impression you want. (I saw this happen, and trust me, we talked about it for years.) Also, be careful of oversharing with coworkers–casual work relationships can easily slip into “intense” mode when you’re in the trenches of a business trip, but be careful about the details of your life that you’re sharing. Even if your coworkers are sharing their secrets don’t feel you have to!

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Remember, a little time spent planning before your trip will make things go much more smoothly while you’re gone. I know it doesn’t seem fair that someone could be judging you during “off” times, but that won’t stop them from subconsciously doing it. If a behavior could even remotely be considered questionable, trust me, don’t do it!

Readers, what tips do you have for Reader C’s first trip with coworkers?

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Comments

  1. Totally agree with the alcohol issue. So many young professionals will let after-hours dinner, etc. turn into some liquor-fueled embarrassment. I’ve even seen some trips or events where that is a side plan to see if you can handle yourself like that. It could be a career killer as is sex or other over the top behavior.

    I don’t know that “cute” is a good way to go but I think I understand what you mean. I think business casual is best for after hours.

    I would look at all this as being prepared like you would for a meeting. Make sure you know where you are going, how to get there, what the options are if it goes wrong, etc. A smart traveler instead of a helpless damsel in distress is a way better situation.

  2. 1. No matter how interesting the destination or how interested you might be in personal travel there at a later date, remember that you’re NOT on vacation. Be enthusiastic about the trip, yes, but express enthusiasm about the conference you’re going to or the client you’re meeting, not about “OMG, I can’t believe I finally get to see Mouse World/ the Bronze Door Bridge/ the Garden State Building!”

    2. Some people are early birds and others night owls; some are perpetually early and others habitually late. If you tend to start slowly in the mornings or to run late, start a little earlier and do what you need to do so your coworkers aren’t waiting around for you. Likewise, if you usually run out of steam by dinnertime, take a midday breather and/or grab a coffee if that’s what it takes to make it through the end of the day without visibly yawning/flagging.

    3. If you’re not sure of your company’s culture around travel logistics and expenses, pay attention for the first few days and see what the norms are. Does everyone go out to lunch together, or do people order in, or do their own thing? Are you expected to travel together in 1 rental car, or is it OK to come and go as you please via Uber? If there’s a team meal, are people ordering appetizers and drinks and dessert, or just an entree? This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to follow the herd on ALL these items (I’m famous among project teams for never going out to lunch), but you should have a sense of what’s customary and do your best not to inconvenience anyone else in those areas where you do decide to go rogue.

  3. I’d also add… at my company, the expectation is that if you are traveling during work hours (aka any time that’s not 10pm-8am), you’re working in flight, not reading a magazine, even if it’s an industry publication. Not doing so will just mean you’re stuck working later into the night, so if you’re doing other stuff on the plane, your boss will probably think you’re bored / don’t have enough work to do. Know your company and its hourly expectations.

  4. There will always be other chances, tone sown the “hot” factor in dressing.
    If this is a domestic trip, cute is OK in luggage, in my opinion.
    As stated by others, limit alcohol intake to ZERO, for many reasons.

  5. Always take a breath before you speak. Pause. Then talk. Especially when traveling nerves are up and this makes you look calm.

    Take care of your own plans and itinerary, but don’t fall into the trap of becoming the secretary of the group (unless that is your job!). Sometimes people tend to assume the youngest person, especially females, are at their beck and call. As an example, arrange a car to get to the airport with the hotel, tell folks you did so for yourself at X time and ask if anyone wants to share. You look competent without assuming the role of travel agent. Again, if your role is to facilitate then do so ahead of time and don’t share any issues about it until you’ve tried to resolve it first. E.g. boss wants XYZ and you can foresee issues, say you will work on it, try to fix it and only if you come against insurmountable issues that need bosses opinion, ask boss.

    That’s my two cents having been in a male-dominated field traveling the world with guys for 18 years.

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