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Ensure Work Travel Success with These 5 Skill Sets

See also: Intercultural Communication Skills

In our digital world, the 9-to-5 workday is becoming an obsolete relic of the past. Today’s workforce is multi-faceted, adaptable, and spans the globe.

For many workers, traveling is part of the job description. Work travel could mean attending an industry conference, or helping to open a new company branch in another city or country. Some individuals even make travel part of their lifestyle, working wherever the wind takes them. These workers are widely known as digital nomads.

No matter which category you fall in to, you can shine at work, no matter your global location, when you master the following skills.

Language and Communication

When you’re given the opportunity to travel to a foreign country for work, it’s also a chance to learn a new language. But you shouldn’t head abroad with zero knowledge of the native language.

Several weeks prior to your departure, start learning basic words and phrases in your destination’s primary language, such as:

  • “Hello, my name is [Name]”
  • “Thank you”
  • “Please”
  • “Excuse me. Where is [street name or building]”

There are many apps on the market that can help you learn a new language, including Mindsnacks and Duolingo. Conversely, you could also find a private language tutor in your community, since immersion is one of the best ways to learn a foreign language.

Another aspect of interpersonal communication is body language, and understanding its nuances can help you bridge any language gaps. Make sure you understand what certain gestures mean in your intended destination as body language can sometimes get lost in translation.

For example, the American “okay” hand symbol, where your index finger and thumb form a circle, leaving the other fingers up, is a vulgar gesture in Brazil. And in France, the same symbol means that something is worthless. A small amount of research on body language and common gestures can help you avoid committing an unforgivable social faux pas.

Business Writing

Workplace communication can be both verbal and written and, whatever your industry, the hard skill of writing is likely part of your workload. While you don’t have to be a professional writer to get your point across, you’ll need at least basic writing skills in order to succeed in any industry.

But cultivating business writing skills will give you a leg up when it comes to work travel. You may need to draft proposals or memorandums, as well as plenty of emails, as part of your job. These types of writing, which can address either internal or external audiences, are referred to as “business” or “professional” writing.

If you’re worried that the language barrier will hinder your business writing during work travel overseas, invest in translation software or consider enlisting the help of a local who speaks the native language.

A Well-Rounded Soft Skill Set

It’s been said that the majority of success lies with your soft skills, rather than hard skills. Technical knowledge of your industry is a hard skill, while soft skills include more tangible traits, such as the ability to communicate effectively, cooperation, and independence.

When you’ve mastered soft skills such as attention to detail, integrity, and dependability, you’re more likely to succeed in your career, during your work travel trip and into the future. After all, your employer likely chose you to take on a work travel assignment because you’re dependable, honest, and self-motivated.

What’s more, soft skills are integral to the work travel experience as you may experience a bit of culture shock in your new location. Your ability to adapt to cultural differences can mean the difference between success and failure.



Adaptability and Leadership

As we have previously mentioned, flexibility and adaptability are key elements of a successful work travel experience. And according to Scientific American, humans are the most adaptive species on the planet. This trait has helped humanity survive over the long-term, allowing us to forge strong relationships and effectively communicate.

“The evolution of the brain is the most obvious example of how we evolve to adapt,” said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “But in the modern era, we know that in the human genome there are all kinds of interactions that allow human organisms to have plasticity -- the capacity to adjust is itself an evolved characteristic.”

What helped our ancestors thrive and become the world’s dominant species is the same trait that creates great leaders. Work travel often puts those leadership skills to the test. Confidence and positivity are the cornerstones of adaptability, while rigidity and discontent are their diametric opposites.

At its core, adaptability means being prepared for anything, both the positive and the negative. If your work travels involve setting up a new company branch, make sure to leave plenty of room for trial and error. Tactics and ideas that work in one locale may not translate well to another setting.

Budgeting and Money Management

Not all work travel skills are directly connected to work performance. You’ll have plenty of downtime during your work travel adventure, and you can make the most of it by keeping your finances in check.

Exchange rates can be confusing, so it can be easy to go overboard where work travel spending is concerned. No matter the length of your stay, it’s in your best interest to have a budget plan in place before your flight takes off.

Determine the maximum amount that you can realistically spend on your trip without going into debt, and then allocate those funds evenly to the number of days you’ll be out of town or out of the country. It may also be in your best interest to put some funds aside in case of emergency, as well.


Final Thoughts

The opportunity to travel for work is an exciting endeavor for professionals in every industry. However, it would be a mistake to take on a work travel assignment without a well-equipped toolkit, which includes communication and leadership skills. These essential work travel skills can help ensure that your work adventure is a successful one.


About the Author


Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.

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