Travel and Job Seeking

What does job search and foreign travel have in common? Having recently returned from a business trip abroad, I’m not only brimming with fresh perspective and chock full of new learning, I see connections I’d earlier have missed.

The learning: Airline personnel, flight cancellations, impatient travelers. When the few are assigned the work of the many and there’s a critical intersection of the few, complicated by a critical interruption of the many, chaos reigns.  The ensuring struggle becomes emblematic of any business or organization in the throes of downsizing, limited supply, and crushing demand. The fragile system that supports a tentative network breaks down.

The lesson for job seekers:  Do your homework before you even think of

accepting a job offer, however attractive it appears to be. If the company you want to join has been laying off employees instead of hiring them, you’re walking into a structure that has been stressed and surviving personnel who have been stretched. Can they and their systems react quickly and appropriately to change that is predictable, yet not of their choosing? Are they planning for the long term or struggling to survive the world of “what’s happening now”?

The learning: It helps to speak the same language. When issues are simple and time ample, the gulf created by cultural and language difference is negotiated with relative ease (“How charming” we say. “How American” they reply, as we each smile, nod, and cautiously make our way around the other). However, when time is currency, and there’s too little of it to enjoy the impasse, minor gaffes create major blunders, cultural customs create corporate inefficiencies.

The lesson for job seekers: When interviewing, realize that what you say (or think you’ve said) isn’t necessarily what they hear (or thought they’ve heard). What are priorities for you, may not be priorities for them; what they value most may be what you value least. Clarify understanding, yours and theirs, while you both have time to adjust your thinking, alter your plans, negotiate your differences, and work for a common and desired outcome.

The learning: It’s important to be well rested. Travel can be tiring. International travel can be exhausting. You’ll change sleep cycles, social contacts, and meal times to meet the calendar and clock of the location and people with whom you interact.  Change your circadian rhythm and you affect your blood pressure, body temperature, sleep patterns, and ability to digest the food you’re not used to eating. No wonder you feel as though your brains and your batteries have been popped in backwards.

To look and behave as though you know what you’re doing, to have your words leave your mouth in the order in which you conceived them, you’ll have to pace yourself, and get the rest you need.

The lesson for job seekers: You don’t need to travel abroad to realize the benefits of good, sound, uninterrupted sleep. The better your rest, the more productive you’re likely to be. Each of us are different, some of us requiring more, some fewer hours of sleep to be at our best. Whatever you rest you need, be sure you get it and recognize that when stressed you might need more sleep than ordinarily would be enough.  (How do you know? If you’re easily distracted, forgetful, moody, clumsy, and nodding off instead of networking and knocking on doors, get some sleep).

Whether you’re traveling to the coast or to Costa Rica, eyeing a job in IT or in Italy, plan ahead. Think strategically and behave tactically. What’s your goal?  How will you measure your progress toward achieving it? What do you want, why do you want it, and how will accomplishing it align with your priorities, values, and longer- term objectives?

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