When it comes down to it, most people like to travel.
Seeing new places can be exciting — it can broaden your mind, open you up to new experiences, and give you the opportunity to take lots and lots of pictures you can post to social media to show friends and family how much better your life is than theirs.
Day 5 of My Round-the-World Trip: Valiantly kept my hat on backward despite looking directly into the sun so that I would still look cool in all potential pictures. My vision is ruined but I look incredible.
Thus, when they get asked if they’re willing to travel for their job, most people’s instinctive response would be to say yes. After all, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to explore a new place on your company’s dime?
But of course, that’s not all hiring managers are asking when they ask if you’re willing to travel. If a company sends you something, they want you to work, and you won’t always get to travel at times that are convenient for you.
So what are you really getting when you take a job that involves frequent travel?
There are two major kinds of travel jobs: the first are seasonal jobs, which exist only for a few months or even just a few weeks and which may require you to travel for the entirety of the time you’re working the gig.
The other kind of travel job is a steady, “regular” job that just happens to require its employees to travel for a percentage of the month or week. For these kinds of jobs, the amount of traveling that occurs can vary dramatically depending on the position.
“Look, Prudence, I told you someone drew a giant Bart Simpson on the side of Mount Washburn. I know. It’s really hilarious.”
Here are a few things that might be expected of you if you enter a job like this, seasonal or not, and some things you should keep in mind about them.
You might have to make day trips, but the company may not be willing for pay for you to stay overnight.
This could mean long work days punctuated by large amounts of travel which could keep you awake for 16 hours or more.
Alternatively, you might be sent very far away and be expected to fend for yourself once you get there.
Again, you may not have much, if any, time to explore this place between takeoffs — you might just be working the entire time.
Relocation should NOT be expected of you unless it’s discussed at this time as well, and it’s important to note that there is a big difference between being willing to travel and being willing to relocate.
When it comes to actually answering the question when it’s posed to you by a hiring manager, there are a few things you ought to bring up — and some things you should just avoid entirely.
Talk About Positive Travel Experiences: They’re looking for someone who is comfortable with spending a lot of time away from friends, family, and the home office — you want to do as much as you can to assure them that traveling is something you find invigorating and fun.
So go ahead and bring up that study abroad trip, even if it’s a little out of date.
Demonstrate a Thorough Understanding of the Job: Whatever it is you’re doing, your company won’t just be sending you places so you can eat cool food in new places.
They want you to work, and understanding that you’ll be working regardless of whether you’re traveling is important to be considered for the job.
Bring up the unique job responsibilities of the position as you understand it and explain your commitment to fulfilling them.
Talk About Networking: A lot of working in a traveling position requires talking to other human beings and making business connections that stick.
For this reason, it’s important to show hiring managers that you know how to make these kinds of connections by talking about networking experiences you’ve had in the past — and it wouldn’t hurt to engage in a little small talk during the interview itself, either.
“With my giant oversized car, I find I can cover the distance of entire countries in no time at all, so long as I remember to make a ‘vroom vroom’ sound with my mouth.”
So if you can’t do weekends or certain percentages of the week, let the hiring manager know up front.
Focus Too Heavily on Your Availability Either: Giving a specific maximum amount of travel you’re able to do can look bad as well, especially if that maximum is below the company’s expectations. So tell them your availability, but don’t spend too much time on it.
Bring Up Negative Travel Experiences: These are fine to talk about once you have the job, but during the interview process it will just make you look like you associate these experiences with traveling and that you are even perhaps lying about how comfortable you are with traveling.
Go Overboard Talking About Good Experiences: As bad as it is to talk about bad experiences, it can be just as damaging if the only good experiences you talk about are vacations or day trips.
After all, they expect you to work while you’re on these trips, so if they think you associate traveling just with vacations and relaxing, they might not have the most faith in your dedication to work.
The reasons why the company needs for you to travel for your position varies wildly, and as a result, the particular travel experiences you’ll have could vary even for two similar positions.
It’s important for this reason to figure out exactly what sort of travel the company expects you to undertake before you get too far into the interview process.
“Hey Frank, come check out this crappy picture I took of of these blurry mountains.”
A few things you should clarify before you take the job:
If a job is advertised as having a travel percentage of 20%, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re traveling every Friday, or alternatively that you’re only traveling one week of every month.
That 20% is an average, and what it represents can vary dramatically by career, so make sure you ask your hiring manager to tell you exactly what the travel percentage means for the position you’re applying for.
Namely, are they paid? How much of your food is being covered? Gas? Other travel expenses?
It’s important to know this beforehand — while many places will reimburse you for every expense you incur while on the road, it’s important to know what the company’s official policy is for travel.
Will it mostly be flying? Will you be expected to drive to the locations you’re going to? Where will you usually be traveling to?
Where would the company prefer that you stay while you’re there? Will you be staying anywhere at all, or are the trips too short for this?
Travelling is often one of the most exciting parts of any job that includes it and, despite the huge amount of work that gets compressed during these trips, it can be very fun if you’re adequately prepared for it.
When it comes to working travel jobs, you really have to be ready to go all in. That’s why it’s so important to understand what a company is asking when they want to know if you can travel:
Not only will it make you look proactive and interested in the position, but it can help keep you from getting in over your head with a situation you’re not comfortable with or ready to undertake.
Day 104: The monkeys that look like Dobby from Harry Potter have officially accepted me as one of their own. I think it’s because of my cool backward hat. Every time I take it off they try to kill me. I’ve been wearing it nonstop for three weeks now and require immediate rescue.
And whatever you do while you’re out exploring the world, make sure you don’t stray too far from the hiking trail. That’s how you get bear maulings, and those usually aren’t covered under company expenses.
Anyhow, best of luck to you! Here are some other links to help you on your way.