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How International Travel Mirrors Agency Life

25 Oct, 2019 Jessica Patterson Uncategorized

I am what you’d call “risk averse.” Uncertainty opposed. “Allergic to fun,” in some cases.

So, you can imagine my complete and utter horror when my boyfriend was accepted to an international composites conference in Melbourne, Australia this past summer, and I was invited to accompany him to turn the business trip into a vacation. Instead of looking forward to the trip like a normal person would, I spent the summer of 2019 in a full-blown panic trying to prepare by documenting every minute of every day of the trip, thinking non-stop about transportation options, conversion rates and hotel cleanliness, and checking the top drawer of my desk no less than three times per day to make sure my passport had not grown legs and waddled away. I basically broke out in a cold sweat every time someone said the words “Australia,” “New Zealand” or “G’Day Mate.”      

Sitting here today, I can reflect on the trip and happily report that it made for two of the greatest weeks of my life, and I cannot wait to return to both countries in the future. But instead of telling you about how breathtaking the Sydney Opera House was or how impossibly blue the glacial waters of Lake Pukaki were, I will share with you the three ways that my experience with international travel were exactly the same as being an account manager at an advertising agency.

1. A Boy Scout is always prepared

International travel requires a lot of planning and preparing, which are two of my favorite words. Much like traveling internationally, being an account manager at an agency requires an immense amount of planning, preparation and foresight in order to achieve a client’s goals. For example, if you are given a deadline for a client’s project, what are the plans you need to put in place to mobilize the teams and have the deliverable(s) ready on time? Similarly, if you know you have two days unchaperoned in a foreign city because your boyfriend is at an engineering conference, how do you best plan your Uber routes so you can minimize transportation time and maximize antiquing and eating time? It’s all about planning and being prepared.

2. Change is inevitable:

While being prepared and getting your plans in place feels good in the beginning, we all know that the only constant in life is change. My trip, like working at an agency, was no exception to this rule. It was not long before I found myself throwing away my detailed itinerary (metaphorically, of course) and forfeiting the plans I had so carefully crafted in favor of spur-of-the-moment adventure. Agency life has a way of always repeating this pattern, no matter how sure you might be about your project and timeline. One minute you are hard at work on a client directive and confident it will be perfect and on time, and the next you find yourself in a complete 180 degree switch trying to remember what day it is and if the project is still what the client wanted or asked for. It is all about being flexible and accepting change, no matter how impossible it may seem in the moment. Change is (usually) good!

3. Fortune favors the bold:

Whether you are traveling to a distant land or working at an agency, you must remember to be bold in your communication. I, being the self-sufficient and “non-botherer” that I am, completely disregarded the fact that everyone in both Australia and New Zealand spoke English, and assumed that I would have to figure out everything for myself. I could not have been more wrong. Just like my co-workers at Fluid, the people in both countries were more than happy to talk to me and help with directions, recommendations or questions that I had. I learned during my trip that if you articulate what you need with a laugh and a smile, people will help you. And this same rule translates perfectly into working at an agency. No one can execute a client’s campaign on their own, and if you clearly communicate expectations and direction for the task at hand, the agency will create something amazing. Throwing in a laugh and a smile never hurts, either.

I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel this summer, and equally lucky to work at an agency where I can utilize the lessons learned from travel every single day. I look at every day at Fluid as a new adventure, in addition to a veritable training camp for my next big international journey.

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