When I graduated, there was one thing I wanted. I wasn’t bothered about money (quite frankly, the more the better but it wasn’t a deal-breaker), I wasn’t bothered about hours – the one thing I wanted was to travel.
In my first few weeks after joining Accenture, I realised there’d been a slight discrepancy between my interviewer’s definition of travel and mine. I remember at the end of the interview she’d asked me “and just to confirm, you understand the role involves 100% travel?” I’d nodded eagerly, envisioning crazy weekends working around the clock in Hong Kong before hopping on a plane to present in New York or something like that, while my interviewer had been implying something a little, well, closer to home.
I turned up at the London Fenchurch Street offices after completing my basic training out in Chicago, not quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as Day One but not far off. There I was, all ready for my first assignment and yet, I spent the first few months ‘on the bench’ (when you're not on a chargeable project). One by one, I saw my colleagues put on projects all across the UK from Havant to Edinburgh, they were everywhere but it was all domestic. Occasionally someone got to travel to Europe but nothing much further afield than that.
I remained hopeful. You see, Accenture is a place of opportunity and I’m a firm believer that if there is a will, there’s a way. I shouted from the rooftops how keen I was to travel – obviously not literally but I made it known from my first day that I wanted to travel, I wasn’t fussy where, I just wanted to go. I built a reputation for myself – people knew me as the multi-lingual Analyst that wanted to travel.
It didn’t seem to help though, everyone I met told me combinations of the same thing: “You don’t really get to travel until you’re more senior in the firm”, “You have to prove yourself first”, “It’s expensive to send you abroad and with all the technology at our fingertips (conference calls and video calls), what can you offer that a local resource can’t?”, “It’s not the glamorous lifestyle you’re probably thinking of”. They were all valid points (except the last one) but I refused to give up hope.
Time passed and while I may not have been on a chargeable project, I helped out as much as I could – at some points, I was working even longer hours than most of my colleagues who were on projects. I took BD (business development) roles on a number of projects which gave me the opportunity to simultaneously expand my network, complete trainings and polish my skills.
You know what they say about patience? Well it’s true.
Two months after joining the firm, I was approached about an overseas role. It was very secretive and hush hush but after a series of internal and client interviews, I landed the role and ended up spending most of the following few months overseas. I had done the impossible.
My next role, the project I’m currently working on, saw me doing more globe-trotting and there are more international destinations in the pipeline.
So how did I get to travel? Here are some quick tips which helped me hit the ground running:
1. Let people know
If you don’t tell anyone you want to travel, it’s definitely not going to happen. Make sure your scheduler (the person who helps you find roles) knows about your desire to globe-trot and don’t forget your career counsellor too. Once those two know, tell anyone who will listen – you never know where that opportunity will come from.
2. Sharpen up your CV
The reason most Analysts don’t get to travel is because a) travel is very expensive and b) they don’t have anything special to offer. The need for travel arises is a geography or client needs a skill which you happen to possess and at Analyst level, it’s unlikely that you’ll have that. This is one of the reason travel opportunities increase as you become more senior and know your craft better. You can help yourself by highlighting key skills; especially if you speak foreign languages!
3. Prove yourself
Getting to travel as an Analyst is pretty rare so your first role will likely be in London or elsewhere in the UK. Doing a good job and getting a reputation for being reliable and capable is vital to securing future travel opportunities. You never know – the manager on that project might be the one that recommends you for an awesome project role in [insert country here].