When I’m not working as part of our amazing Calgary team, one of my favourite extracurricular activities is travelling. There is nothing better than checking into a hostel or hotel with only clothes and a guidebook. But like all of the best experiences in life, I’ve learned a lot in those adventures that has helped me to be a better consultant.
Here are three lessons learned through travel that I’ve brought to my communications career:
1. Know your goals
Probably the biggest lesson I learned on the road was to know why I was travelling. I think there are a few different types of travellers: the photographer, the checklist checker, the backpacker… the list goes on. And in each city, I could adopt a different style of travel… but it all depended on what I wanted to get out of my experience in that city. I set goals for what I wanted to see, how much money I wanted to spend, how long I wanted to stay in that city, etc. These goals were based on my past experience in the area, the people I was travelling with and how long I had been voyaging. In my career, it helped put into perspective what a goal is (which sounds funny to say but it can be a nebulous concept) and the importance of the full team – client and consultant – working to achieve it.
2. Set your metrics
From my travel goals came the “metrics” by which I evaluated my experience. Did I see what I wanted to see? Did I stick too close to the plan? Did I feel like I had missed out on anything? In my travelling life, these are easy metrics. In consulting however, they can be somewhat trickier to define (ROI, ROR… the acronyms roll on).You are forced to ask yourself what tools, data and process do we have in place to collect the information we need. Often, we set metrics based on what’s available but now, as communications, advertising and opinion surveying are becoming more closer aligned, metrics and measurement are becoming more expressive. We can now, with more precision and accuracy, evaluate the success of the messages we are sending and make the right adjustments when necessary.
3. Constantly ask questions
Being on my own in new countries, I had no choice but to ask questions and seek advice. As a result, I was constantly refining my trip – destinations, mode of transportation, etc – based on the information and advice from others. Having gone to journalism school, asking questions is somewhat of a built-in habit but sometimes as consultants, we feel we need to have the answers. Communications is quickly becoming a spherical activity rather than a linear one. We are constantly asking questions and re-focusing and targeting our activities. Not only does this make our jobs more fun but keeps us constantly asking questions and learning at all stages.
Cassandra is an account director in our Calgary office.