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Passionate traveler Astrid Vinje found herself in quite a career predicament 10 years ago.
After serving two years at the Peace Corps doing grassroots-level community development projects, she realized her travel and volunteer experiences were NOT giving her the edge she thought they would. Surprisingly, potential employers were not impressed. Astrid faced a rather difficult – and unexpected – challenge: how to find a job once your travels were over.
This story seems to go against every benefit of traveling that we’ve heard, read, and seen in recent years. Don’t employers like travelers? After all, you become independent, organized, and more open-minded after exploring the world.
These qualities, along with creativity, quick-thinking, and competence, make for the most appealing job candidate (according to employers).
But WHY are many travelers experiencing trouble with employment once they come back?
Issues with Travel
With the boom of millennial workers came the explosion of volunteering abroad, remote working, and digital nomadcy; all of which have ONE thing in common: the urge to get up and go. Things related to travel seem to be everywhere. From social media, magazines, TV ads, and apps – it’s all about going out to explore the world.
While there are plenty of benefits to traveling, there’s still a professional stigma tied to it. There are stories of people who traveled or took a gap year, confident that they’ll develop all kinds of skills that would eventually help them in their career – only to face disappointment upon arrival.
But it’s not really about the travel as much as it’s about the job candidate’s ability to ‘sell’ it to the employer. In Astrid’s case for instance, she admits that during her first attempts, she didn’t know HOW to tie her experiences with what the employer needed.
Say you’re in the legal industry and you took a year off. How are you going to explain that? Where do you put it in your resume? Do you even put it there? Such questions are essential once you’re ready to hit the job market again.
Another thing to consider is WHAT lessons from your travels you can directly apply to the job. Where does your language, volunteer, or blogging fit it? And again: how?
How To Find a Job You Want – Even After Years of Travel
Let’s burst a bubble: it WILL be difficult to return to the job market, even if you’ve only been gone a couple of months. Some hiring managers will be doubtful about that gap. If you can’t make a connection, you’ll be back at square one (there goes a possible paycheck for that next adventure).
The key is to BE STRATEGIC and INTENTIONAL.
Consider your INTENT on why you’re itching to be gone in the first place. Next, STRATEGIZE what you’re going to do at all the places you plan to visit. Rinse and repeat.
Here are four ways on how to find a job – regardless of how long you’ve traveled:
1) Pick out activities you can tie up with your professional life.
You can’t just have been sipping cocktails by the beach. At some point – especially for long-term travelers – you might have picked up work or volunteer opportunities.
Be sure to specify exactly what you did and for whom. Even if you just started a blog, it’s important to take note of it.
- Created and launched ‘CrisDelightstheWorld.com’ travel blog.
- Gained more than 100,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.
- Earned $10,000 a month on Google and Amazon affiliate marketing
- Learned about SEO, social media marketing, and PPC.
- Invested money on ebook, which launched in Amazon books this October
Tailor the specifics based on the type of job you’ll be applying for. Don’t forget to keep documentation of the things you learned, too. If you’ve been budgeting, take out your Excel spreadsheets. If you were volunteering, be ready to show photos of the community you served, and tell their stories (more on this later).
2) Know WHERE and HOW to place it on your resume/cover letter.
If you’re already stressed about how to find a job after your travels, then thinking about putting it on your resume or cover letter is just as – if not equally – nerve-racking. But the trick again, is to be strategic.
If you’ve mostly been abroad for leisure, it’s best to focus on your soft skills (e.g. negotiating, global perspective, adaptability, etc.) and sell it on your cover letter. But if you were able to gain some hard skills (e.g. web design, SEO, social media marketing, editing, public speaking, teaching, etc.), then go ahead and elaborate about them on your resume.
For those who traveled to simply get away, you may include these experiences under the ‘Interests’ or ‘Hobbies’ section of your CV, when applicable. You also have the option of leaving it out entirely. This lets you save the juicy stories during the interview phase (point #3).
3) Use travel experiences as a talking point for interviews.
Interviews can be a make or break for job candidates. So how do you secure that job – especially if the hiring manager looks dubious about that gap year spent in Africa? Tell a story whenever he or she asks you a relevant question.
During an interview as a potential customer support, the employer asked me why I took a year off to study in Germany instead of finding another job. I smiled and told her short tales about my language class. I explained what it felt like meeting and getting along with various folks from different countries. I also told her how I resolved conflict with new friends, and made pals with strangers.
As I was applying for a customer support position, these experiences showed I was a great conversationalist and a true people-person. It was definitely one of the main reasons I got the job at that time.
Today, Astrid Vinje is a Project Administrator for a global health organization – and still has a passion for travel. After much trial and error, she has learned that finding a job you love after years of being out in the world is NOT impossible. It’s just a matter of specifics and patience.
You don’t need to squash your dreams of globe-trotting to ensure you’ll have a career. Remember: the world is changing (some people are just more resistant to it than most). Who knows? Maybe these issues won’t even matter in the future.
But for now, learn how to find a job by connecting the dots of your travel adventures. You’ll be surprised at the picture it paints.