If you have taken any sort of extended vacation, mini-retirement, or soul-searching experience you know how difficult it is to fill the void on your resume once you return. Or, if you are thinking to yourself "Should I quite my job and go traveling," one of your concerns may be how to "sell" your time off of work to the next prospective employer. There is a viscous school of thought, that many employers and employees buy into, that says "No gaps in your resume!" So what if your gap is the result of a planned GAP year?
Sexify your Resume
How do you banish the stereotypical view of being unpredictable, unreliable, and frivolous when you go in to job interviews? If you're not a "family man" then your often thought to be the opposite: a free-spirited, go where the wind takes you at the drop of a hat kind of person. Others can easily form the impression that you're a liability, not an asset to their company.
Spoiler Alert: Employers want the person on the safe, conservative path in life who settled down in a house with a white picket fence, a spouse and several kids. Why? Because these people are boring! They are predictable! They aren't going to just up and leave with a two week notice and travel the world! They can be relied on to stick around for a long time.
If you take a mini-retirement between jobs, and have previous professional experience in the field that you are applying for jobs, young guns just out of college don't have a better chance than you.
To prospective employers a large unexplained gap on a resume is a huge red flag. Their minds start to wander. What has she been doing then? Did he deal drugs to survive? Did she join a commune and become a hippie? All of these, no matter how ridiculous or un-biased are questions and perceptions about yourself that you'll face from the "professionals of the world."
So, if you are struggling with how to fill that gap on your resume, and boil down a year of life-changing and enhancing experiences to three lines on a sheet of paper, or if you are looking to take an extended trip for the first time, but aren't sure if you should because of how it will look when you come back and need to find a job, here are some tips to turn your mini-retirement into an asset. The good news is that your time spent broad can actually make you a stronger candidate and increase your chances of rocking that next job application, interview and placement. Boom!
Title is Everything:
Don't let your prospective employer wonder if you've been living as a drug lord in Colombia for the past year, put "Sabbatical- World Travel" on your resume with the corresponding dates. If you are interviewing with the sort of employer you want to have, ie. someone that shows curiosity and interest in your passions, you are sure to get a question such as "What does that mean?" or "Where did you travel and what did you do?" (More and more employers are realizing the health and productivity benefits of travel) In which case, you can begin to highlight all of the soft skills that you've gained. What are soft skills? Good Question. See below.
Highlight your Soft Skills:
Traveling is character building in many different dimensions. Here is a list of possible skills to include in your resume:
Overcoming communication barriers
Increased ability to read non-verbals
Handling stressful situations
Open mindedness to information and people
Know multiple languages
This list is by no means exhausted and there are many more "soft skills", or non-specialized skills that are great for any job. Putting a few of these skills down on a resume can serve as great fodder for interviewers to ask questions from.
Highlight professional skills:
Were you working at any point when you traveled? If so, why not include a few of the professional skills you gained? Above all else, employers like to see your motivation to progress. Your chance of getting a job will greatly increase if you can show that even when you were traveling you developed some other professional skills. It may be from a job, or from just taking the time to challenge yourself. Maybe you became a better writer, or took an online course in a field your interested in. Maybe you volunteered somewhere and learned a new skill you could put down.
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, if you take a mini-retirement between jobs, and have previous professional experience in the field that you are applying for jobs, the young gun just out of college doesn't have a better chance than you. Not only do you already have past experience in the industry, but you've added another dimension to yourself by traveling and attaining the "soft skills" you put on your resume.
Your Attitude means a lot:
Don't reinforce the stereotype of your interviewer. If he reads World Travel on your resume and thinks you're a bum or hippie don't prove him right by showing up late to the interview or dressing in a tank top. Keep your appearance first class and let the interviewer see how travel has made you a more confident, respectable individual.
Is this a one time thing or recurring:
When asked why you went on a long- term trip, be honest. Tell him why you needed a change and what you hoped to get out of the experience. Make sure to emphasize that this was a one time, GAP year, experience, if it was. If you plan on doing it again, at some point, then don't lie. Simply say that your focus now is your professional development and that you have no plans to do any more extensive traveling in the near future outside of your normal time off. If you are looking for a way to work remotely, follow Tim Ferriss' guide in the Four Hour Work Week.
Travel is worth the cost:
At times you may be ostracized and profiled incorrectly because of your extended trip, or mini-retirement. Don't get discouraged. There are jobs out there for those interested in a mobile lifestyle. Never forget that the places you go, the experiences you have, and the friends you meet will always supersede the rejection emails you receive from prospective employers. Many people will be jealous you found a way to travel instead of enduring the 9-5 grind they are stuck in. They may even get mad at you for "finding a way out" or for having the courage to follow your dreams when they have sacrificed theirs. These are people you don't want in your life anyways, because they will never understand the joy of seeing the world and why it is a passion you must follow.