Marketing Your Travel Break
Often people call the re-entry process the hardest part – not only are you trying to fit back into society, friends, and family, but you are also trying to find (or start) work again. There are a few key things we recommend that you do before you leave that will make your job hunt when you return easier.
Things to Do Before You Leave
1. Choose your itinerary with some thought about coming back to the workforce. All of these ideas can be highlighted on a resume or in an interview with a little creative forethought. Travel can be about building skillsets, and soft skills which are valued in the workplace.
- Include volunteering
- Learn how to blog
- Sign up for and learn how to utilize social networks like Linked In, Twitter, and Facebook
- Improve a skill such as a foreign language, photography, business through microfinancing, sailing, or cooking.
- Get certified! Dive certification, ESL teaching certification, or Yoga certification.
- Include some countries on your itinerary based on cultures you interact with in the workplace currently. For example, does your company manufacture something in China, or do you outsource resources from India; then these could be great cultures to explore and learn more about on your career break.
2. Update your resume with your most recent work experience! This is crucial to do now before you start traveling and forget the details of what you used to do.
3. Contact your business contacts and let them know that you are leaving to travel and why you have chosen to do so. Let them know the additional skills you expect to gain while traveling and when you expect to return back to connect with them again on a professional level.
Your career brand is much more than the sum of your past work experience. It is the aggregate of both who you are as an individual and why someone would want to work with you. It is about taking various life experiences and showing how they have—or will—contribute to your career. –Mario Schulzke, Creator of CareerSparx
Things to do While On the Road
1. Periodically stay in contact with colleagues and provide them updates of your travels and experiences. This will keep those networking and communication ties open. This can be as simple as keeping a blog or sending out a monthly email to friends and colleagues recapping your experiences.
2. Create personal name cards with your name and contact information to give out to people you meet while traveling.
3. As you meet people while traveling be sure to ask them what they do, you may be surprised at people who you have access to that you never would at home. After all CEO’s travel too.
4. Have your story ready. You will encounter people all the time who will ask you what your ‘story’ is and want to know why you are traveling. This is your chance to mention your prior work experience in a positive light.
5. If you end up spending a while in one place, try to meet some of the expat community. I have found that by networking within an expat community, you can make all kinds of international connections – especially in business. Get on mailing lists for the expat groups in your community, and attend functions where there will be expats to meet.
6. A few months before returning:
- Take stock of what you have learned and how you have changed. What soft skills have you gained.
- Updating your resume with some of your travel experiences.
- Reach out to your networks and let them know that you’ll be returning shortly and looking for employment.
- Start communicating with recruiters.
Things to do When You Return
1. Consider what your goal is:
- Do you want to return to the same career on the same career track?
- Do you want to return to the same career but on a different career track?
- Do you want to utilize your skills and talents to pursue freelance work?
- Do you want to make a big change and never return to corporate?
This is not a quick, or easy decision to make. It often takes a lot of soul searching and potentially negotiating with a significant other. The main thing is to not force a decision if you don’t have an answer. If the answer isn’t coming to you, then simply dip your toe into all of the options, send out resumes, and see where it lands you.
2. Update Your Resume:
You don’t have to hide your career break, you should address it. You may want a number of versions of how you address it depending on the jobs you are applying for.
- Include a short section about your career break and if you did any work related activities during that time (volunteering, teaching esl, freelancing, ran a blog).
- Include an area/continent that you focused on especially if it has ties to your work in some way. I was in IT and often worked with outsourcing firms in India so highlighting my India experience was key.
- Soft skills – most every career breaker will return with better soft skills acquired from their time on the road. Key areas involve – Risk taker, negotiation skills, flexibility, patience, adapt quickly to changing environments, and enhanced decisions making. In my opinion, much of these skills fall into one important area in business – leadership.
- List your travel website if you feel it’s professional enough to mention. Look over it with a critical business eye before touting it on your resume.
“Now YOU have international experience to add to your resume. I was out of the country for a year and a half; I wasn’t working or living in a different country, but I might as well have been. I stayed in some regions (Asia for instance) for several months and was able to experience various aspects of many different cultures – from business and family interactions to religion and history. You can’t help but become accustomed to the way people operate. This is better than simply traveling to Tokyo for a business meeting; instead you’ve actually been immersed. Don’t be afraid to tout this international experience that you’ve gained.” –-Sherry Ott of Briefcase to Backpack
3. Prepare for Interviews
Understand how your travels contribute to who you are. This may take some careful retrospection, however if you kept a blog or journal while traveling it may become a bit easier. Consider what you learned in the various countries and cultures you experienced and how would that apply to doing business internationally.
Examine your experiences and then try to the following questions:
- How have my life-goals changed?
- How have my career goals changed?
- What qualities have I strengthened to make me a better team player?
- What qualities have I strengthened to make me a better leader?
Next consider what questions you will be asked in a typical interview and have answers prepared and practiced for these types of questions:
- Why did you decide to take a career break and travel?
- What was the most memorable experience and why?
- Did you have any important revelations?
- Why are you back?
Keep in mind the company may think that taking a career break is irresponsible and means you could leave them at a moments notice too; therefore, be prepared to explain how loyal and committed you are.
Most importantly – write these answers down! Then read them aloud. Get used to actually saying the answers. These are things that will most likely need to be explained in an interview so practicing them is key.
Also consider how you explain your type of travel in an interview as it may be questioned:
Adventure Travel Career Break – An adventure filled career break can also be used to highlight your fearlessness. This is especially appealing in fast paced, target driven environments. You can explain how you are keen to throw yourself into an opportunity, although you act with consideration.
Skill based Career Break – Be careful not to let your career break sound like an extended holiday – tell your potential employers that you wanted to improve your skills, take your diving/skiing/whatever ability to a new level to challenge yourself. If you describe your time in a focused manner it will help highlight your ability to push yourself. (from A Return to Work)
Finally – be sure not to come off too elitist! You do not want to sound like a know-it-all, or at all judgmental about people who do not chose to take a career break, but you can be clear about how you have grown from the experience and how you are able to bring those benefits to your new employer.
4. Have a Positive and Confident Attitude about your Career Break Experience
One of the most important things to possess as you are working your way back into the workforce again is to have confidence in your ability to do so. If you don’t believe that your career break was beneficial and you are simply trying to create a sales pitch, then it won’t be as successful. As you converse with future employers and network with colleagues, you must ooze confidence about your career break. No regrets!