This week’s blog is about transforming travelling from a gap into a strength during a job application.
Where I come from you should just go to school, get your degrees and start working in your field. No gaps, no time “wasted” on travelling the world for months, no casual jobs to earn some money for adventure. Just do what is expected from you… Sounds pretty boring right?!
I graduated and couldn’t bear the idea being at work from my 25th till probably about 70 years of age. People literally told me “you can travel when you retire, you will have the time and the money” or “don’t commit career suicide by going travelling”. They had a fair point concerning the money, but I don’t see myself going hiking in New Zealand when I’m 70+!? I wanted to go hiking in New Zealand NOW.
I decided to get a call centre job and make as much money as possible in a short amount of time. I took the risk and went travelling because life is too short to spend most of it working. I had the greatest adventures and saw most of Australia and New Zealand and by the time I was ready to start my professional career I had a gap on my resume of almost a year…
How am I going to explain that gap during a job application? And how am I going to mention this on my resume? Now it just looks like I didn’t do anything for a year, which is true concerning my professional career but not concerning my personal development.
I’ve read blogs myself to help me deal with this gap, and believe me, much is already written on this topic. However, I didn’t find one that could help me with my situation. Lots of blogs focus on the work or volunteer experience you gain during travelling and use that on your resume. I didn’t do both, I just travelled and had fun….
One of the things I used to get that travelling part of my life integrated in my job application is to use every opportunity to write a cover letter alongside my resume. A travel is a story and it’s difficult to explain by some bullet points.
I found cover letters a great way to go into depth on some of the things (missing) on my resume. I could clarify that gap of professional work experience, but also explain the soft skills mentioned in my resume. And gaining and being able to explain soft skills are one of the great benefits of having travelled a lot.
When mentioning soft skills everybody puts “organisation”, “communication”, “decision making”, “independency”, etc. Besides just putting it there, the hardest part for most of the people is describing a situation where it showed that they actually had these skills.
Being a traveller gives you numerous situations that you can use for describing your soft skills.
- Your whole trip depends and relies on choices you make. Which route to travel, which hostel to choose, where to go for dinner, which excursions to make and when to go back home are just a few decisions you have to make (decision making)
- Going travelling or backpacking requires organising transport, excursions, food and hostels with a limited budget (organisation)
- You will meet new people from different cultures and making new friends from across the world (communication)
- You might need to talk your way out of tricky situations, for example when people persuade you to buy something you know is way too expensive because you’re a tourist (negotiation)
- Getting sick? Missing a plane? You’re far away from family and friends so you rely fully on your own in these situations (independence)
With regard to practical skills, a great one I experienced was improving my English language skills. I met heaps of people during my travelling in Australia that came here without speaking proper English and leaving with a good understanding of the language. Crossing the border and learn the basics of Spanish, Chinese, English or Japanese looks great on your resume and might even come handy someday when working in an international work environment.
So in summary, being back home again and ready to start applying for jobs, I explained my travel in my cover letter, which explains the gap and my soft skills in my resume. In the resume itself I have added travelling below the section “hobbies”, with a short description of where and approximately how long.
Even though in the end I decided to start my professional career in Australia, which meant doing an internship first (see my previous blog “Diary Of an Intern”), I definitely will still use my travel experience as a strength during my next job application.