There’s still a misconception that if you want to travel for more than a week or two you’ll have to sacrifice your career or at least put it on hold.
But while this may have been the case at one point, advancements in technology and changing attitudes towards work mean there’s no longer any reason an extended travel stint should hurt your employability or prevent you from picking up right where you left off once you get home.
In fact, if you’re smart about it, travel can actually make you a more attractive job candidate. So if you’ve been dreaming of traveling but worry that it might derail your career, here’s how you can keep things on track.
5 Ways to Keep Your Career on Track While You Travel
1. Work and Volunteer Along The Way
There are plenty of ways to keep working and learning while you travel. For example, Australia (and Canada!) has a working holiday visa that most people under the age of 30 qualify for, which allows you to find jobs all along your travel route and stay in places you like for much longer periods of time.
In countries like Thailand or even Spain, you can find English teaching jobs if you get TEFL certification in advance. Volunteer work is another good option because even if it’s unpaid, it’s a great way to strengthen or acquire new skills and make valuable contacts.
You can also look for jobs to do remotely, such as writing, translating or graphic design. This type of work will not only give you work experience but also help you avoid employment gaps.
2. Keep Track of Everything You Learn
Remember those job interview questions like “How has your experience has prepared you for this position?” or the soft skills employers are always talking about? Travel can strengthen many transferable skills and can provide you with invaluable experience that will come in handy for just about any job you may tackle in the future.
So keep track of all the noteworthy experiences you have during your travels, whether it’s something you learn while trying to catch a flight or an interaction that helps you see a situation from a new perspective. You’ll be glad you did once you’re back home facing a potential employer who wants to know why you’re the perfect candidate.
3. Make Sure it Looks Good on Your Resume
Even if your travel experiences have taught you new skills and prepared you for new opportunities, you still need to find a way to get this message across to potential employers when sharing your resume.
Keep in mind that you should only include work experience that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. If the work experience is not immediately relevant, you may still be able to highlight transferrable skills, but make sure your resume doesn’t become too cluttered or confusing.
If there are relevant skills you gained while traveling that don’t really fall under your work experience, such as languages, photography, blogging or social media skills, you can put them in a “skills” section and highlight them in your cover letter.
[RELATED: Why Traveling Makes You More Hireable]
4. Never Stop Networking
Although the term ‘networking’ might conjure up images of people in suits shaking hands and exchanging business cards, keeping an eye out for new opportunities and conducting yourself professionally whether at home or while traveling is very important.
You never know who you might meet next or whether that casual conversation with the person in front of you on the train could lead you to your next contract or client.
Another thing that’s important is keeping in touch with your contacts back home, whether through social media, email or phone. It can be tempting to disappear for months at a time, but not staying informed about what’s going on at home is going to make it harder to get back into the swing of things once you get back.
5. Don’t Make Excuses
Although it can be tempting fall back on excuses like, “Sorry, I’ve been traveling nonstop for 24 hours and haven’t had a chance to check my email,” you should always follow through on your commitments.
Don’t use your travels as an excuse to be anything less than professional and make sure you always deliver what was promised, even if that means spending an extra night at a more expensive hotel that has free Wi-Fi or canceling a planned outing so you can take that Skype call.
Have you ever taken an extended trip abroad while working or volunteering? If so, what did you learn? Let us know in the comments.
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