12 reasons you shouldn’t worry about gap year travel on your résumé
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Ooh, don’t go away for long, they said, it’ll look bad to have a gap for travel on your résumé, they said. When I was growing up, unless it was a gap year just before university or the year immediately after graduating in your degree, the thought of taking an extended amount of time out to travel was always frowned upon. Though the elders in your life may have been excited for you, they were also concerned about how future employers might view this substantial gap to account for travel on your résumé.
Nowadays, though, I’m glad to see these worries around having full-time travel in your résumé are dissipating. There are definitely clear ways to spin your travels to turn them into constructive experiences that you can use to strengthen your résumé, rather than trying to cover up the downtime.
After this post on why it’s never a bad thing to have travel on your résumé, don’t miss:
Though I too was concerned about the impact my travel gap may have on my career, I’ve been surprised to find that employers only seem to view it as a positive attribute to have long-term travel on my résumé. That being said, I made sure to use my travel time to build skills in running several freelance businesses, photography, social media, SEO and Spanish language.
So, to help you get your stint of travel on your résumé well-represented, or to convince you that it’s ok to take time for yourself to travel in the first place, I’ve put together this ‘ere list of 11 attributes you’ll gain from full-time backpacking that can bolster your CV rather than damage it.
Plus, there’s one more bonus reason at the end which shows how and why society is shifting to accept long-term travel on your résumé more than ever before…
11 reasons it’s great to have long-term travel on your résumé
1. You can budget down to your last penny
Every hour of every day, keeping a close eye on your coins and making sure you aren’t going over your carefully-calculated cash allowance… Didn’t think your wild world travels would be quite like that, huh?
But living like this for so long means you have developed some serious budgeting abilities, which will forever help you in both your day-to-day and corporate life. You know your way around a weekly average, and you appreciate what it means to prioritise what’s really important rather than throwing cash to the wind (I mean, I’m sure some of you did that, but hey).
2. You built up your negotiation skills
Seriously, how often in Western Europe or North America do you really get the opportunity to bargain for a consumer good? It’s just not a part of our cultures, and we’ve grown up to accept a price as the final amount. If we can’t afford what’s on the price-tag, we don’t even attempt to buy it. In many other cultures though, haggling is very much an expected part of everyday life, and it’s a crucial life skill to have.
This skill becomes particularly important if you’re looking to have a career in corporate sales or marketing, where employees are just assumed to know how to negotiate without ever having had much experience.
Whether negotiating down the price of a lucrative media space deal or the price of your lunch, the principles of bargaining mostly remain the same, so make sure you’re making the most of haggling in countries that do expect it.
3. You know how to plan & organise
Not because you like your Outlook calendar to look tidy, but because planning ahead and organising yourself was the difference between a smooth journey and waiting for 14 extra hours at a sweaty airport where you’ve had to use your last coins on gaining access to a hole-in-the-ground toilet instead of buying dinner.
Being able to plan things in another country – especially in another language – is not a skill to be scoffed at, so make sure you use this as valuable evidence when putting travel on your résumé.
4. You’ve used your initiative – and survived
When things go wrong in a foreign country, the hurdles feel 1000% as difficult to get over. You’re often needing to react to new information at the last minute and think on your feet with little other guidance, so you quickly learn to use your initiative to survive.
This is an attribute that the average person who goes straight from university into a cushty office role might find hard to develop and prove, so use it to your advantage when it comes to applying for jobs.
5. You’ve developed your language skills
If you’ve gone to a region like Latin America where one language dominates across most countries in the area, hopefully you’ve been able to take the time to learn at least some of the language. And to those who have gotten to an intermediate or advanced level of that language, this skill will only take you upwards.
In a world of global collaboration, languages are one of the most valuable additions to your résumé.
Even if you can’t fully work in said language, you can at least add knowledge of the nuances people might come across, or just impress your clients by giving a few greetings at the beginning of a meeting – trust me, this goes a long way to building your relationship. Extra languages are especially handy in global marketing, operations, PR and international relations.
6. You’ve accumulated extensive cultural knowledge
But even if you don’t learn a language, spending extensive time in a region will give you something that’s also extremely valuable in international roles – cultural understanding. It’s increasingly important to be able to preempt the minute nuances that span across cultures and act accordingly.
Cultural blunders have been made by some pretty big companies who could have avoided the embarrassment and damage to their brands had they just hired someone with an understanding of the place.
For example, Nestle once launched a baby food under the Gerber brand in Africa with a sketch of a baby on the tin, just as it was sold in the USA. It took them a little too long to realise that low literacy rates on the continent meant that brands often put pictures on the front of their packaging to let their customers know what was in it…
But you don’t just learn cultural nuances of the country you’re travelling in. You’ll also pick up interesting tidbits from the people you’re travelling alongside, wherever they’re from in the world.
7. You’ve made meaningful connections
And by this, I don’t mean romantically, though I’m sure some of those types of connections could probably come in handy in the future anyway… But no, I mean you’ve inadvertently built up a network of like-minded, probably driven people all over the world. You never know what those people will go on to become, and what you can lean on them for in the future, or what you can give them.
Through my travel connections I’ve filled jobs for my friends, helped people with interview practice to get into university, gotten placements at language schools, and exchanged TONS of travel, photography and language advice.
In return, I’ve had free accommodation (even in Trump Tower Residences!), been given eyes into local supermarkets to help my branding work, been able to recruit people into market research I’m running, and keep this blog updated by making sure it’s checked by people who are still on-the-ground in those destinations.
You never know how you can help each other, and how these connections can therefore enable you to go above and beyond in your career.
8. You appreciate stability when you have it
Though obviously for some the insatiable long-term travel bug is instilled for life, for most people, 12 months of backpacking is enough to get it out of their system. They’ve ticked off the experience of living out of a singular piece of luggage, and are satisfied to keep those memories topped up with frequent but short (and perhaps a little more glamorous) trips here and there.
Employers should therefore value the fact that you are fully able to appreciate the stability that a career can bring, and that you’re back because you’re truly ready to kickstart your new life (that’s how we can spin it in an interview, at least).
9. You’re able to talk to strangers
Whether you like it or not, at some point during your travels you’re going to have to talk to locals, tourism staff and other backpackers. It’s impossible to avoid. And though introverts might feel crippled by the thought, you really do get used to it over time. Believe it or not, so many people are in the same boat, and you subconsciously help each other out.
By the end of a bout of long-term travel, I’ll eat my vueltiao if you don’t notice at least some difference in how confident you feel in talking to strangers.
This is crazy-useful in a work environment, especially in dog-eat-dog industries or places where you’ll be working with/for people who don’t share your social group for whatever reason.
10. You’re a proven go-getter
You wanted to travel, so you did. You toiled, you saved and you got yourself out there, into the big, bad world.
Obviously, privilege does come into this, and it’s good to be mindful of the fact that not every person with a go-getter attitude is able to prove it by travelling, but don’t play down the fact that you pushed through the effort and scariness of getting yourself onto that very first plane. It shows a lot about your character.
11. You’re perfectly confident in your abilities
There’s no escaping this one; long-term travel will scare you, it will amaze you, it will crush you and it will empower you. But overall, you’ll find yourself returning home with every bit of confidence in the tried-and-tested extent of your capabilities. It’ll be hard to doubt yourself after you get through the trials, tribulations and wonders of backpacking full-time.
And there’s one more reason you shouldn’t worry about having a gap for travel on your résumé…
Millennials are now in middle management.
Yahuh… The Millennial generation is older than you think! We’re currently aged between around 25 and 40 (though the exact ages change a little depending on which study you go by), so many of us are now well into our careers and heading into positions of power within organisations.
Attitudinally, while older generations sought to build a nest egg as large as possible to enjoy in retirement, Millennials seek not to acquire things, but experiences. So in short, when it comes to trying to get the most out of your youth, your manager probably gets it, and having travel on your résumé probably won’t put them off you entirely.
So, does that convince you that putting travel on your résumé is not a bad thing?
To me, it all boils down to how you use your time away to hone your skills and nurture your networks. You’re only young and fit once, and I’m a firm believer that if you have the precious opportunity to travel at the beginning of your career-building days, you should absolutely take it.
Just make sure you can express what you’ve gotten from the experience in a way that’s positive for employers when they see travel on your résumé.
Don’t excuse the time you took to travel the world, grab it by the goollies and shout about how it bettered you as a person. Travel teaches you plenty of things that you’ll never learn in an office!
After this post on why it’s never a bad thing to have travel on your résumé, don’t miss: