So Anika, what have you been up to since your graduation in June of 2012?… Perhaps my most dreaded question. and one that anyone travelling for more than a month or two will answer in some form or another when returning home and looking for work.
Even though I’ve yet to perfect this particular answer, I can give you some tips for how to present your travel in a way that exemplifies its value to a prospective employer.
I put travel under my accomplishments. Depending on the position and how much space I have in the resume I’m using I’ll either list it as a simple bullet point so that the time gap is accounted for, or I’ll write up a bit of a paragraph…
Solo Travel October 2012-September 2013
-Travelled 4 sub-continents from the first to third world completing volunteering, yoga training, and work abroad.
-Immersed myself in local cultures and grassroots tourist opportunities to understand and adapt to global customs.
-Organized and planned necessary documentation and living arrangements while troubleshooting unexpected circumstances in unknown environments.
-Developed relationships with travellers and hosts from around the world.
-Maintained a strict budget by sourcing and utilizing resources and planning effective and realistic financial goals.
…or something like that. In general travel (especially of the long-term variety) fosters skills or qualities listed in the words below:
Adaptable, Cultured, Culturally Sensitive, Relatability, Organization, Planning, Goal-setting, Budgeting, self-awareness, compassion, passion, empathy, independence, confidence, decision making skills, problem solving, efficiency, resourcefulness, flexibility, understanding perspectives, gratitude.
In terms of the interview itself, I would say my one most important piece of advice is believe in your travels. I had to remind myself of the value I believed my travels held. There’s one approach where your interviewer doesn’t seem to care about your travels and addresses it like an immature whim, then there’s the other side where the tone almost sounds like they are challenging you to prove it was worth more than glow paint at full moon.
Something I have yet to master is my ‘speel’ on travels. My getting it down to a concise statement that is effective without bragging, implies value while still addressing it’s personal nature (not professional), and communicating how it will better my practice in a given job. However, in my most recent interview I had a fairly decent answer I think. It was honest, not scripted, and if nothing else showed my passion. I said [in reply to, “so how would you describe your travel experience”] “To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised by the evolving impact of my time abroad. I was clearly in tune with my increased cultural sensitivity as I was in the midst of my adventure, however my greatest growth continues to surface in my daily interactions with others. I have a heightened sense of acceptance for that which I cannot change, and a more complete picture of self-awareness”.
Sit back and reflect on how your travels have impacted you as a person, not what you did or saw while you were away. Your answers don’t have to include an array of work skills, but rather personal development. Any employer who can’t acknowledge the value in personal development and travel isn’t one I’d like to work for anyway….and if you’re half as passionate about travelling as I am, you shouldn’t settle either.