I’m all about giving people reasons to travel and dispelling fears they may have about it. A big worry and concern for a lot of people definitely seems to be ‘what will be the effect on my career?’, so in this post I want to share my experience to shed some light on the subject, and explain how rather than damaging your career, travel could actually be great for it.
Before I travelled, I always wondered what would happen when I got back. It can be pretty intimidating leaving it all behind with no idea what the future may hold afterwards, especially if like most people, there will be a time where you’re slammed back to a reality and travel is no longer your life. Having left my job and career behind for the best part of a year, I really didn’t know at all what the effect of choosing to leave my job behind would be, for my career or future.
What I found out is that, for the reasons I’ll discuss in this post, travel can actually be one of the BEST things you can do for your career, and if done in the right way actually will be the opposite of damaging to it. So below are the 5 reasons I think that travel could be great for your career.
1 – You’ll gain fresh perspectives on what you want to do with your life
For me this is the most important reason. These days it seems that so often we get swept up in our careers and stuck in the bubble where the only future we see and think about is related to the current job we’re in. I personally spent my first couple of earning years doing whatever I could to get experience and my first full time job, which ended up being sales. Did I always dream of being a salesman, no, but did it pay the bills and get me a great foothold in a career, most definitely. After 4-5 years working however, more for personal reasons too as well as job ones, I felt like I needed to travel, to take some time to reassess where I was heading and what I wanted to do.
I was working for a great company but saw the future roles available to me there and they weren’t what I wanted. When I travelled and got a chance to take a break from the ‘working full time’ bubble, I remembered what I used to want from my career and life, and also got time to actually think and plan out my options and how I wanted to make my living in the future. It’s so rare we actually get a break to do this kind of thinking and reflection when we’re working full time, because our view is always in the short to medium term and massively skewed because of whatever job we’re currently in. Travel gives you this chance to think and reflect with a fresh mindset, and gain new perspectives on what you want to do.
2 – You can get another job in the same industry when you get back
I was actually genuinely surprised when I was away travelling, because rather than companies not wanting anything to do with me because of this, I was probably contacted more by recruiters than when I’d been employed. Often in jobs (in the UK anyway), for certain roles and industries, notice periods to leave your current job and start a new one can be months. This means recruiters will be looking in advance for candidates anyway, so if you’re the other side of the world and getting back in six months or less, this really isn’t as big an issue as you’d think.
If I had wanted to (I didn’t at the time), I could have got in touch with these recruiters a few months out from my return and replied to their opportunities. Often in today’s world where unfortunately it seems loyalty isn’t rewarded as much as it should be, you’ll actually be able to get a more senior role and possible higher salary by moving company rather than staying put anyway. So travelling could be the nice push you need to change company, upgrade your pay packet, oh and don’t forget all that time actually travelling too!
3 – It will make you an interesting candidate who stands out
I had heard this before, from people I’d spoken to about their experiences returning from travel trying to find work, and it does seem to be the case that if you’ve travelled, it can make you stand out as a job candidate and also demonstrate a certain level of independence (as I’ll discuss more below).
I very quickly learnt, even as someone with multiple part time job experiences before my first full time job, that it’s very competitive and difficult to stand out when applying for jobs early in your career. Especially after one job interview, where the interviewer looked at my CV, crossed everything out, and said in these exact words ‘everyone’s done that, what makes you so special’ (safe to say, that company never even got back to me after the interview and I’m still relieved to this day they didn’t). It can be very hard to stand out from the crowd, and travel is great for this, as well as making you more memorable.
4 – It shows independence and that you can stand on your own two feet
This is actually a really big one that people often take for granted. I’ve written before about why you should be proud of yourself if you’ve travelled, because it really is a brave thing to do.
You often leave lots behind and are taking a risk in doing so. If you’ve travelled you’ve demonstrated so many skills that employers would look for, like organisation and planning in getting everywhere and navigating foreign countries, people and communication skills in meeting new people and dealing with language barriers and cultural barriers, financial skills in managing your money abroad and keeping afloat, independence in showing you can use initiative to make travel work, I could go on…
People don’t give themselves enough credit for actually making the brave decision to go out there on your own, out of your comfort zone, and travel. Luckily though, some employers will give you this due credit. Or if they’re slightly less forthcoming, you can use your experience and trials and tribulations, to show them how travel makes you a great job candidate.
5 – You’ll grow as a person and gain more people skills
This is linked into the above slightly, but this is more about how travel will change you. In whichever style you choose to travel, there will be times where you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and grow as a result of the experience. Often it is the times we do things outside of our comfort zone when we learn and grow the most anyway, but in normal life we get comfortable, and also it’s not too fun being out of your comfort zone, so we don’t do it. Travel forces you to be out of your comfort zone, but in less scary ways.
There will be times you’re on your own, don’t know anyone and need to reach out to talk to new people. Or you’ll be in a foreign country needing to navigate your way around and communicate across language barriers. Another side of this is in meeting new people and being around new people, sometimes there may be some that aren’t exactly your cup of tea (for those non-English readers unaware of this expression, I mean people who you don’t like very much).
I’m talking about those people that for one reason or another you just don’t get on with, but you have no choice so have to. This scenario is probably quite familiar in a lot of workplaces too. When you travel you’ll undoubtedly become more tolerant and patient of different people to yourself, having been around people with different cultures, customs, and other travellers with different ways of doing things. Essentially, in all the interactions you have with other people and in the experience of travelling generally, you will develop more people skills and grow, which is never a bad thing especially in today’s world where good communicators and people skills are so vital.
So I hope this post helps some of you get over the ‘career fear’ where travelling is concerned. Now I’m back working full time, I actually ended up working with my father in his business, something that previously I hadn’t really considered as I wanted to make my own way first, but this now has benefited both of us. It has meant that I’m in a job that I enjoy more, gaining skills in a new area with lots of responsibility, and working less and more flexible hours. Not to mention, I’m using this extra time to do other things such as this blog!
So if you’re worried about your career when you return from travel, you shouldn’t be as worried as you are, as you never know what unexpected opportunities may arise for you for when you return. Still, make sure you’re on LinkedIn, your CV is up to date, and you check your emails every now and then. But otherwise, try not to let it ruin your trip. Travel should be an experience that lets you re-discover what it really is to live life to the fullest, and hopefully by doing that, you’ll realise you want to take your life and career in directions you never planned or imagined.
Thanks for taking an interest in my blog, it’s a pleasure to have you! Here is where can sign up for my monthly newsletter which will keep you updated on all things gilesmeetsworld!