The idea of quitting your job in an uncertain economy can be scary. I have made no secret of the fact that finding a job after I returned from my 13-month career break was my biggest fear before I left and while I was on the road.
I have often said that I was lucky to get my first job offer less than a month after arriving home and ultimately have multiple job offers from which to choose. But was it really all luck? Honestly, I don’t think so. Rather, I think I did almost everything I could to put myself in the best position possible to land a job when I returned.
Back in February, I wrote a post for Brazen Careerist with ten tips to return to the workforce after quitting your job to travel. Today, I am introducing a three-part series that will expand on those tips. Appearing on three consecutive Wednesdays, I’ll go over what to do before you leave, what to do on the road, and what to do when you return to maximize your chances of finding a job when your travels end.
1. Update your resume.
If you have been in the same job for a few years, your resume may be a bit rusty. Make sure you update it before you leave your job and when you do, don’t simply list your daily tasks and responsibilities; focus on your accomplishments. What did you achieve? Did you increase sales? Did readership expand? Did you oversee a major project? These are specifics that are important to quantify if possible and you likely won’t have access to the relevant numbers once you leave. For example, my resume includes the following:
- Organized annual alumni awards program, managing the transition of the event from a luncheon to a fundraising dinner. Solicited individual and corporate sponsorships up to $10,000. Increased revenue and attendance by 26% in the second year of the event.
- Created and edited monthly alumni e-mail newsletter, increasing readership by 44% in 3 years.
- Planned annual reunion event attended by over 250 alumni and friends each year and increased the number of reunion volunteers by 200% in four years.
Another reason to update your resume before you depart? Everything will still be fresh in your mind. Believe me, after a few months on the road, you’ll forget a lot.
2. Update your LinkedIn profile.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, sign up now. If you already have one, update it just as you do your resume (although since this is public, you may want to wait until after you give notice). Even if you don’t intend to use LinkedIn in your job search, others will. I signed up for a JobSeeker account when I got home and with that came the ability to see who visited my profile. I am 1not exaggerating when I tell you that at least one person from every organization I interviewed at checked out my profile. If you don’t have the most current information available on LinkedIn, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage.
And once you have updated your profile, go one step further. Connect with colleagues and ask for recommendations or references (and of course, give a few as well). Again, better to do this while you are still fresh in their minds.
3. Familiarize yourself with hiring trends.
Do you work in a field that is shrinking or growing? Are people still being laid off or is hiring on an uptick? Does most hiring take place during certain months? Or do people tend to move around a lot, resulting in open positions throughout the year?
These are all important questions to investigate before you leave – especially if you think you may change careers upon your return. You don’t want to find yourself returning in August when most of the hiring in your field takes place in February. Likewise, you may think twice about trying to transition into a field that is still contracting.
I was lucky in that I worked in a field in which there is high turnover. People in university development positions tend to move around a lot so there are always dozens of positions available.
4. Leave gracefully.
As much as you may hate your current job, you don’t want to burn bridges when you leave. After all, you need good references when you return! Give appropriate notice – at least two weeks, but possibly more if your company requires it. Wrap up any projects and do what you can to make the transition easier for your successor. You may need to reach out to your former colleagues for assistance with your job hunt when you return; you don’t want to give them any reason not to help you.
Likewise, be careful what you say online. If you have a blog, don’t badmouth your employer or write about how much you hate your job: it will just serve to make you look bad when a potential employer stumbles across it. The same goes for Twitter and Facebook.
5. Save money for your return.
If you’re very lucky, you may be able to return to your old job or score another one very soon after returning. But most likely, you will need several months of living expenses. If you read through the diary of my job search, you’ll see it took me just over 3 months to accept a job offer and then it was another few weeks before I actually started. Even if you are successful in landing interviews right away, the hiring process can simply last a long time. I applied for one job at the end of August and wasn’t contacted for a phone interview until early October. I applied for another job in early October and was finally offered the position in mid-December.
Before you leave, think about what expenses you will have when you return. I was able to stay with my parents rent-free, but they live in Minnesota and I was primarily interviewing for jobs in Chicago. As a result, while I didn’t have many living expenses, I did have to pay for flights back and forth. I had enough money in the bank – and a little coming in through freelancing – that I didn’t feel pressured to take the first offer I got when it didn’t feel right. Nonetheless, I eventually hit a point where my bank balance was low enough that I felt like I had to accept the next offer that came along, even if it wasn’t my first choice.
It can be easy to get caught up in the thrill of planning for your big trip before you go, but don’t ignore the not-so-fun aspects of preparing for your eventual return. You will thank yourself later.
Photo: Yuichi Kosio