Last week I wrote about what I did before I left on my career break trip to maximize my chances of finding a job when I returned. This week, I’ll focus on what I did while I was on the road.
Many people may not want to think about the inevitable return back home but for me, it was always in the back of my mind. Throughout my trip, whenever I hit rough patches, I always reverted back to my fear of being unemployed for months after my journey ended. As a result, I probably took far more action with respect to my eventual job search than most travelers do.
Here are my tips for what you can do on the road to increase your chances of landing a job when you return:
Enhance your experience.
If your vision of an incredible year of travel includes partying around Southeast Asia or simply lying on a beach in the Caribbean, by all means, go for it. But be aware that potential employers may not be so impressed. You may be better served to include some volunteering or other skill-building activities along the way. Or, pick up some freelance work online – something that can build your resume and your bank account!
I am not a huge partier or a big beach person, but rather than spend all of my time simply sightseeing, I tried to include a mix of activities in my trip. I volunteered in Russia, Armenia and Tajikistan and I took language classes in Russia and Ukraine. I also picked up some work online as the managing editor for Meet, Plan, Go! and writing for Viator.com. Not only did the extra cash allow me to extend my travels, I was able to list new skills on my resume, including writing, editing and social media marketing.
Continue to update your resume
As I mentioned in my previous post, you’ll want to update your resume before you leave while everything is fresh in your mind. Likewise, as you complete a volunteer program, class or other work experience, add it to your resume before it fades from your memory.
As I went along, I added the following in a section called “Other Experience:”
Meet, Plan, Go!, Nationwide
Managing Editor, March 2012-present
— Manage editorial calendar for the leading career break resource in North America.
— Recruit and coordinate with 8-10 guest authors per month.
— Edit and format articles in WordPress, including search engine optimization.
— Promote new articles through multiple social media channels.
National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia
Volunteer, Tourism Program, March-April 2012
— Drafted concept note for new Visitor Information Center.
— Analyzed existing national tourism website and drafted proposal for new website.
— Prepared request for proposals to hire a developer for new tourism website.
Stay in touch.
Whether it is through a blog, Facebook, Twitter or good old fashioned email, keep your contacts back home informed about what you are doing. You never know who may know someone who knows someone who has the perfect job opportunity for you – don’t let former colleagues and friends back home forget about you. And as the time comes to head back home, let people know when you are returning and what kind of work you will be seeking upon your return.
If you do launch a blog, don’t be surprised (or offended) if few of your friends actually keep up with it. I tried to send a mass email to everyone at home every month or two with an update because I realized early on that most of my friends didn’t closely follow my blog and, with our time difference, they missed a lot of my status updates on Facebook.
Be aware of your online presence.
This is another point I touched on in my first post, but it is worth reiterating. Be very aware of your online presence – employers will not only visit your LinkedIn profile, but they will look you up on Facebook and Twitter as well. One interviewer told me right off the bat that he had checked out my Twitter feed – something that hadn’t previously occurred to me!
Launching a blog about your travels can be a great way to keep in touch while developing new skills (writing, editing, social media, etc.), but be sure that your blog is something you are comfortable with a potential employer reading. Would you really want your future boss to read about all the times you got drunk in Thailand or all the men/women you were hooking up with on the road? Such behavior could be a big turnoff to potential employers. It doesn’t mean you can’t engage in such behavior, just don’t broadcast it online.
Share your experiences, but do so in ways that will reflect positively on you as a professional.
Start your job search before you return.
I know, the last thing you want to do while you’re on the road is think about coming back. But, given how long the hiring process can take at many organizations, you can put yourself in a strong position by getting head start on your search. A month or two before returning, subscribe to job boards in your field and create a list of organizations that interest you. Start submitting applications, making it clear that you can be available for initial interviews by phone or Skype.
I signed up to receive job alerts from LinkedIn and a couple nonprofit-specific job boards about three months before my trip ended. I started applying for jobs at the end of July, two months before my anticipated return date of late September. While they didn’t lead to anything, I did two Skype interviews before I ever set foot back on American soil. Another job I applied for late in the summer didn’t even start interviewing until early October.
It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but these are a few things you can do while you are still traveling to make the job search process just a little bit easier when you return.
Up next week: How to Find a Job After You Quit Your Job to Travel: When You Return.