With fierce competition for the same jobs these days, it’s very easy to get swept up in the mindset of “I’ll travel later”, not wanting to leave a gap in your resume.
It’s long been thought that a large gap in your resume will mean being treated unfavorably by a prospective employer – especially if your explanation for the gap is “I was traveling the world”.
Though here’s some news – travel may actually boost your employability. As long as you can explain the benefits of your travel experience to a potential employer it could actually help your resume stand out, and improve your chances of being shortlisted for an interview.
But travel isn’t as novel as it used to be, so how can you properly market your time abroad to make your skills and experiences look good?
Screenshot of my actual personal resume, after traveling for 7 years, is at the end of the post.
5 Ways to Make Travel Look Good on Your Resume
Make it Relevant to the Job
For travel to look good on your resume, your experiences and skills should have a direct relationship with the position you’re applying for. It needs to be relevant to the job.
Sit down with the job criteria, and identify which skills could be matched with the experiences you’ve gained abroad.
For instance, are they looking for a candidate who has excellent skills in communication, negotiation, or cross cultural understanding? Is self sufficiency and independent decision making required?
Your resume should create a professional story, and every statement you make needs to support this. If you don’t feel like your travel applies to the job description, put it in the section of your resume for additional information, or hobbies, as opposed to the main section.
Tell a Professional Story
Putting together a resume is all about marketing yourself, so you should think about the type of information you share, and they way you share it. As we mentioned above, your resume needs to tell a professional story.
For instance, highlighting a gap in your resume as “International Experience” sounds a lot more noteworthy than calling yourself a world explorer.
You should always aim to keep the information you’re sharing as professional as possible, and use your travel experience to demonstrate situations, actions and results.
“Remember that 90% of your travels aren’t really “experience,” but soft skills you picked up on the road: people skills, confidence, and independence. Though you may be tempted to write that stuff on your resume, don’t. You’ll sound cheesy and as though you are just putting in useless filler.” – Matador Network.
- Ten months of travel to India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, from October 2008 to May 2010.
- Activities included volunteer work at Mother Teresa Mission Charities in Kolkata with disabled women and teaching English to street children in Jaipur.
- Designed and authored three travel blogs during these multi-month solo trips. Currently editor of Takeyourbigtrip.com.
Example: Kristin Zibell
Know the Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills
So what’s the difference between hard and soft skills?
Hard skills are teachable, like having learnt a language (definitely highlight any language skills).
Soft skills are subjective interpersonal skills, like communications, leadership, or motivational skills. These skills are important, but much harder to quantify.
People like students, who take a gap year after graduation, may find they have more soft skills than hard skills, so when you’re highlighting things like self growth, make sure that these experiences demonstrate situations, actions and results.
And do highlight them; studies have shown that employers do want to know about your soft skills, and that experiences like a gap year can have a positive effect on your CV and employability. For example:
Gap Year 2007-2008
- Developed negotiation skills through daily contact with sellers in markets and vendors throughout Asia.
- Learned how to adapt to unanticipated situations and improvise new plans due to periodic travel mishaps and unexpected events.
- Developed budgeting and planning skills by financing, planning, organizing my year around the world. This involved using various spreadsheets and keeping a record of expenses.
- Cultivated language and communication skills through contact with people from around the world. Learned to use non verbal and verbal communication to overcome communication and language barriers.
Example: Matt Kepnes
Work Experience and Volunteering
If you’re traveling for a long period of time, there may come a point where you need to work abroad to pick up extra cash. And many popular jobs, like working at a hostel reception, teaching English as a foreign language, or working as an au pair, often have skills that are directly transferable.
So include any and all relevant work experiences on your resume; even if it was an unpaid work exchange. It’s a good habit to get into to ask your boss to write you a reference before you leave the job.
Volunteer work will also earn favor from employers because it demonstrates your commitment to education, and shows that you have a strong motivation and work ethic to be contributing your time without pay.
If you’re not keen on volunteering, or jumping on a plane without work in place, many careers have opportunities for work exchange, which will allow you to continue your career in another country and give you the opportunity to travel at the same time.
Start Your Own Digital Business
Another option if you’re traveling for a while, is to set up and start your own digital business. This has never been easier with the technology we have access to these days, and it won’t leave a gap on your resume.
Digital Nomads are increasingly common, where you work for yourself, remotely. This allows you to freely travel the world, while working from your laptop, and there are remote business opportunities available for almost every skill set.
For instance, jobs that may allow for this lifestyle could be teaching English as a second language, content creation like social media or blogging, or publishing an ebook. If you have professional skills in accounting, design, etc you can set up a business in those fields.
This is so common that companies like Xolo will set up your remote business for you, handle all your paperwork, invoicing, accounting – you need zero experience to set up a business these days and everything is now done online.
Xolo is great for one-person-businesses like designers, copywriters, translators, software developers and consultants, and they take care of everything from business set up to accounting. But even if you want to develop your own brand and own a real company, they’ll get you set up with a real EU company registered in Estonia (no need to travel since company setup and management is done 100% online).
I’ve been blogging for 7 years now, while traveling, I’m registered as a sole trader business, and that space on my resume is filled as 7 years of ‘Digital Marketing and Content Creation’. You can view my actual resume here on my Linkedin page (screenshot below).
A Gap on Your Resume Looks Worse Than Travel…
When it comes down to it, you might still be apprehensive about listing your travel experiences on your resume. But don’t be. Many companies are quite happy to employ someone who has been traveling.
Use the above tips to make your international experience a positive part of your CV; ultimately, “it looks worse to have nothing shown for a long period of time than it does to say you were travelling the world.”
If you do list travel on your resume, some employers may ask you in your interview why you no longer want to travel. They will want security in knowing that you’re not planning on taking off on them anytime soon.
So have a good answer to this ready … because you will get that interview!
➡ Use Xolo for setting up a remote business while you’re traveling to avoid gaps in your resume.
➡ Feel free to check out my own resume on Linkedin. My resume (below) now only includes work experience from the time I’ve been traveling, being that I’ve been creating content while traveling full time for 7 years.
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