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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?

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.

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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.

International Experience

  • 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

Hi Five for international volunteers.

Know the Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills

So what’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Hard skills are teachable abilities or skills, 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 they’re 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:

Other Experience

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 you 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.

Photo by Jim Holmes for AusAID via DFAT Australian Aid.

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!

TO HELP YOU WRITE YOUR RESUME. CLICK PHOTO ↓

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    28 Comments

  1. Awesome advice. I’m gearing up to take some time away from full time work, and one of the things that kept me from doing this for so long was my fear of a gap on my resume. Travel is relevant to what I do and so much of my travel is about having experiences that I will later bring into my professional life. It’s not just about going on an extended vacation!

    • Glad the post was helpful for you! Yes, absolutely, don’t be put of from travel for fear of the dreaded gap on the resume, especially if the experience is relevant to what you do. There are so many situations where travel experiences can be beneficial to a career nowadays 🙂

      Happy travels!

  2. thank you for the great tips! never thought about adding travels to my CV, but you are totally right, it looks better than gaps.

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad that the post was helpful! And absolutely, there are quite a lot of ways to list travel as a positive boost to a CV, so no reason to leave a gap 🙂

  3. Lovely employment tips for travelers, Megan! Although I have no plans to be employed again (at this time), I still get the importance of being marketable and ‘desirable’ for potential employers. You’ll never know if the corporate world will start calling you again. 😀

    This is so good to know, especially for people who are going through gap years or maybe taking a break from all the hustle and bustle a 9-5 work brings you. I think volunteering is such a great way to still be socially active and aware as well as picking up odd jobs now and then. This will make your CV more favourable as it will see how responsible you are.

    • Thanks Marvi, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I’m probably in the same boat as you – now that I’ve been working as a digital nomad for a couple of years I hope I don’t need to be filling out a resume anytime soon! But there are definitely ways to make them see your break from the traditional world of work as a positive thing 🙂

      Volunteering really is such a fabulous experience to mix into your travels every now and then. And, bonus, it looks good on your CV 😀

      Happy travels!

  4. This is a very relevant post for me. My day job is not related to travel or blogging, but I have been working as a freelance contractor (in IT) for over 15 years and have always tried to take anything from a few weeks to several months off between contracts, if I can afford to. Because of what I do, it’s unlikely I can paint the travel in such a way that it is relevant for my job, and thus far I’d not included it, but thinking it may well be worth adding it under a Hobbies area, to make it clear that the periods not working were not through lack of being able to find work but a deliberate decision to take time off for non-work projects and travel.

    • It can definitely be something you add to a hobbies section if it’s not directly relevant to your job. A lot of employers recognize that people have hobbies outside of their career, and if you can show that you’ve been working reliably for the past 15 years while maintaining travel as a hobby, I don’t see how that would be seen as a bad thing. If anything it makes you interesting! 😀

      And you’re right – it answers any possible questions about why there might be continued gaps there 🙂

  5. Although these are some really great tips Meg, and I completely agree that a gap in the resume looks worse than travelling and talking about the soft skills you’ve acquired, unfortunately in certain markets such as India, ‘travelling’ is still frowned upon as something that you do in your leisurely time and it does not really add to you in any way. I have struggled with some many hiring people to explain to them how key it is, for people to venture out of their routines and comfort zones, to explore new places, meet new people, open their minds but things are still not there where people in Indian companies can consider that as a positive thing. Basically, it’s as bad as a gap in your resume. I hope it can change soon though!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences with the working culture in India Medha. Sorry to hear that travel hasn’t become recognized as a positive experience yet. I guess cultural mindsets of a society will always differ, and perhaps I should have made mention to my experience coming from a US / Aus / Europe perspective.

      I hope that mindsets in India towards travel will change soon too 🙂

  6. It’s so great that you wrote this! When I first quit my job in marketing to travel, I was really worried about the gap in my resume. Especially since I was trying to break into freelancing and it was taking much longer than expected…but I’ve totally embraced it as part of my life experience. Totally agree with the last point especially!

    • Glad the post was helpful Sofia! And congrats on embracing your travel experiences as life experience – ultimately we only live once, and we’re not born to just pay bills and die! Two cliches there into one, but I live by both of them 😀

  7. I’ve never really thought of adding travel to my resume, to be honest. I work as a translator and only now I realize that being able not only to translate literally but also to understand the slang and localize the stuff I’m translating, thanks to my international experience, can definitly boost my activity as well. I will be adding more soft skills to my resume, thank you!

    • As a translator I would think that travel experiences would be highly relevant to your job, especially if you can use it to demonstrate using your fluency. Obviously there’s a difference between being fluent in a language and as you said, being fluent enough to account for the local slang. So I would definitely list it on your resume 🙂

  8. A really educational and informative guide especially the part of the hard/soft skills and how to highlight them! It really helps when it comes to preparing a good Resume.

    • So glad that our tips are helpful for you Efthimis! Hope it helps you draft an awesome resume!

  9. Such a great set of ideas to combine travel into work experience…I guess it is all a matter of perspective! 😀

    • Absolutely Rachael – glad the post was helpful for you!

  10. What an interesting topic! Things that can be included are 1) direct work experience in a private company, 2) volunteer work at an NGO, 3) stringent management of time and finances on a self-financed trip, 4) sponsored trip due to special skills and perspective, and/or 5) travel writing in a professional blog or freelancing. You are so right…better than an unexplained gap.

    • Thanks Carol! Glad the post was interesting for you 🙂 And absolutely, all your points make for valid things to list on a resume. There’s always a positive spin!

  11. Meg, this is such a useful and practical post! I know when I was looking for a part-time job back in New Zealand a few years ago, I struggled to answer the questions about why they should hire someone who loves to travel so much. I wish I had your post back then. I know a lot of people struggle with this topic too. Great post!

    • Thanks Anita, so glad you enjoyed the post! The biggest thing is to be confident in your travel experience and not doubt that you don’t deserve the job because of it 🙂 Definitely a positive life experience, and something employers do value!

  12. Being from a Marketing background, I can definitely vouch for this. Travel does look good on your resume. The interviewer will perceive you as a person with more exposure and hence this can tip the scales in your favour. The other important aspect is that gaps do look bad in a resume. If you can account for it with travel, then it not only plugs the gap but enhances the resume as well.

    • Awesome Sandy! Fabulous to hear from an employers perspective 🙂

  13. Amazing article!! actually now a days companies hiring those candidates who fits their work culture by checking hobbies and interests as key indicator on resume and i think you have enlisted some nice and interesting hobbies which will be very helpful for job seekers.
    Thank You. Going to bookmark this for sure.

    • Thanks Ritesh, glad you enjoyed the post! I agree, I think that now that the workplace has become so competitive, hobbies are actually what make you stand out from the crowd, and give you a personality.

      Feel free to reach out if you have any questions when drafting your resume 🙂

  14. Thank you for the great advice.

    • You’re welcome – glad the post was helpful 🙂

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