How to Make a Travel Break Sound Like Work Experience
Send your workplace conundrums to [email protected], including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.
I’m a mid-50s guy who was recently laid off from an executive job at a struggling company. It was a job I had planned to leave — in fact, I got my notice about two weeks before I was going to quit!
My plan was to travel around the world for several months before looking for a new position, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three months. What’s the best way to portray this on my résumé? I want potential employers to know the time was spent in an interesting and constructive way.
It’s smart to think over the best way to handle this — but don’t overthink it. Figuring out how to explain a three-year gap would be crucial. In your situation, you can almost consider this an opportunity.
Obviously if your travel time included activities that easily translate to the work world, emphasize those — playing a key role on a volunteer team that solved some problem for a deserving constituency, for example. If not, then give some careful and perhaps creative thought to the high-level connections between your travel adventures and the kind of work you’re seeking. Perhaps, for instance, exposure to other cultures will make you a more empathetic manager. The connections don’t have to be explicit, just defensible. (And you should adjust which ones you emphasize for different potential employers; tweaking a résumé for specific jobs is often a good idea.)
But keep it concise. Your actual work skills and experience are a lot more important than any travel lessons, and you don’t want to leave the impression that this three-month break meant more to you than your entire previous career.
Finally, if your main travel achievement turns out to be increasing your tolerance for margaritas and breaking a personal record for consecutive hours slept, you’ll either need to get extremely creative — or do some judicious editing. Just share the year of your end date, count on your actual work background to get you in the door, and explain in the interview stage that when your last job ended you needed an energizing break.
In all cases, make it clear that this break represents a goal fulfilled, and that you’re now fully recharged and anxious to get back on the job. Whatever you have to say about what you’ve done should ultimately be shaped to suggest what you can do.
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Is It Easier to Get a Job When You Already Have One?
I have a job that I started six months ago. It’s not great. But I am an older woman who hasn’t spent her life “building a career” — in fact, I had a 17-year gap in my résumé — so I figured this might be my only chance at getting back into the workplace.
I enjoy the actual task that I do, and my employer values me. But I don’t like the hours or the conditions; I’m tired all the time and my paychecks are small. So now I’d like to find something better.
Recently, however, my insurance (which I get through my husband’s job) approved me for an elective, “cosmetic” surgery that should improve my quality of life. I could live without it, but I’ve wanted it done for a long time.
It seems jerky to ask for a six-week leave to have the surgery (which I’m not even sure would be approved), just to come back and quit. But if I quit before the surgery, will that make it harder to find new work? I’ve heard it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. And I faced so much silence in my earlier employment hunt.
There are two questions here. First: Would it be harder to find work again if you quit? I’d say it probably would be.
A 2017 analysis of job-search data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that employed workers who weren’t even looking for a job got a higher percentage of offers than unemployed job hunters. (Employed work seekers got by far the highest percentage of offers.) And data aside, looking for work just feels harder when you’re unemployed: You have more time to ruminate, and less money (if any) coming in.
Second, is quitting right after you’ve taken six weeks off a bit of a jerk move? Probably. But aren’t you jumping too many steps ahead? You don’t know if your employer would give you the time off — let alone how quickly you could land another position elsewhere upon your return.
Step back and focus on figuring out your true top priority.
If it’s finding a better gig, then concentrate on that, and worry about the surgery when you’ve settled into a more stable and productive situation.
If the surgery is more important, then seek the permission for the time off it would require. If you get it, come back to this job — and don’t immediately start worrying about leaping back into the employment market.
Give yourself some time to enjoy the payoff of your decision.