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How to Turn Your Career Break into Career Success

A couple weeks ago, I got a big reminder about what career success really looks like.

I scored a win at my day job marketing for an arts venue, but I didn’t feel like I had actually done anything. My boss told me that yes, this was my win because I had developed such a good relationship with another company that they didn’t have to think about who to offer their opportunity to — they knew they wanted to reach out to me for my talent, hard work and trustworthiness. It reminded me that my unique talents and experience are what make me suited to my job. It’s true for the relationships I’ve built and for my travel experience.

A lot of people worry about how a career break will affect their future job prospects. Does having a gap on your resume look bad? Does taking time off work seem lazy or unreliable? What will happen if you quit your job to travel and then try to re-enter the workforce?

Quitting My Job to Travel Improved My Career

When I started my round-the-world trip (RTW trip) in 2016, I was leaving a few part-time jobs that together made me about $25,000 a year. When I returned in 2017, I job hunted for about two months and landed a full-time job in my field with a salary of $35,000! That’s right — taking a career break actually improved my career.

You can travel without wrecking your life or ending your career by following these five critical pieces of career break advice.

5 Tips for Turning a Career Break into Career Success

Update Your Resume Before You Leave

Make sure your resume includes the details of your most recent job while they are fresh in your mind. Save yourself the trouble of a tedious task while you’re traveling.

Develop Valuable Skills While You Travel

Use remote work, freelance projects, or a blog to stay sharp. Some of the skills I worked on while running this blog were graphic design, writing, website management,  and social media. These are all directly relevant to my current day job in marketing.

Even if you work in a field that isn’t directly relevant to freelancing and blogging, you can still gain valuable skills. Think about things like communication skills or project management as ways to increase your appeal to employers in a wide range of industries.

Give Yourself a Safety Net for Returning Home

You should anticipate not landing a job right away after your trip. I tried putting out feelers and submitting applications to jobs before my RTW trip was over, but I found that people didn’t want to interview me if I wasn’t in the country. It took me about two months of job hunting after my return to secure a good offer.

Make sure you keep enough money in your savings to cover living expenses for a couple months. Or have a plan in place to stay with friends and family while you get settled back in.

Reflect on How Your Travel Experience Impacted You

Long-term travel itself will help you develop skills in basic things like budgeting and time management. You’ll develop your people skills and emotional intelligence by meeting tons of people around the world. To plan and execute a big trip like this, you need to be organized, diligent and flexible. I know my travel experience made me more decisive and more adaptable. I learned how to roll with the punches in a way that my office experience had not taught me.

As you near the end of your trip, you should spend some time thinking about how your travels have changed you and why this was a valuable experience for you to have.

Steer Into the Skid — Highlight Your Travels in Cover Letters and Interviews

When you apply to jobs after a career break, it can be tempting to focus on your more traditional past work experience and the qualifications you had before your travels. The fact is, even if you think it’s irrelevant, employers will be endlessly curious about the gap on your resume. If you try to avoid the subject, they are more likely to view it as a red flag. Steer into the skid!

Put your experience front and center in your cover letter. Be patient and willing to explain to potential employers why you took a career break and what value that experience brought you. Highlight all those skills you developed and emphasize the ways your travel changed you for the better. If you are prepared, clear, and confident, you can show them that you are bringing unique talents and experience to the table and are a valuable hire.

So, What Will a Career Break Do for You?

You don’t need to be afraid of the impact your career break will have. When you step away from the working world, you get to reflect and learn in a way that very few people have the chance to do. This is an opportunity to become the person you want to be! That experience is what will make you suited for the right job. By setting yourself up for success before, during and after your travels, you will reap the rewards for the rest of your career.

What skills can travel teach you? Tell me in the comments.

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