Many young people take a year-long break to travel, see the world and find themselves. While the experience is eye-opening, it can also be an obstacle to finding a job afterwards since there’s now a huge gap in their résumés. But good news—you can actually turn this gap year to aid you in your job search. Below is a guide to finding work after you travel.
Looking for work after a gap year is pretty much the same as job hunting before one. You search in the same places: newspapers, employment websites, company websites, recruitment agencies, and if the opportunity presents itself, job fairs. You can also try less common methods like making cold calls or sending e-mails to your prospective employers.
Make sure that you know who to look for before calling or e-mailing. You can get additional details by looking at the company’s website, past news reports or press releases. Better yet, ask contacts if they know anyone inside. You’ll also need a name of someone in human resources and ask directly if they have openings for people with your specific skillset.
Be ready with what you’re going to say or write, but don’t expect headway in each call or e-mail. Always include a cover letter in your e-mail; you’ll be needing it to provide some details on your gap year—things that don’t translate very well when placed in a résumé.
Writing your résumé
If you’ve ever been accepted for a job, then you should know how to make a great résumé by now. However, since you’re looking for a job after a gap year, there are some things you need to know before putting in anything that mentions it:
Tip #1: Don’t put everything in
Deciding what to put in your resume is like thinking what details to reveal to your parents. If all you did was get drunk while travelling, don’t tell them about it.
Tip #2: Don’t leave it out entirely either
Leaving out a couple of months wouldn’t hurt since it’s hard to look for a job. But if the gap is a year, you shouldn’t leave it out completely; it’s considered poor form by recruiters.
Tip #3: Choose your words carefully
How you word your experiences during your gap year is important. Instead of saying “wrangling in a bazaar”, say something like “developed negotiation skills via regular interaction with merchants”.
Tip #4: Describe it plainly
When referring to your gap year, put it under a separate section called “Other Experience” then just call it “Gap Year” and indicate its inclusive dates. Being forthcoming about your travel can actually work to your advantage.
Tip #5: Include actual skills
For your long trip to be seen as an advantage, you have to include skills that you learned during that time. For instance, you can say your backpacking has taught you budgeting and negotiation—just make sure you really have those abilities.
Tip #6: Back it with anecdotes
There’s no way for the employer to verify that you really did have a productive gap year and not just party for a year. That’s why you need to back it up with stories. Tell your interviewer funny tales (but nothing too extreme) that put you in a positive light. This will help you stand out, and hopefully get the job.
Including the gap in your cover letter
The cover letter is crucial in your application because it can include more details about your travel; things like why you left your previous job, why you took a gap year, what you learned during that time, and how the trip made you a better person. Just remember to always tailor-fit your cover letter for each company, because it’s so easy to notice if the letter was made using a cookie-cutter template.
Preparing for your interview
Like any job hunt, you should also prepare for your interview, especially after coming from a gap year. You should already know this, but remember to research about the company beforehand. This is done so that you can prepare specific examples of how your skills and experience can help the company achieve its goals. As for your gap year, expect the interviewer to ask about it. Answer them by sticking to what you said in your cover letter: about what you learned during the gap year and how your travel helped you become a better person. Use the gap year to your advantage by turning it into one of your strengths.