I suppose a disclaimer would be appropriate: I’m neither a hiring manager nor a recruiter. I’m merely writing from personal experience. Now that I’ve discounted my credibility, what’s one thing you didn’t consider adding to your résumé? Travel.
Study abroad trip? Of course! Internship overseas? Absolutely! But what about that backpacking trip through Europe? Or your cross-country U.S. road trip? These adventures weren’t university-oriented or career-focused. You embarked for the sole purpose of travel and adventure.
You may think, well, those trips are irrelevant to me securing a job in accounting… the most math I did in Europe was calculate how many Euros I had left!
I would argue that most travel experiences are résumé worthy. I say this because I guarantee that you can reveal some work-related skills that were exercised and sharpened during your travels. After all, on your résumé (or in an interview) you should be able to show your skills vs. tell about them. Saying “I’m well organized” sounds like a baloney sandwich that any old Joe can throw together. “I organized a 5-week backpacking trip through Europe” is a genuine example. Suddenly, instead of me just thinking hey, this girl must alphabetize her crayons, because she’s obviously well organized, I see this job applicant accomplishing a logistical feat that was researched, executed and successfully accomplished.
So here are some skills I believe are sought after by employers… and how your travels can illustrate that you possess them.
If the weather is chilly, you put on a sweater. Adaptability is a little more than grabbing a coat when you’re cold. Adaptability is your attitude and response when plans go awry. I learned early in business school that adaptability is key to survival. Heck, I probably learned it in my elementary biology lessons. Consider some of the travel situations encountered that forced you to adapt. Terrible jet lag? Foreign language? New customs? How did you handle these changes? Did you respond with maturity and finesse? Traveling is constant adaptation.
Problem Solving & Decision Making
Some of our more thrilling travel stories stem from our misadventures. These misadventures are opportunities to illustrate your decisiveness and ability to think up a solution. How did you use your resources? What was your thinking process to solve the problem and make a decision? Maybe you missed a flight (been there) or had to handle a scam artist (done that). Show how you approached and overcame these situations – there are bound to be many during your travels and many more during your employment.
Planning, Organizing, Prioritizing
I think in this category you can also throw in time management and multitasking – two eagerly sought out qualities. I want to go to Paris. While I’m there, I intend to see the Louvre. But I know it takes days to see the Louvre & I’m only in town for three. Therefore I’m prioritizing the art I’d like to see while there: Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, the Egypt exhibit, etc. Show that you can determine a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-sensitive) and establish a “project plan” to successfully see it through. Because yes, of course you can compare the nitty-gritty details your travels to a multi-faceted work project.
Showcase your ability to work in a team through examples from traveling with a friend or in a group. I’ll never forget the camaraderie felt during my travels with Tammy. We had each other’s backs. We made up for each other’s weaknesses. I researched Spain; she researched Paris. We shared power adaptors. We compromised plans. We encouraged each other to “RUN FASTER” with heavy backpacks when our overnight train to Paris almost departed without us. We respected each other’s annoying quirks. Discuss the triumphs and challenges you faced when traveling with a companion or group and how this can translate to the workplace.
Whether spoken, written, or expressed through body language, your ability to communicate effectively is a valuable skill. Maybe you kept a blog when you traveled. Maybe you proactively learned key phrases prior to visiting a new country. My favorite communication experience was bartering in China, where my limited Chinese, hand gestures, and respectful but determined demeanor successfully negotiated cheaper prices. Communication can be more than words – it’s also interpersonal skills. Your tone and manner speak volumes (ha, punny). Maybe you bartered in the streets with a vendor. Maybe you had to (civilly) cut ties from poor company that happened to cling to you during your travels (I’m looking at you, Australian backpacker mates from Kabul backpackers hostel… oy!).
Many companies have diversity standards in the workplace. Corporations are multinational, international, and employ people of differing cultures, races, beliefs, political affiliations and socioeconomic status. When you travel, you broaden your world view. You become culturally sensitive. You recognize diversity, accept it, and even support it. Differences are no longer feared, they are embraced. Having this cultural awareness enhances all other skills outlined in this post. This is the ultimate gift from travel. Knowledge is power; knowing about the world can be that extra power tool that conveys a stand-out résumé or interview to jumpstart your career.
So go travel. Add it to your résumé. Sure, traveling may not make you money. But it will make your richer.
P.S… I don’t think your college Cancun “Girls Gone Wild!” spring break trip would make the cut here. Winky face.
Are there any other sought-after skills I overlooked? What travel stories do you have that demonstrates one of these skills?