By Sheree Hooker, former participant on our China program, and travel blogger at Winging the World.
When I first announced that I that I no longer wanted to pursue a career, I was met by a sharp intake of breath from the family and friends surrounding me. I had studied hard all of my life and earned some good qualifications. Why would I want to waste them? To start with, no-one could work out why I wanted out of the rat race. After some thought and against all rational reason, I said screw it and decided to take the road less travelled to happiness. It’s all about the journey anyway right?
It took a long time for many people to fully appreciate my reasons for choosing travel over a more traditional lifestyle and to this day, I am still constantly warned that I need to think about the real world. Like most people, I am not rich and I have to accept that there are times when I will need to get a real job in order to live the nomadic lifestyle that I crave. When I first started out on this path, every time I applied for a position, the words of the cynics would swim into my mind. Seasonal jobs and long backpacking stints were never going to get me a ‘proper’ job, or so they said. After a few years of hopping from work to travel, I can tell you that the doubters are wrong. This is how your travel history will help you nail that next application!
1. Travel makes you adaptable
One of the key strengths that companies look for in prospective employees is adaptability. Employers want to know that you will be able to think on your feet when faced with a problem and that you won’t be afraid to try something new in order to resolve it. This can be a hard skill to demonstrate from just your previous work experience so your travel history will go a long way in proving that you thrive outside of your comfort zone and have the ability to make quick decisions.
2. Travel gives you confidence in your abilities
When you get a bit of life experience under your belt, challenges suddenly seem much less daunting. Understandably, starting a new job will still be pretty nerve-wracking, but when you think of all the other times you’ve surprised yourself with what you can do, you’ll realise this is just one of those times. Employers love people who are confident in their abilities so have a little faith in yourself and fake it till you make it.
3. Travel enhances your communication
One thing that travelling undoubtedly gives you is the ability to better communicate. The obvious one here is probably adapting to conversation where there is a language barrier, but it goes even further than that. When you travel long-term, you meet different people every day and are able to establish a rapport with someone very quickly. This is an invaluable skill when it comes to making business connections. Who knew all those nights spent in dorm rooms would be so useful!
4. Travel gives you experience with different cultures
Employers love people who appreciate and understand those from other cultures. Being able to see things from other people’s perspectives is vital in not only your personal relationships but also in your work life. Globalisation plays such a massive role in business networking and employers really value individuals that have experience in dealing with people from different backgrounds. If you have lived and worked overseas, you will have countless examples of how you worked with people from other cultures. It is surprising at how many other candidates struggle to prove that they can do this.
5. Travel sharpens your negotiation skills
Anyone who has visited an international market knows that to snag a bargain, you need to be a good negotiator. This can be a hard skill to master as bartering can feel very confrontational and sometimes uncomfortable. If you are doing it right, the art of haggling should be viewed as one massive compromise. Initially, both parties start off with ideas at the opposite end of the spectrum and then through controlled negotiation, they are able to reach an agreeable middle ground. As well as helping you to grab a bargain abroad, these skills are widely applicable when it comes to mastering the boardroom.
6. Travel enables you to think outside of the box
Companies love people who think differently and who are able to bring fresh ideas to the table. Using your previous travel experiences, you will be able to craft unique opinions and suggestions that draw on a wealth of cultural knowledge. Being able to confidently express these ideas and tackle potential obstacles with creative thinking will definitely make a good impression.
7. Travel makes you a good learner
If you are a seasoned traveller, you will already be more than comfortable with discovery. Many people think that just because you have left education, you stop learning but the reality is quite the opposite. Whilst we all continue to grow and develop regardless of the path we take, it is fair that say that travellers are used to learning very quickly. Through their familiarity with new experiences and lack of routine they are highly versatile in a work environment.
8. Travel helps you to prioritise
Being able to prioritise is such a valuable skill to employers. In order to maximise your time abroad, you will have no choice but to keep your finances in check. This is just the first instance of how you will learn to prioritise during your travels. Employers adore self-motivated people who can manage their own time and workload. By showing you have experience in prioritising not only your finances but your itineraries, visa applications, and varying currency, you demonstrate that you are more than capable of juggling a demanding workload.
Far from making me unemployable, my travel experiences have made me a unique candidate when it comes to job opportunities. The good news is that if you are a traveller, you will have all of the skills you need for the vast majority of roles. The key to success in the job market is not committing to the same position for years but instead being able to demonstrate all of the above characteristics throughout your career, both in interviews and through your CV. With these skills in place and your travel experiences to make you a stand out candidate, you may just find that you have the edge over the competition!
Head over to Sheree’s blog to read her tips for travel around the world.