You’ve just returned from a big trip abroad. Maybe it was the post-graduation backpacking trip you always dreamed of, or maybe it was the career break you desperately needed.
But now you’re back in the real world. And you need a job. You’ve lined up some interviews, but are terrified of the moment when they ask about this “gap in your resume.”
Have no fear. Your travel experiences can certainly help your career — you just need to know how to spin them.
There’s a big difference between saying, “Yeah, I had a great time partying my way through Europe,” and “I learned to navigate foreign countries on my own, developing valuable communications and time-management skills that will serve me in this position.”
To nail your interview, don’t just talk about your experiences. You should outline what you learned and how that new knowledge will help you on the job.
To get you started, these are five smart travel skills you can highlight in your interview.
1. Your communications skills
From buying train tickets to ordering food at a restaurant, travel involves endless communicating. Now that you’ve managed to do it in an unfamiliar language and culture, communicating at your workplace will be a piece of cake.
Meeting so many people made you into an excellent conversationalist, and bartering in the markets turned you into a master negotiator. Difficult clients or picky vendors? Send ‘em your way!
2. Your willingness to think outside the box
Traveling can be exhausting because you constantly need to alter your plans and find new ways of doing things: Like how to get from point A to point B when the roads are flooded or how to do laundry when there’s no plug for the drain.
Think of a story where things didn’t go as planned, then use to it to demonstrate your ability to adapt quickly and find creative solutions — skills you’d be happy to implement in your work life. (Click here to tweet this idea.)
3. Your cross-cultural sensitivity and understanding
On your travels, you’ve interacted with people of different races, socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures. You know what it means to be the odd man out, and it’s given you a greater sensitivity to diversity.
Whether it’s working with an international client or a coworker from a completely different neighborhood, you won’t have any problems. You’ll be able to find common ground with anyone, and you’ll appreciate how their differences make your team stronger.
4. Your time-management and money-management skills
While traveling, you managed to schedule out several weeks or months in advance, taking into account must-see destinations and unreliable bus schedules. You created a budget to last you for a certain time, then readjusted when it dwindled more quickly than you thought it would.
With these skills, figuring out which projects to prioritize at your new job should be a breeze, and managing corporate budgets won’t be an issue. Not to mention that your mental math skills are so sharp from all those currency conversions!
5. Your ability to take initiative and work independently
Last but certainly not least, it took a lot of hard work (and gumption!) to plan and save for your big trip. No one was there to supervise or help you, which proves you’ll be just fine taking on projects solo.
You knew what you wanted, and you went after it. You took initiative to make your dreams come true. If hired, you’d do the same thing to achieve success for your company.
Though the examples above apply to most international travels, take a moment to reflect on what you learned in particular. Did you learn a new language? Write a blog? Manage a classroom? Edit photographs or video? Jot down examples before your interview so they’ll be fresh in your mind.
You’ve completed your dream trip — now use these tips to land your dream job.
Susan Shain (@TravlJunkette) is a travel blogger who loves helping people discover adventure through international travel or alternative careers.