Thinking of going to grad school? There’s good reason why traveling abroad instead may make you a better job candidate. Read this to find out why.
“How Do You Gain an Edge in the World? By Navigating Around It.”
That’s an ad for a George Washington University graduate program. But rather than sitting in a downtown D.C. classroom, wouldn’t this so-called “edge” be better gained by actually navigating around the world?
And if this edge is true, then why do so many people pursue graduate degrees instead of taking the time to travel around the world? Does two years and $100,000 in student debt really yield an ROI that’s 5-10 times higher than a one-year around-the-world trip that typically costs $20,000?
Before the tourism industry took over travel, it used to be viewed as a form of study. Mark Twain believed “one must travel, to learn,” and even the Koran states that Mohammed told his followers: “don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” For some reason, this perspective has been lost in the minds of aspiring students.
We must shift from viewing travel as vacation or something we wait to do in retirement. Intentional and frequent travel should be viewed as a form of education and an investment in oneself. It’s an investment that will pay dividends and compound in your personal and professional development.
After all, the three most common benefits of graduate school are: 1) learning information necessary to advance your career, 2) figuring out what you really want to do in life, and 3) building your network.
Here are a few thoughts on why travel helps you achieve each of these benefits more so than grad school.
1. Learn information necessary to advance your career
We live in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. In our knowledge-based economy, successful careers are no longer based on specific skills, but rather the ability to find new opportunities, think creatively, adapt, and connect with others.
Long-term travel will teach you far more about the world and factors impacting it than sitting in a classroom. Find ways to meet with locals, volunteer, consult, or conduct a research project within your desired career path. These hands-on experiences will serve as the ultimate course in people, culture, economics, development, international relations and world history.
After all, if you were hiring a manager for a multinational corporation, wouldn’t working on projects all over the world be a more attractive bullet on a resume than a degree in international business?
2. Figure out what you really want to do in life
Long-term travel takes you out of your comfort zone, routine and traditional influences. This environment provides ample time for self-reflection and helps you solidify your goals and priorities.
Your newfound time flexibility will force you to answer the tough question: “what do I actually want to do with my day, week and month?” I have never returned from a long trip without a major life epiphany. One study conducted by business school professors concluded that that those who spend time abroad have “both a clearer and more complex sense of self.” This clarity of purpose — and ability to articulate it — provides substantial psychological and career benefits.
3. Build your network
Long-term travel enables you to build a global network of people doing remarkable things around the world. It also enhances your ability to build your professional network at home when you return. You build a valuable skillset of quickly making friends with anyone after being placed in many new environments and cultures.
Your travel adventures also make you a more interesting person to talk with. Many professional opportunities arose for me simply because people wanted to hear about my travels.
When pursuing a new career, you can and should put your overseas experiences on your resume and discuss it during job interviews. This will help you stand out among the hundreds of people who all had similar degrees and work experiences. Of course, this doesn’t work if you only drank Piña Coladas on the beach during your travels, but it could go a long way if you maintained a blog, consulted, volunteered, learned a language, conducted research, or visited some off the beaten path destinations.
Oh, and did I mention that you will probably have a lot more fun and cross off a bucket list experience you will never regret? Well, that too.