Some disgruntled person in your life has probably told you at least once that if you take too much time to travel, you’ll ruin your career. To that, I shrug my shoulders and turn a blind eye. For four different job application cycles, I have intertwined my various travel experiences throughout the process and have been successful each time. Why? I think it’s because people actually like talking about traveling. If you’re planning on applying to a new job sometime soon, here area few tips on how to spin your travel experiences in a professional way.
Frame International Experiences as Skills
In most resumes, there’s a section labeled “Skills.” Often, these include things like PowerPoint, or Excel, or Python, or other programs. However, in my resume, I always include “extensive international and domestic travel experience” as a skill. Why? Because it’s really, really hard to travel extensively internationally, and I feel I’ve learned a ton from my experiences there. It also gives my interviewers an opportunity to ask me about my international experiences (which I love talking about). Through traveling, I’ve learned things like how to be productive on a plane, how to ask for help, how to be resourceful in a bind, and of course, how to multitask. Give your interviewer a heads up on your ability to be productive on the move by promoting your travel experience as an asset.
Talk About Your Travel Blog, Photography, or Video
That travel blog that gets a few thousand readers a month? Your freelance photography side gig? Those digital nomad jobs you did while backpacking around the world? Yes, those count as work experience.
Even if you don’t work full time in these fields, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable experience you’re gaining for the next job. Include your travel “side hustles” in your resume if they are applicable experience. In my experience, even in professional services jobs, employers like to see well-rounded candidates with a wide variety of skills and drive. Showing that you’re devoted to a craft outside of your 9-to-5 can help make a case for your dedication and well-rounded nature.
Include Your Language Abilities
Want to know what a HUGE asset to a job description is? Language skills. Of course, if you can only say three basic phrases in a language, it doesn’t really count, but if you speak at an intermediate to advanced level, you can definitely put it on your resume. In plain terms, this means you feel comfortable speaking in a professional environment (maybe not perfectly, or without an accent), and can do so in your workplace.
One time, I walked into a job interview after I’d put “advanced Portuguese” on my resume. When my interviewer walked in, much to my surprise, he started speaking in fluent Portuguese! YIKES. Luckily, I’d just returned from studying abroad and felt comfortable using the language. The moral of the story, however, is that you should probably not pretend to have language skills you don’t have, in the event that you get tested on them live.
Also, strong communication skills in English are highly valued by employers, and we all know travel (especially solo travel) teaches you how to do this well. If you want to brush up on your language skills, immerse yourself in the language for as much time as you can.
Mention It in Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is a critical piece of the job application puzzle, so don’t discount its power. Be sure to include your experiences and skills you have learned through travel in your cover letter, even if the job isn’t directly related to travel. Although it might seem fluffy, the cover letter gives you the rare chance to articulate your holistic experiences and vouch for yourself. When done right, travel can help make or break a company’s decision to interview you. Don’t leave it up to chance – include your skills in both your resume and cover letter for maximum consistency and effect.
Tie It Back to a Bullet on the Job Description
Does the job you’re applying for require travel itself? Creative thinking? Resourcefulness? Read the description carefully and see if you can come up with any parallels to your travel experiences, then come ready to talk about those in your interview. Travel can provide so many useful skills, so it’s important to highlight those skills verbally, and tie them back to the actual job at hand. Your interviewer will be so impressed.
Show Your Passion
More than any other item on this list, my passion for travel has helped me stand out from other applicants and connect with my interviewers. For my most recent job search, I always wore an airplane necklace to the interview and talked about travel experiences in a lot of my responses. Coupled with travel on my resume and in my cover letter, it is clear that I am extremely committed to seeing the world, understanding it, and learning about myself from it. Employers often want to hire passionate people for their organizations and teams. If you show your dedication to travel and own it, it will pay off in the long haul.
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How would you include your travel experiences in a job application? Share your expertise and advice in the comments!