Will your dreams of world travel really damage your career? Are you worried that by taking time off to travel you will ruin any job prospects you may have? Well don’t be, because it won’t. This final part of the excuse buster series shows just how your career doesn’t have to be a barrier to travel.
Whether you have a job or a career, a 9 to 5 bill payer or an all consuming profession, odds are that you devote a lot of your time, effort and a significant part of your life to it. 5 or 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year minus a couple of weeks that you manage to claw back in statutory holidays, that is a lot of your life you devote to doing whatever it is you do.
You’ve probably worked damn hard to get to the position you are in now too. Maybe you’ve studied and sacrificed for a degree or perhaps you’ve simply devoted a lot of years to it and have worked your way up the ladder? Maybe you are even new to your career and don’t want to rock the boat by taking some time out?
So why would you want to let your travel dreams, as amazing as they may seem, ruin all that?
Will Travelling Really Hurt Your Career?
I can understand that concern, I really can. I’ve had a career too. I worked hard to get it and I worked damn hard at it, but it isn’t everything. Life is so much more than what you do, and having a career doesn’t mean that is all you have to concentrate on. Having a career doesn’t mean that you can’t follow your dreams of travel as well.
Before I ran this site as a full time business I had a good career as a nurse. A very senior nurse in fact despite the fact I was taking half the year off every year to travel, and I took the time to gain multiple degrees, a masters and numerous post grad qualifications too, not to mention become a published author. My career was important to me, but it wasn’t the most important thing.
I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this to show it is possible.
You see before I was a nurse I was a backpacker, and I wasn’t about to give that up for the sake of a job! But nor was I going to let it become the only thing I was either. It’s all about balance.
Travel hasn’t hurt my job prospects, or my career.
You can have the best of both worlds, you can travel the world and still have a strong career.
Don’t Believe The Rat Race Propaganda.
I am living proof that you can have your cake and eat it if you want to, but many people just refuse to accept that. Too many people have been brainwashed by the rat race propaganda, that your only role in life is to leave school, get a job and work to pay bills until you die. Americans, as much as I love them, seem to be particularly beaten by this paradigm. Paid time off is almost non existent in the states, taking a holiday is anathema too them, being the last one to leave the office and giving yourself a heart attack at 40 by doing 80 hours a week in the cubicle is wierdly seen as a badge of honour!
Your work is important, it forms part of who you are and let’s face it, we all need to do it to some extent to pay the bills, but it never has to be that all consuming! There is such a thing as a work life balance, and demanding one will not – contrary to popular belief – hurt your career.
In this final part to the excuse buster series of articles, I want to explore the excuse that travelling will stall or ruin people’s career or job prospects.
So again, let me put this as bluntly as I can. It won’t.
Work Life Balance.
The single most important thing to remember about your life and your career is that you are in control of it, and you have full control over how unreasonable the demands of your job are on your life, and this covers far more than taking time out to travel, this control over your work life balance is important to your health and wellbeing too, so even if they aren’t travelling (because some people wierdly have different interests) then they should at the very least be doing this for their health!
‘Yeah, I’m going to need you to work this weekend again’.
‘We are short staffed so I need you to do all this extra work with no pay rise’.
‘But we don’t have anyone else to cover’.
Not my problem, the rota is your job.
‘You can’t take time off, we need you’.
Then maybe you should pay me more if I’m that important, I have a legal right to this time off.
‘I haven’t granted your leave’.
I’m sorry, did you think I was asking permission? Flights are already booked. See you in a month.
See how easy that is?
You Can Have A Career And Travel.
Travel will not hurt your career in the slightest. In fact, if you utilise it right you can use backpacking and travel to boost your CV and get a promotion when you get back, or even get a better job entirely!
Some employers do allow time off for sabbaticals, where you can take a considerable break from your career after a certain period with the company, and you will still have a job to come back to. Some of the biggest companies in the world are beginning to recognise the need to keep skilled, qualified employees and reap the benefits of the time and training invested in them. Those that don’t, well frankly it’s their loss. So straight off the bat, if you have a company willing to allow this perk or if it is written into your contract that you can take one, then you can take time off of up to a year in most cases without it even putting a dent in your career prospects.
But if you don’t have this – and many people still don’t to be fair – it doesn’t mean you can’t take time off. Just stockpile annual leave, or combine a few weeks annual leave with a few weeks of unpaid leave to allow for a small snap year somewhere. You are not a slave to your desk. Your employers only have as much power over you as you are willing to give them. Everything can always be negotiated.
At the other end of the scale you can just up sticks and leave work completely, hand in your notice and grab your ticket to an exotic backpacking adventure! Go on, you know you want to!
Your job isn’t really that important is it? The company would not go bust and the world would not end if you weren’t there tomorrow, or next week, or year in fact. It will still go on. Your workplace will still be the same dreary little place that it is now if you weren’t there, and it will still be the same place when you get back in a month or years time, (assuming that you even want to go back to that same job when you come back after a long stint of travelling). Odds are you can apply for your old job again, but if you can’t you can always get another job, probably even a better one, when you get back!
There Are Always Better Jobs And Better Options.
It really is that easy! There are no tricks and scams here. Simply enjoy your trip and worry about what you do when you get back.
Saying that, most new backpackers have at some point worried about what would happen when they got back and tried to explain that huge gap on their CV. Well don’t worry about it, as I have just said you can easily spin this into a positive light to get another job, or maybe even a better one!
First of all is the direct experience approach. If you did a little volunteering or work whilst you were travelling, especially if that relates to your chosen field, then list the time spent backpacking as an actual position rather than just leaving it blank. All it takes is a little positive creativity (and no that does not mean outright lying just in case there are any solicitors or potential employers reading this!)
Time spent volunteering in an animal sanctuary or charity abroad – providing that they are genuine non government organisations and not just voluntourism gigs – looks great on a CV for those wanting to work with animals in any field when they return home. Did you spend some time teaching English (even if it was to an informal group for a couple of weeks), then hey presto, you can stick ‘English teacher’ as a position for a month or two. Are you an architect maybe? Then you spent two months studying the colonial architecture in Malaysia didn’t you? (Just leave off the parts about scuba diving and sipping mango juices in a hammock all day in the Perhentian islands!) You can gain valuable and transferable skill sets by undertaking in work like this, and a potential employer will be impressed that not only do you have the skill sets they are looking for, but gained them in a varied and unusual environment.
This brings me neatly onto my next point, that it isn’t just about the specific skills you gain, but the life experience and the soft skills you pick up too. Even if the experience you gained doesn’t directly relate to the job or career you are going for when you get back home, it still matters because it shows you have life experience and are a well rounded person.
All of this genuine work boosting spin can be backed up by numerous intangible qualities that most employers will be looking for regardless of their role or specialty. 12 months travelling the world can always be spun into the fact that you have an extensive international background and are comfortable working with and have firsthand knowledge of a wide range of cultures. The fact that you have learnt and practice as many languages as countries you have travelled through means that you have extensive verbal and non verbal communication skills that can be easily transferred to the day to day workings of most businesses. My own field of healthcare for example values communication skills and working within a multicultural, multidisciplinary team extremely highly, but there are very few jobs or careers out there that do not list both of these as one of the highly desirable qualities in any of their candidates.
These things always look great on CV’s, but will also be memorable in an interview as you will be the candidate who shared the story about volunteering with Orang-utans in Borneo or teaching children in Sao Paulo.
Basically speaking, backpacking around the world can actually help your career and job prospects, not hinder it. If you utilise your time right and spin it the right way, the excuse that taking time out to go backpacking will harm your career is beyond ridiculous.
So as with all the other excuses in this series, stop hiding behind them and get out there!
I really hope this series of articles has helped to inspire you to get off the fence and go backpacking! If you have been procrastinating and have found yourself making some of the excuses that have been discussed, then I hope that this series will give you food for thought and be that little nudge you need to get your pack and get travelling!
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