What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in five years? And what’s with that glaring 18-month gap on your CV?
There are plenty of career-enhancing things you can do while travelling: volunteering, language courses, gaining experience in a temporary job… But heading for a beach in Maui probably wasn’t the kind of ‘blue-sky thinking’ your old boss used to bang on about.
It’s true that job seeking feels more daunting if you spent your travel time backpacking aimlessly, or fulfilling a personal dream. But I believe almost any kind of travel makes you more employable.
I’m not suggesting you rewrite your CV into bullet points about finding yourself in Kerala. Resist the urge to cite henna tattoos under ‘Creative skills’ or claim you’re fluent in Arabic because you haggled a couple of taxi fares. But time out travelling is a boost to your résumé, not something to apologise for.
If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t have travelled overland from Beijing to London earlier this year. Juggling visas for different countries, shaping an itinerary that weaves in festivals, family and friends, utilising my best phrasebook Mandarin... a big trip isn’t easy to execute.
Travelling widely gives you a rich seam of anecdotes to bust out in any job interview – if you frame them in the right way. Ever used your charm when border control collared you for questioning? Diplomacy. Or bundled all your hungover travel buddies on to a 5am train? Management potential. If you build an epic trip and live to tell the tale, you’re probably a self-starter with enough organisational skills to put lead in any recruiter’s pencil.
And let’s not forget your recruiter in all this. Hiring a new employee is eyelid-droopingly dull. Your recruiter has seen 80 CVs identical to yours. He or she has smiled wearily at a dozen candidates already, all of them as irritatingly eager as you, all with your exact skillset. When half the battle is standing out from the crowd, the occasional memorable answer to formulaic interview questions gives you an edge.
You can even spin your big trip as ‘getting travel out of your system’ – even if, secretly, you know it won’t be long before you get itchy feet again.