This was first written as a piece for AWOL.
Should you add your travel experience to your resume? It’s a question for the ages. Right up there with ‘is this love?’ and ‘how do I backup to iCloud?’. In an effort to reach resume enlightenment, I’ve spent the last week surveying random acquaintances (Louis Theroux-style) on their CV habits.
My barista Luka (#peakMelbourne) thinks holiday jaunts are worthy of a look-in under the ‘hobbies & interests’ banner. Beautician Louise believes travel is only relevant when applying for a travel industry job. And the good-looking guy from the gym who sometimes uses the treadmill next to me on Tuesday nights is a hard no. Because what employer wants to hear about that time he got loose under a Koh Phi Phi full moon?
I was getting mixed responses, so I decided to ask a professional. Introducing Alessia Angelica, HR guru at a successful global travel company and all-round insightful legend.
“I think that businesses as a whole, should be more flexible in accommodating a good work/life balance, because that’s what is important to people nowadays. I’d hate to think that recruiters would discriminate against a resume purely for including travel experience; after all, it’s a passion and a hobby for nearly everyone,” says Alessia. Amen to that.
I got Alessia’s industry opinion on a few of the potential pros and cons that come with adding travel to your job-finder.
Con: All filler, no killer
When you give a rundown on your O/S experiences, you also run the risk of future employers viewing it as resume padding. To them it might read as if you’re lacking in tangible, professional experience and are just trying to stretch a one-pager into three (also, don’t do that). Where you’re listing ‘six month Europe trip 2012’, your maybe-boss might be scanning for ‘six month internship 2012’. Yikes. To avoid this, Alessia recommends “listing destinations, trips and experiences that are relevant to the role; perhaps you might have studied internationally, taken a gap year or volunteered abroad.”
One of the greatest arguments for travel is that it opens the mind. You get out there, you see the world, you experience other cultures, you learn new languages and you gain a perspective that can’t be found by staying put in your hometown, no matter how nice your hometown may be. Travel on a resume says “I’ve done things and seen things. I’m a well-informed, organised, financially secure, adaptable, culturally aware grown-up and you should probably hire me”. As Alessia says, “it’s impossible to teach somebody real life experience.”
Con: You’re unsettled, petal
It’s no secret that employees value security. A bankable way to blow an interview is by telling the boss lady that you’re a nomadic gypsy and you try never to spend more than two months in any one city. Be warned, if your resume is littered with international escapades and is thin on the vocational experience front, it could paint you as flakey. “One of the only cons that could come from listing your travel experience is if the business is looking for a role with serious commitment to a place and project. That said, I don’t think your travel experience should be a deterrent; after all, it’s a past experience and not a future deal breaker,” says Alessia.
Pro: Explaining gaps in your credentials
In 2008 you took a gap year in Europe, in 2011 you spent six months backpacking South America, and last year you just needed a good South East Asia getaway. If you’ve got big chunks of time missing from your employment history, divulging that you were actually travelling during those periods is much better than a potential manager thinking you’ve had long bouts of unemployment. No sir, you just had bouts of altitude sickness while volunteering in Nepal. And Alessia agrees: “If you’ve taken time off to travel, list it. Don’t set a false precedent.”
There’s no hard or fast line on this one, but what I’ve taken away is that you need to be selective with the travel experiences you choose to share and attribute it to a job where the skills are required. Basically, there’s a time and a place.
For example, a future boss doesn’t need to know about that time you got lost in a Guatemalan rainforest, but noting down that you did a semester’s study abroad in Barcelona is always a muy bueno idea. Haggling in Asia doesn’t necessarily upskill you for a job in the finance department, but volunteering with a children’s project in Ghana will definitely look good on that application for the International Development job you’re after.
That said, if travel is your life’s purpose, surely you’d want to a find a role that encourages and supports you. As Alessia says, “if a business frowns upon your travel experience, then you might need to reconsider whether that business is a good fit for you personally, because it goes both ways.”