Has Long-Term Travel Abroad Hurt My Chances of Landing a Job Back Home?

Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel

07.10.07 | 11:33 AM ET

Rolf Potts

Dear Rolf,

I am an American expat who has been vagabonding in Southeast Asia for the past three years. Lately, I have been looking into jobs back in the U.S. and it’s hard to generate much interest from employers. I’m worried that my experience abroad have hurt my job prospects in my own country. Any advice?

—D.C., Bangkok, Thailand

Dear D.C.,

You bring up an interesting issue. Re-entering the job world after an extended stint abroad can indeed be tough. However, just as it’s necessary to plow right in and deal with the “reverse culture shock” of returning, re-employment is best tackled head-on.

For starters, I think the lack of interest from employers at present has a lot to do with the fact that you are still in Asia. By the standards of most Americans—let alone employers—you are “off the radar.”  The query process will get easier once you return to the United States.

One thing you’ll definitely want to do as you re-enter the job market is convert your experience of the last three years into something that looks good on a resume. For all the employer knows, you’ve spent these three years taking hits from a bong at some secluded beach with a bunch of local hookers. Thus, whatever constructive activities you’ve been doing in your travels, present them on your resume to show it’s been one big educational/professional experience.

Did you do any work during your time abroad? Did you volunteer anywhere? Did you take a course in language or cooking or martial arts? Did you learn any new life skills? Odds are, you’ve done plenty on the road, so—whatever you’ve done that might look good to employers—pump it into your resume to show you’re an eminently employable person who’s been doing interesting and constructive things all these years.

On a final note, never underestimate the power of networking. I’m sure you’ve met lots of fascinating people in your travels. Now is the time to send them e-mails and ask them if they have any good professional leads for you. Believe it or not, these kind of people can be your best resource for employment when you get home.

Send your questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). If you want to know whether Rolf has already answered your questions, see the Ask Rolf archive.


Columnist Rolf Potts is the author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, and Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations From One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer. His stories have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler, as well as in “The Best American Travel Writing.”


17 Comments for Has Long-Term Travel Abroad Hurt My Chances of Landing a Job Back Home?

Amy T. 07.15.07 | 11:55 PM ET

Thomas Wolfe said it best: “You can’t go home again.” In my own experience, I think it helps to remove any expectations that that things will be the same when you return—that you’ll just be able to slip into your old life—and harness the power of the changes. Maybe that’s vague, but that’s my M.O.

Gary 07.16.07 | 4:45 PM ET

“For all the employer knows, you’ve spent these three years taking hits from a bong at some secluded beach with a bunch of local hookers.”

And that is a bad thing, Rolf?

Craig of Travelvice.com 11.18.07 | 2:39 PM ET

Think skill sets.  You’re being hired for your talents—perhaps visual, but most likely technical. Highlight how your international experiences have enhanced your communication ability far beyond the typical cubical drone. You’ve got a world of savvy under your belt—use it.

Mike 02.09.08 | 4:56 PM ET

“For all the employer knows, you’ve spent these three years taking hits from a bong at some secluded beach with a bunch of local hookers.”
LOL.

Mike
Sityodtong Muay Thai

Article Writer 02.14.08 | 1:40 PM ET

like in your situation

A computer scientist died and of course was immediately sent to hell.  As he gloomily entered the infernal gates, he was amazed to find hell was a vast computer laboratory with equipment beyond his wildest dreams.  There were machines of unbelievable capacity and memory, machines that could work at speeds unheard of on earth.

“What do you think of hell?” asked the devil.

“Wonderful” said the computer scientist, “give me a few discs and let me try these machines out.”

“That’s the hell of it,” grinned the devil.  “We’ve got no software down here.”

all in one forum 03.25.08 | 4:08 AM ET

Thats hard but one that has been out for 3 years should just keep trying to make it
All In One Forum

Miley jones 04.17.08 | 3:38 PM ET

Yeah it is certainly hard getting jobs after you have been away so long, start a business.

ivan 06.17.08 | 4:30 PM ET

It’s hard to find good job in USA after 3 years in Asia, but it is possibly

A Guide to Singapore City 07.19.08 | 7:03 PM ET

While it might be tough finding a job after all your travel excursions, I am sure you;r a much wiser man for it..!

tim 07.23.08 | 5:53 PM ET

All is Possible in the World, and it’s always possible to find a good job, I think…

johnbaem 07.24.08 | 6:21 PM ET

I kinda agreed with tim but rarely ive seen they get a job that they love back in DC. Some said that you are lowering your level when you work in Asia. Huh?

computer security 07.31.08 | 7:30 PM ET

I would not think this would effect employment at all.  In fact, due to the experience and knowledge you’ve gained during your travels, I would think this would help more than it would hinder.

Jobs UK 08.13.08 | 8:56 AM ET

“Thus, whatever constructive activities you’ve been doing in your travels, present them on your resume to show it’s been one big educational/professional experience. “


If in doubt, lie :)

I’m UK based and I’m aware that not a lot of you yanks have passports

Having your eyes opened to cultures afar will definitely help you in your career, so you need to sell this aspect of your ‘education’ to employers.

Don’t sell this experience short whatever you do.

Muay Thai 08.25.08 | 5:53 PM ET

I think things will definately change when you come home.  However, I think the experience from going abroad can definately help you when trying to land a job.

International recruitment 09.02.08 | 4:59 PM ET

I completely disagree with this post!

I am all my life this way and never have problems when i get back home.

Canada Jobs 09.04.08 | 2:51 PM ET

I think it should not be too difficult to find a job when you get home. You have to “present them on your resume to show it’s been one big educational/professional experience. “

This is all it takes. I’m sure you will find a job in no time.

Soeren Aarlev 09.12.08 | 1:06 PM ET

I was very worried about finding a job as well after returning home from a 9 months trip to South East Asia. But I actually managed to land a much better job than I had before leaving. Ironically my current employer was much more interested in hearing about my travels than my skills when he interviewed me for the job.

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