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
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
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.