Recounting your travels in an interview might seem like it should feature on a ‘worst interview mistakes’ list. Why would your interviewer want to hear about your trek across 3 continents? However, by glossing over this time of your life you are losing out on a key opportunity to sell yourself and stand out from the other candidates.
It is vital that any gap in your CV should be explained and turned into a positive. Traveling is no different. Here are some ways that you can make the most of your experiences abroad in an interview:
Pick your experiences wisely
While you might be desperate to forge a connection with the person sitting opposite you, it’s best to give that story about your trip to the local Shaman in South America a wide berth. It might be your most riveting story and had your family in stitches but chances are your interviewer won’t share your enthusiasm.
Instead, share experiences that demonstrate skills and characteristics that can benefit the organization. For example, highlight times during your travels that had to do with volunteering, education or skills development. What did you gain that fulfils the requirements in the job description?
Showcase your adaptability
This is a crucial skill to an employer. Being able to adapt to stressful situations unfazed while navigating a foreign culture is impressive. Travel isn’t meant to be stressful but inevitably there are times when things go wrong. For example, that time you had to find your bus while combating an unfamiliar illness that left you with no energy and fuzzy headed, all the while not speaking a word of the native language.
How you cope in such situations can demonstrate a resilience and versatility to the employer that others may be lacking.
Highlight your cultural sensitivity
While traveling you learn how to forge relationships across multiple cultural barriers. This requires a great deal of emotional intelligence and interpersonal adaptability, both qualities in high demand among employers. According to global forecasting firm Oxford Economics, workers who excel in the future will be those who are most effective at team building, collaboration and cultural sensitivity.
With the global economy companies are looking for staff with increased cultural sensitivity. Being aware of diverse cultural practices and customs can enhance a company’s relationship with international counterparts and clients.
Different mind sets inspire creative thought
When you step outside of your own culture you challenge your mind set and preconceptions. It can fuel your creativity and how you approach problem solving. New places and new people broaden your understanding of people which will help with your networking skills and encourage camaraderie with new co-workers.
Organizations are going out of their way to encourage face-to-face interaction between staff in order to spark innovation. Having a member on the team who can easily establish connections and communicate with all personalities is a real asset.
Traveling improves your time management skills
Effective use of time is one of the most crucial factors to planning and enjoying your travels. It takes someone with great time management skills to maximize time on a trip abroad. Exploring a continent in a year and ensuring you see everything each country has to offer involves to-do lists and realistic goals. There is a great deal of organizational skill required. If a flight is delayed and pushes your schedule back, you are going to have to quickly re-schedule and re-evaluate. Detailing such experiences makes it obvious that you value time and punctuality in life, and in business.
Selling your time abroad should be treated like any other aspect of the interview. You need to focus on what the experience taught you, what benefits if can bring to the organization and demonstrate this with concrete examples. However, don't forget to talk about the relevant work experience that you also have. Traveling can really differentiate you but it should not take over your interview.
Spending a few months to a year abroad leaves a gap in your CV that will need to be explained. This is not a bad thing. Traveling is a way to showcase your transferable skills as well as being a unique and interesting way to sell you. Your time abroad was a valuable contribution to your career skills. Be confident enough to stand behind this.
Find your reason to come home.