It’s oh so nice, to go travelling – Returning to the workplace after taking time to see the world.

Business 16th May 2023

The post graduate travelling experience has been a feature of modern life for decades. While taking time out to centre yourself and see a bit of the world may be a nice idea, it’s important for employers and prospective employees to understand what it can mean once the road leads back to the workplace.

Travel broadens the mind, but could it shrink the career?

Going travelling after graduation is a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to employment. On the one hand, it is perfectly natural to want to expand your horizons and see a bit of the world. Everyone understands that urge. However, while employers may well understand the desire to travel it doesn’t necessarily play well for the prospective employee. That said, employers should also be wary of being too cynical of the graduate ‘traveller’ because context can really matter.

Should graduates looking for a career give the wanderlust a miss?

Well, no, of course not, if you go into it with your eyes open and it is what you want to do, then go for it. However, you do need to be realistic about what it means to the employer in the future. To start with you are swapping some experience in the workplace for a very different kind of experience. Also, in cutting edge technology areas for example, you could be a little, or even a significant amount, behind on current developments. There are also softer skills to think about such as you could find yourself losing touch with your peers and the working network they could have provided. So, yes, go travelling, but in all the excitement maybe take a little time out to think about how it could affect your career.

  • Where will you go and what will you do?

The pleasure of travelling is to experience other cultures and learn from them. So, try to build a travelling experience that you can use later. There is a big difference in travelling to broaden your experience and develop new skills and just hanging around in elephant trousers on a beach in Thailand. Developing yourself by volunteering or working while you travel is a very different thing to taking an extended holiday.

  • How long will you go for?

There is no problem with having a great time for a few months or taking an extended trip with a purpose, but what does a long time travelling without anything to show for it say to an employer about who you are? Does it recommend you as part of their team? Speaking of things to ‘show’ for your trip…

  • Keep your professional and social media separate.

The truth is that everyone looks everybody up online these days. So, if some of the photos of those great times you had don’t look so good to a casual viewer, make sure your privacy settings are right on your social media.

  • When you get back, make it all count.
    • Update your CV to reflect the skills you gathered while you were travelling.
    • Bring yourself back up to speed on who your current target employers are and build a watch list.
    • Don’t brag about it as a party time, talk about what you learned.
    • Start visiting professional events such as trade shows and network opportunities as soon as you get back.
    • Remember this was your life decision and accept that it could have changed things.
    • Be prepared to perhaps look at internships or volunteering to help you re-enter the job market.

Should employers be wary of potential employees returning from travelling?

The short answer to that question is that you have a legal and ethical responsibility to be fair to all candidates. As a responsible employer though, there could well be a difficulty deciding between the candidate who travelled for a couple of years, a new graduate looking to grow their career, or someone with some work experience, if all of them are equally qualified overall. In the end, you are entitled to choose whatever candidate suits you best, just as long as you meet all the relevant employment laws. In the scenario above it’s important to remember to recognise the skills that the travelling candidate may have acquired. How this will sit in comparison to the more experienced or equally qualified candidates is a matter for the interview and selection process. Sadly, it can be the case that the candidate who has not been in the workplace and has no work experience can seem, on paper at least, to be the less attractive option. However, employers do need to be a little wary of assuming this will be the case and missing out on a potentially great employee, particularly in the current skills gap based employment market.

While there is a lot to be said for travelling, there can also be a real danger that the delayed start to working life, and the lack of work experience, could lead to prospective employees limiting their career options. Employers are, of course, duty bound to make the right choice for their business when it comes to the workforce. With that in mind, candidates would be well advised to give a little thought as to how travelling could affect their career, and whether it could end up leaving them struggling for an opportunity to meet their true potential, when they return.


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