There are so many travel opportunities available to us – whether it is a gap year after high school, a semester abroad, or an OE after university. Sometimes it can be difficult deciding whether to travel, or to start your career – and even harder to leave your career to travel.
But who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? I have definitely been trying to. Since finishing university and starting a ‘real’ job, I’ve taking a number of holidays – utilising my annual leave allocation and office closure periods over Christmas. Upon accepting my role here at Victoria University, I was lucky enough to negotiate with my manager to take a five-week holiday to China and Vietnam over an extended Christmas break.
So, if you’re trying to decide between work and travel I recommend choosing both. Excelling in your career does not just involve previous experience or hard skills; it also involves personality, life experiences and everything that makes you who you are. The soft skills that you acquire and improve while travelling could be the way that you stand out when applying for jobs.
Next time you’re in an interview, try integrating these soft skills into your pitch:
If three+ years of university hasn’t taught you great time management, travelling certainly will. There’s nothing quite like the pressure of running through an airport to catch your international flight on time, or being in a city for only 48 hours and trying to squeeze all of the sites in. Travelling, just like work, involves prioritising, setting goals and working smarter.
Social and communication skills:
What better way to improve your communication skills than by interacting with people from different corners of the world. This will no doubt make you a better listener, communicator, and more willing to understand others.
A recent trip backpacking around China certainly improved my communication skills (and patience!). Travelling around a non-English speaking country requires completely rethinking the way that you are used to communicating – I used a combination of gestures, drawing pictures, and a translator app on my phone. Sometimes all three were required just for a glass of water with my meal.
Being fluent in another language will immediately set you apart from other job candidates – particularly if it is for a multinational company. Being able to manoeuvre another language doesn’t only mean you are able to communicate more easily with its speakers, it may also mean that you learn faster, listen better, and connect well with others. No matter your career path, learning another language will be a huge plus for your resume. And, the best way to acquire a second language is through socialising with native speakers.
Being able to work cooperatively with others and contribute to a group is a key employability quality. Luckily, travel provides you with plenty of moments where cooperating with others is crucial – you are bound to have to collaborate on trip planning, compromise on which activities you complete and work together to get from place to place.
Being able to think on your feet and adapt to change is a critical skill in our modern, constantly on-the-go world. Travel teaches you to be constantly aware of your surroundings, to be observant of the sights and sounds around you, and to be ready for any changes. There is only so much you can plan in advance – so when you’re there, the unexpected may (and will) happen, forcing you to quickly shift gears and move on to Plan B. This will especially test you in an unfamiliar environment (especially one where Google is blocked).