The hardest part about long-term traveling is returning to the real world: culture shock, less stimulation, realizing that nothing has really changed back home, and the fact that you now have to find a job. On top of that, having a gigantic gap in your resume makes it much harder to find one. The fear of not finding a job alone holds many people back from even taking the plunge into traveling at all. Luckily, I am a backpacker and a recruiter so I am here to quell those fears about not finding a job so you can get on that plane. Here are the steps:
Close Those Gaps!
Since traveling, your resume now has a big gap in it where it looks like you have been unemployed for a long time. This is the #1 most employers throw your resume into the trash bin after only looking at it for 6 seconds. The gap just opens up too many questions in their minds: Why is this person not working? Why can’t they find work? Why doesn’t anyone else want to employ them? How do you convey that this was a conscious choice and that there is nothing fishy going on here?
First, think of anything you can put on your resume that you did on your trip that could relate to being employed. Did you volunteer? Do freelance work? Maintain a blog that generated any form of income? If there’s anything that looks good there, go ahead and add it to try and fill in the gap as best as possible.
Long-term gigs, such as the one on my resume here, are an excellent way to close multiple gaps.
An employer might reject you if they notice a pattern of traveling because they assume that you are going to quit and leave again soon. But who wants to work at a place that discourages travel? Personally, I fill the resume gap with the honest answer: that I was on sabbatical traveling the world for a number of months. I usually even mention that it was a life long dream. The best companies I have talked to in recent interviews spent at least a little time talking about traveling with me, asking where I have been, and telling me personal stories. It has created a deeper connection and I no longer feel like I am hiding the fact that I love traveling. I recommend this if you are confident it will work for you, but do stress that you are looking for a long-term position if that is the truth.
An employer wants to see that you are currently working. The best time to apply to jobs is while you already have one. In the event that you have absolutely nothing to fill the current gap with, join a temp agency. They can give you random assignments as you continue to look for jobs, you can ask for full-time or part-time, make money, and successfully fill the gap on your resume. You might even get hired on to one of your assignments. I found my first job out of college this way.
Trim The Fat
Job searching is a full time job itself. Let’s not waste time applying to every company within our salary range. Be realistic about your skills, what you want to learn, and make a list of all the required qualities you want in your next job, company, salary, and work environment. Personally, I can’t work in an office that doesn’t have a casual dress code, so that is a requirement for me. Making this list will narrow down your job options, allowing you to spend more time finding the right job ads, crafting personal cover letters, and interviewing for jobs you really want.
The Best Websites For Finding A Job
I have found that results vary by each job board website drastically. Here are the websites that I have used, how to use them, which ones landed me interviews, and which ones didn't.
AngelList – This is my favorite website for job searching. However, it is specifically for finding jobs at startup companies so it might not be effective everywhere in the U.S. You can find jobs through your personal network or apply to jobs by searching around. The best part is that you don’t have to fill out giant applications or even submit a cover letter. You can apply to jobs with one click! After doing so, you have the option of sending a personal message to the hiring manager, which I absolutely recommend you do. The message is only a 1,000 word maximum, so focus on all your results from past jobs that relate specifically to the job you’re applying to. State why you want to work there as well. Say that you would love to speak with them over the phone about the position and your availability to show interest. Using this method, you can apply to 10 jobs in under an hour.
Pro tip: AngelList also let’s you know when the last time the hiring manager logged in, and how many applicants have applied in the past week. If the hiring manager hasn’t logged in within the last month, don’t apply to that job. If there are over 100 applicants in the last week, the competition is huge. I try to stick with companies that have logged in within the past week and only have around 5-20 applicants.
Craigslist – I tend to get the most responses from Craigslist. I enjoy this website because most ads just require you to e-mail them a resume and cover letter. The issue is that many positions are low quality, and many top companies now have stopped using Craigslist.
Indeed – With Indeed you will find a wide range of high but mostly lower quality jobs. You can apply to most positions with just a few clicks, which makes it effective in saving time. My results on Indeed were almost as good as Craigslist.
Glassdoor – Glassdoor is awesome because it feels much more modern, shows salaries for positions, pictures of the work environment, and even has company reviews from employees. Positions are updated frequently allowing you to always have something to apply to in the morning. However, I received the weakest response rate from this website, possibly because it is quite popular now and offers higher quality jobs and companies.
CareerBuilder – I did not use CareerBuilder much to find jobs but it is an excellent source for recruiters. Keep your resume posted there and someone may end up contacting you!
LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great way to see who in your network is working where and asking them for a referral. They have job boards too where lots of desirable companies post, but there is a lot of competition on LinkedIn so the response rate isn’t great unless your resume is amazing.
Now, keep a spreadsheet of which companies you applied to, the position, the date you applied, and a link to the job advertisement. This will come in extremely useful later.
Get A Recruiter
Why not have someone try to find a job for you? I ended up finding my current job through a recruiting agency. They will do a lot of the selling for you, and even give you tips on resumes, interviewing, and what the company is really looking for.
Ask Your Network
This is the obvious way most people tend to get jobs. If LinkedIn isn’t quite doing it for you, just announce on Facebook that you are looking for a job and what you are looking for. Don’t have shame about this. Everyone is unemployed at some point and your friends might at least be able to refer you to someone. I found a previous job like this.
How Much Time You Should Be Spending On Applying To Jobs
8 hours a day. Seriously. I actually spent around 12 hours a day applying and interviewing but I am a little crazy. Do this for around three weeks and then…
80/20 That Shit!
The 80/20 rule states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means that 20% of the input you are putting in to job searching will yield 80% of the best results. It's time to cut out that other 80% of the time you are spending applying to jobs that isn't working for you. After about three weeks of applying, you might be getting some responses from employers. Take a look at your spreadsheet. What job board websites are working for you? Which ones are taking up too much of your time? Where are you getting responses? Is there a connection between the type of jobs you are applying to and responses from employers? Maybe you are looking for a finance job but apply to others like sales anyway. If the sales jobs don’t seem to be responding to you, axe 'em! Start focusing on the job boards, types of positions, etc. that are working for you best. Now you can spend more time crafting better cover letters, finding the right job advertisements, etc.
Personally, I started cutting out applications that required 1-3 hours of videos and skills tests, as I could easily apply to 7-8 jobs in the time it takes to do one of those. I also wasn’t getting very many responses from those positions either. I started sticking to AngelList and Craigslist for the best results, and remote positions weren’t quite doing it for me so I started spending much less time applying to those.
Learn A New Skill
Now that your job pool is a bit more narrow, you can spend less time applying and more time learning a new skill. Do a lot of the jobs you are interested in require advanced Excel skills that you don’t have? Now is the time to start taking some online tutorials so you can add that to your resume. Want to learn basic coding? There are tons of online classes and books at the library that can help you with that.
When To Apply
Virtually no employers respond to applications on weekends. Monday through Friday are the best days to apply, especially from 6am – 3 pm. Enjoy your weekend instead!
If you are a big time traveler you might be interested in some remote work so you can be one of those people working from a beach in Mexico. Here are the best websites I used to look for remote work, however, remember that you are now competing with people around the world instead of mainly just in your city. The response rate on these positions is much lower and slower than regular positions. Also, since you won’t be meeting the employers in person, these positions often require hours of skills tests, applications, videos, and too many Skype interviews.
Indeed.com: Indeed will let you search for remote jobs by entering “remote” in the “where” field.
Craigslist.org: Here is a cool little Craigslist hack I found. Craigslist is meant to only be used to search locally, however, Google will let you trick it in to searching globally. In the Google.com search bar, enter the name of your desired position + remote followed by “site:craigslist.org”. Use the example below for a remote recruiting position as a template:
Google search terms: recruiter remote site:craigslist.org
“Virtual” is also a good substitute for remote in most cases.
As a recruiter, I have looked at thousands of resumes. Let me tell you, 95% of them are offensively shitty. Hiring managers look for reasons NOT to hire you. Any small mistake can cost you his or her attention. Here are the biggest common mistakes most people make on their resumes:
1. Completely irrelevant to the position - So you roll burritos at Chipotle and are applying to a computer programmer position? SHHHRRREEEEDDDD.
2. Spelling and grammar errors - Use spell check. Triple-check your resume. Have a friend read it. This is unacceptable with today’s technology.
3. Nothing but soft skills – So you are a good communicator, punctual, and a quick learner? Great. So WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO DEMONSTRATE THOSE SKILLS?? This article explains this concept better than I ever could.
4. Horrible formatting – Unless you are applying to a graphic design position, don’t add logos and colors to your resume. Keep it simple. Have your name, phone number, and address at the top. Then a qualifications, experience, and education section. Try to keep it under a page and a half. Make it pretty with a template that you can find with a Google search or within Microsoft Office.
Cover letters are the biggest pain in the ass to applying to jobs in my opinion. Do hiring managers even read them? The answer is definitely. Luckily, you can easily hack your cover letters with these simple steps:
2. Get really familiar with the job advertisement you are applying to.
3. After introducing yourself, talk about the skills and accomplishments you have made in your career that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Mention things listed in the job ad that you have experience with without copying and pasting. Talk about challenges that you have conquered and show some real numbers.
4. Now kiss some ass. Talk about why you are interested in the company and the specific type of work being offered. If you are genuinely enthusiastic, this should show through your words. Don’t come off insincere if you don’t actually care about the role or the company. In fact, don’t apply to that position at all if you don’t want it.
5. Now save this cover letter somewhere in a file called Cover Letter – Type of position (ex: Cover Letter – Sales). You can now use this cover letter as a template for applying for similar positions. When reusing a cover letter, always change the company name to the new company, add relevant experience to the new job advertisement, and delete irrelevant info from the previous letter. By editing previous cover letters, you can save hours of work and apply to more jobs.
So you’ve followed my advice, 80/20’d everything, and have sent dozens of applications. Now what?
Prepare for rejection!
You most likely won’t get hired within a week or even get a response from a super interesting job that quickly. You will probably start getting rejection e-mails from employers after they read your resume. Think of this as more of a common courtesy and learning experience than a set back. Cross this one off your spreadsheet and move on. The most painful thing in this whole process is thinking you kicked ass in a final in-person interview, waiting 3 days for a response, then getting rejected. Again, this is a learning experience. If you interviewed somewhere and they rejected you, don’t be afraid to send them an e-mail asking if there were areas you could improve upon.
A little patience…
This process takes months for most people. Even though it worked for me in one month, it was still full of ups and downs and moments where I wanted to give up. Do not be discouraged. Try to look at things positively. Everything happens for a reason and if a company you like never responded to you, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
If Axl Rose can become AC/DC's new singer with his work history, surely good things
will happen to you if you are patient enough.
Use your spreadsheet to apply to jobs that you applied to weeks ago. Their hiring managers might not have seen your application and you might have a stronger cover letter by now.
I don’t want to get too deep on interviews here. Just know that a company can mentally reject you within the first 10 seconds of talking to you or seeing you. Some quick tips to avoid instant rejection:
1. Ask beforehand what the dress code is, and follow it! I’ve seen candidates show up to medical job interviews in basketball jerseys, hats, and smelling like weed. I have seen candidates show up to a casual interview in a suit and tie.
2. Know how to get to the office beforehand and walk through the door 5 minutes early (the recommended is 10 minutes, but every recruiter I know including myself hates being interrupted and having to entertain you until everyone else is ready).
3. Be polite and show enthusiasm. Make solid eye contact with everyone interviewing you.
4. Have that job description memorized and be prepared to give solid examples of what you have done that relates to their questions.
5. Have questions of your own prepared. I have seen interviews go well until it was time for the candidate to ask questions and they were completely dry.
Send an e-mail to your contact at the company that you interviewed with thanking them. Feel free to ask them what your status is if they haven’t responded within the given timeframe, but don’t be pushy!
Final Step: Profits!!!
Results, of course, will vary for everyone. If you read this and are still too scared of not finding a job, e-mail me with any questions you have at firstname.lastname@example.org.