It is nearly the beginning of the last term of the academic year. Many of you may be trying to look past the exams, to the fun you are going to have over summer. Maybe you’re going travelling? Perhaps you’re also thinking of applying for some jobs? It’s important to make sure that you reflect on your travel experiences so that you can “sell” them effectively to your prospective employers.
I’ve been thinking about this blog because I ‘ve just been on holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. I’ve tried to ponder what would be the best way to talk about my experiences to an employer. It’s important to do better than the hackneyed “travel broadens the mind” approach.
Why not think about specific experiences from your holiday and relate them to the world of work? This will allow you to tell a compelling and personal story that might really resonate with that target recruiter. Here, by way of example, are some thoughts which might help you to build your own case to pique the interest of employers.
1. Travel makes you look at different perspectives.
I went to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. I expected it to be challenging and difficult and it was. Of course the museum portrays one point of view, but the stories of atrocities are compelling. After the visit, and while I still felt haunted by many of the images, I met and talked to an American who had also just been to the museum. His take on it was that it was an awesome piece of propaganda and that there had clearly been massive corruption on both sides.
It is interesting to see how different people coming from different backgrounds can look at the same thing in some divergent ways. There are messages for the workplace here. It’s important to be aware that the reaction of others is coloured by their personal and cultural backgrounds. It may be necessary to explain your thinking very clearly and to check understanding. It’s always worth considering whether others are likely to view things in the same way as you. Try to be conscious of your own cultural “baggage”, your age, your economic circumstances, perhaps also your religion and try to consider whether this means that you see things differently from those around you. If you have this personal insight and understanding you’re more likely to be able to forge effective working relationships with colleagues.
2. Travel teaches you how to surrender control
Now I am very impatient and am a bit of a control freak, I don’t find it easy to submit to the “process” of travel. I can’t control the time an aircraft takes off or how long a flight takes, or even whether my baggage has made it to the plane. When I travel I have to consciously practise letting go. My flight back from Ho Chi Minh City ran a bit late, I needed to make a connection in Paris and it was clear that time would be tight. There was absolutely nothing I could do, worrying wasn’t going to change anything.
At work it is good to be organised and to plan and to set up contingencies but sometimes you have to “go with flow”. It is important to understand that no one individual can control everything or do everything. You have to be prepared to rely on colleagues and to be confident that they will do their jobs correctly. I am going to try to remember this – at least for a few weeks!
3. Travel shows you how much you take for granted
In the UK I never stop to be grateful for the clean drinking water which comes out of the tap. Suddenly, when you realise that it’s not such a good idea to use the tap water, even to clean your teeth, the unthinking acceptance of that clean water seems a bit ungrateful. It isn’t just material things which we take for granted though; it is also our skills and abilities. We often spend time worrying about the things we don’t think we’re so good at, but rarely stop to be grateful for the thinks which come easily to us. If you’re thinking about applying for jobs, then remember to tell employers about those strengths you’ve never had to work at and which you might not necessarily value properly. Perhaps you’re a natural communicator or a very creative thinker? Make sure you promote your strengths.
Your travel narrative will be different but I hope this gives you an idea of how you might use your own experiences to help you to land a job.