24

After saving up money for a year, I quit my last programming job in the fall of 2011 to go travel around the world. Now I'm starting to look for a new job. I feel like this would be easy to talk about in an interview, but I'm more worried about getting the interview in the first place, with such a long gap on my résumé.

  • I live in the US, where years off like this are less common.
  • The year I worked and saved was my first of full time employment after graduating, and although I left on good terms, it's not my first choice to go back to.

Hence the question:

  • How should I mention my travel in my résumé?
16

Present a cover letter explaining the gap. Indicate your lengthy planning and willingness to save for the trip. Make sure they understand this is something you've wanted to do for quite some time and isn't a result of burning-out after only one year of work (Maybe the nature of your previous project required an excessive amount of hours, so you prepared yourself?). Make sure you indicate the amount of notice you gave your previous employer. Hopefully, you left on good terms and can possibly get a recommendation from them.

You made a sacrifice and did something enviable (especially in the US) Don't give anyone any indication it's because you're a slacker. Address these concerns upfront and show them you have the skills to do the job.

  • IMO splitting info to two places is only good to lose it or create confsuion – Balog Pal Jun 9 '13 at 16:39
  • +1 for mentioning planning and delayed gratification – Peter M. - stands for Monica Apr 22 '14 at 23:46
23

Handling gaps in your employment may be tricky. Here are several ideas that may help:

  1. Never lie. Employers usually check details, and dates are the easiest to compare.
  2. A good wording may be helpful. Here are some hints:
    • Personal Travel
    • Adventure Travel
    • Full-time Study and Travel
  3. Emphasize positive aspects. Indeed, you weren't just watching TV all that time, were you?
    What have you learned? Language? Culture? Architecture? You may have interests in different aspects of life, so it is normal if you dedicated one year for another interest.
    Take into account how your past activity was related to a position you are seeking. If it is not too much related, don't be wordy.
  4. If you had some part-time activity for your former employer, mention this in CV. They would value you as a current employee.
  5. Stay up to date with your technical level. If you have studied a new technology, that would be a great accomplishment during a vacation.
  6. Stay in touch with your professional associations (nowadays, you may just restore it). If you took part in any online meetings, conferences, etc., mention them in CV.
  7. Be prepared for questions during an interview. Provide a clear rationale for taking time off if the break was voluntary. Don't let people thinking you've been fired.
  • 1
    never lie -- indeed, read up C.N. Parkinson showing all methods of misleading while you tell only the truth ;-) – Balog Pal Jun 9 '13 at 16:43
  • adventure travel is awesome. But do you need to have adventures to use the descriptor? I mean, if i said i went to Thailand and battled Toth-Amona and found the ruby skull that was needed to enter The Sea Temple in Iraq, well, sure, that seems like adventure travel. But what if i just went to Thailand and got drunk and lost my shoe? Is an adventure to reclaim a shoe adventure enough? – bharal Sep 4 '14 at 12:10
  • @BalogPal: can you point us to some site? :) – tomasb Nov 27 '14 at 1:21
  • @bytebuster, I am in a similar situation. I took a year off from programming, after 4+ years of employment, because I was doing nothing new and I was afraid of reaching a dead-end too soon. Instead of jumping at the first shiny new job, I decided to take time away from the screen, and work on a 2nd bachelor's degree in mathematics. Then a series of negative events occurred (like a car accident, hospitalization) in late 2014 which left me depressed and playing Steam for a month. 1 not a good liar, however, there must be a point of T.M.I. so giving a straight, succinct answer is how I read u – user2973 May 7 '15 at 22:48
4

It's to your advantage right now that the poor economy in the US right now has led to many people having lengthy gaps in their resume due to unemployment. Initial HR screeners will usually take this into account at most companies (there are exceptions). I had nearly a 6 month gap in my employment due to illness followed by a period of temporary disability and this gap never came up during interviews. Someone else I know had nearly a year off for similar reasons and it didn't come up for them either.

So, it may never come up although if all you have is a year experience it will probably be more likely to come up in an interview. If it does come up, just explain, honestly, why you took the time off.

I think it reflects well on you that you saved up to do this and didn't run up huge debts doing this or going to school (I'm assuming this is correct). Few people can afford take time off after college these days since they have enormous school loans to pay and other heavy debt and don't have the financial discipline to save money to achieve a goal.

Edit in response to your edit:

I don't think you need to mention it on your resume unless there's something related to the position you're apply for. For example, if you were applying at a travel company or if foreign language knowledge was a plus. Otherwise, it's like other personal info, you leave it off.

  • 2
    agreed, I probably wouldn't mention a gap of only a year on the resume either. I would expect the interviewer(s) to be curious about the gap, so have an explanation prepared, but it needn't be on the resume itself. – Jessica Brown Sep 4 '12 at 18:19
1

don't be concerned about this at all. I work in Silicon Valley where this is not unusual. A lot of programmers/computer people do this. It has no impact at all on your employability. On your resume don't put anything in that gap, or simply put "world travel." The people who read your resume and who interview you will think it's cool.

in other professions this might be an issue, but in our profession, this is actually a "merit badge"

0

A resume doesn't have to conform to any format or layout or even the information it contains. Admittedly it needs to contain the right content to get you an interview, but that is the only thing it needs. A resume serves no other purpose.

For your situation just put travel in as experience too, it's a perfectly acceptable reason for not working. If your resume uses the subject heading "Work Experience" then change it, to just be "Experience". If you traveled a long way, list the countries you visited too. This entire entry shouldn't be more than 1 bullet point unless you're applying for a travel agent position, as it's fairly irrelevant to most jobs but does give a good explanation for a long gap in working and may provide additional talking points at the interview.

The same can go for any valid reason for unemployment, like studying, volunteer work, injury, etc. Though if the study is relevant to the job you're applying for it should be more than a single line.

People who were fired, lost their house/accommodation, and had to move back in with their parents for several months or more need to be creative. There is nothing saying you have to put dates on your resume at all. Employers mainly want to know how long you did that work for, that's why you see employers asking for things like "have 5 years experience" and not "worked in the industry for the last 5 years". In Australia I believe it is illegal for an employer to ask how old you are before they offer you the job. So if you don't tell them (this includes year of graduation from school), they can't work out if there are gaps.

You can also not use the full date, just include what year it was. So if you stopped work at your last job in say Feb 2013, and it's now Feb 2014, just put that you finished your last job in 2013. To make it look less like you're hiding something make all of you dates of employment like this.

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