You wake one morning in a familiar room far, far away from the sun-drenched beaches of Byron Bay and the heavily spiced air of Bangkok. From your window you catch glimpses of Britain’s concrete-coloured skies and feel the inevitable chill of your return home with all the associated responsibilities, like finding a job.
Thousands of miles, scores of cities, countless new friends and endless adventures are all shelved like trophies now in the banks of your memory. Can friends and family ever truly understand how profoundly your travels have affected you? Does it matter? It’s likely the only thing that really matters now is your appalling state of finance and what you’re going to do about it.
Where do you begin? After months or years away pulling pints or working a series of temp jobs, the returned traveller can wind up feeling anxious and under prepared for re-entry to a job market that thrived in their absence. The friends you left behind are now drinking after hours with their senior managers, they’re moving up the management ladder themselves, some even have mortgages. You have some dog-eared photographs of full-moon beach parties, and a great tan.
Don’t panic. The first rule to making a successful comeback is confidence, says recruitment expert Katrina Spence of international recruitment agency Hamilton, James and Bruce. ‘Be aware of the skills and development you have accrued in your time overseas and ensure you sell this in an interview process. There is a global shortage of quality candidates, so your return will generally be welcomed,’ says Spence.
Ben Ewbank, a manager in the London office of recruitment giant Michael Page agrees, but warns that breaks of longer than 12 months might be more problematic.
‘Breaks longer than 12 months become more of an issue and the client may doubt how fresh the candidate’s skills are. In such a competitive market, the client is always going to opt for the candidate whose experience is the most recent,’ says Ewbank.
However, both Spence and Ewbank agree that most employers will view travel experience in a positive light and understand that your travel and cultural experiences have broadened your skills and views.
‘For many it will also demonstrate that the travel bug is out of your system and you are ready to settle down,’ says Spence, who suggests you counter any concern an employer might have by re-iterating how committed you are.
Back in business
And while you may hope for senior positions and grand salaries, it is important to be realistic so as to avoid disappointed, says Ewbank, advising that candidates recently returned from travel need to be open for compromise.
‘Just how much compromise depends on how long you’ve been out of the market,’ he says. On compromise, Katrina Spence says: ‘Compromise is critical in every recruitment process. Be flexible. If you are enthusiastic to get back into the marketplace quickly, we would recommend that you look at contracting opportunities.’
Regarding your potential re-entry seniority level, Spence advises that although you may not be able to jump into the marketplace many levels ahead of where you left, ‘you will be able to step back in at a similar level or above’. And never overlook the importance of a well-crafted CV. To help the employer further understand how you’ve spent your travel time, make sure you account for the jobs you’ve had while travelling.
‘Detail all the different contracts you have completed during your travels together under one major heading. Clearly highlight your key achievements in each role and ensure that your CV shows your history prior to travel, in a stable and if possible career-focused manner,’ says Spence. Ewbank agrees: ‘Give a brief list of bullet points about daily duties and record all dates.’
If your credit cards are yawning at you with gaping jaws that demand immediate feeding, it’s good to know that it’s okay to ask about your salary in the early stages. Salary is very important, acknowledges Ewbank, who recommends you ask the question ‘right at the start’.
Spence recommends that you ‘be transparent and clearly communicate your expectations, allowing everyone to ensure they are discussing the relevant opportunities with you’. However, she says that if you’re meeting directly with a client for the first time, you should refrain from discussion of renumeration.
So get out of bed and get on with the job of finding work. Treasure and promote the skills you’ve acquired on the road and present yourself with the confidence of a well-travelled person. There is a plethora of choice for the returned globetrotter and confidence will take you far.
Ben Ewbank, is a Recruitment Manager in the London office of Michael Page International .
Katrina Spence is the International Candidate Manager at Hamilton James & Bruce.