How to Find a Job After a Gap Year

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After two years of travel, I was convinced I would never find a job. I had no idea of what I wanted to do, and I only had a few college internships on my CV. Who would ever hire me?

But I did find a job, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I now work for an awesome Ad Tech company in Boulder, Colorado, and I was promoted to marketing last week. (!!!)

So I wanted to give advice for those trying to find a job after traveling. Finding a job after a gap year is daunting, but definitely doable.

How to find a job after traveling

Apply at start-ups.

If you’ve spent the last few years traveling, it will be hard to get a job at a Fortune 500 company. (Depending on your background and connections, of course.)

Instead, apply at companies where nontraditional backgrounds are valued, like start-ups or tech companies.

Plus, if you’re a free-spirited traveler, you’ll probably be much happier at a company with unlimited PTO, beer Friday’s and workplace yoga than you will be in a cubicle.

Apply at companies you already use and like.

When I was applying for jobs, I applied at companies I already used and like. For example, I applied to sovrn because I was using them for advertising, and I was really impressed with their professionalism and personalized approach.

Pro-tip- apply to work at the apps on your phone. If you’re using a company’s app, you obviously already like their product. When I was job-hunting, I applied to Bloglovin’, SpanishDict and TED- all apps I use daily.

And as apps are in the tech space, nontraditional backgrounds are a pro, not a con.

Consider paid internships.

Understandably, you’re probably looking for a full-time position. But don’t eschew internships- they can be a great way to get your foot in the door of either the company you want or the industry you want.

Case in point- my friend was looking for a PR job in New York, but she ended up taking an internship. When the company didn’t hire her at the end of her internship, she was bummed. But a few weeks later she snagged a full-time job with a competitor- which turned out to be an even better opportunity.

Job sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com actually can help find you a job.

When I was job-hunting, I read a lot of career articles and books that called job sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com “black holes for resumés”.

So I was surprised when I got several interviews through Indeed.com. While it’s certainly preferable to apply directly to companies or to use connections, I would still use job sites.

If you’re a blogger, apply at tech companies.

Blogging has been unbelievably valuable for me. It not only got me a foot in the door at sovrn, as we work directly with publishers, it helped me get a promotion to marketing.

So if you have a somewhat-established blog, I’d apply at tech companies, and particularly those in digital advertising. Your knowledge of what publishers want and need is more valuable than you might think.

A blogging background is also a natural fit for a marketing job. As a blogger you have a lot of valuable skills, like content creation, digital marketing, social media, SEO and WordPress, so make sure to list those on your CV.

Apply at companies where employees are happy (a.k.a. make sure to check Glassdoor to see the company’s reviews!)

Glassdoor is your friend. Glassdoor gives insider insight into the company, from what the interview process is like to employees’ reviews of the company and CEO. Before I interviewed with companies, I would make sure they had 3.5 or more stars on Glassdoor.

In addition to Glassdoor, I also googled “Best places to work in (wherever you’re searching)”, to figure out where employees are happiest. In fact one of my friends took a job with sovrn because it was listed as one of the top ten places to work in Colorado.

Don’t just take any job.

I know it’s tempting, I really do. I was bored out of my mind living at my parents’ house when I got a job offer for a position in a call center.

I considered taking the job, but the idea of walking three blocks every morning in subzero downtown Detroit to my call center job made me want to run off to Thailand.

So don’t settle. It’s better to wait than to take a job you know you don’t want.

Languages don’t matter much for most jobs.

When I came back after traveling, I had two unique skills: fluency in Spanish and French and blogging experience. Funny enough, interviewers found my blogging experience much more valuable. Frankly, no one cared about my foreign language skills.

And I’m not the only one whose foreign language skills turned out to be useless career-wise. For example, I have a friend who is fluent in Mandarin, which he primarily learned for his career in international business/consulting. In interviews, interviewers will often say, “Oh wow, you speak fluent Mandarin! That will be very useful for another company someday.”

While languages might be useful in some sectors, like governmental work, they aren’t remotely useful in many fields. Also certain languages are more useful than others. For example, many government jobs need speakers of Farsi, Arabic or Mandarin, but languages like Spanish and French are in low-demand.

If you’re honestly just not ready for a desk job, consider a seasonal job.

If you’re sick of full-time travel but aren’t ready for the 9-5, consider a seasonal job. My friend Jessica works five months of the year as an adventure tour leader, and travels the rest. My friend Susan has a ton of great resources for those looking for seasonal work, and has worked as everything from a kayak guide in Alaska to a volunteer in a Nicaraguan school.

Au pairing is always another great option- here’s my post on how to become an au pair.

Have you ever had to find a job after traveling for a while? What worked best for you?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

39 thoughts on “How to Find a Job After a Gap Year”

  1. Fabulous advice, and if I were of age would love it.

    I am so glad you are loving your new job, and your life in Colorado.

    We love you and miss you.

    Love,

    Gamma and papa Lou

  2. I’m actually a big fan of Indeed – I’ve recently gotten tons of interviews from there, so I definitely don’t think it’s a waste!

    It’s definitely tricky setting yourself up with an… untraditional… resume but it can absolutely be done!

  3. Very helpful information!
    I found monster always very helpful but your article gives me confidence to give indeed a try as well in the future :)

    • I definitely think it’s wise to set yourself up for a career after you get back from travel. That being said, I couldn’t recommend taking a year or two off to travel more- such an amazing experience!

  4. Great tips, Ashley! I’m undecided on what I’ll be doing after this year (my second living in Spain), but this helps as the inevitable job hunt seems daunting. You can bet that I’ll be searching for the “Best companies to work for in Colorado” though!

  5. I think that the hardest thing for me was realizing that despite my 5 years of work experience, I had to go back into the U.S. workforce at an entry level. While this was also due to the fact that I changed industries, it’s still hard to hear things like “well, your past experience isn’t directly in marketing/comms.”

    The good news is, it worked out. Now I’m learning on how to position this past experience so employers will understand the unique value of my experiences.

    • That’s great to hear! What kind of work experience did you have before you left? My fear is if I take a year off to travel at some point I will have to start over entry-level- which would be pretty frustrating.

  6. How long did it take you to find a job? I’ve just returned from a year teaching abroad and I’m on the job hunt…

  7. Ashley-

    I am literally going through this very thing in Austin, TX! It is so comforting to have someone like you write about it and to realize that every vagabond, blogger, and travel addict that is stepping back into the job market is going through somewhat of the same process.

    It can be so frustrating, but this is truly great advice.

    Always love your content!

    Thanks.

    Phoebs

    • Thanks so much Pheoebe! It definitely is hard but sometimes can work out so much better than you planned- and of course it’s worth taking the risk anyway because travel is always worth it :)

  8. After 3 years abroad, I might be moving back home the middle of 2016 so this article is super helpful. Bookmarked! You mention so ideas I’ve never though of before :)

  9. You know what,
    I resumed my old job after two years of Leave without pay (approved sabbatical) and it has been an absolute crapstorm. Would not recommend to anybody who is allowed to take two years off from their job. It has been a really rough year. You realise who your true friends are in the workplace for sure. Seeing the real world and then coming back into “cubicle land” is really tough. I excel at it, but then you lose friends who wonder why you have gotten that promotion after two years off travelling (despite the “life experience” you earn and that is appreciated by the HR department).

  10. Thanks for youtr tips! I always envy to people who had such a boldness like you to trip around the world. What mindset you use to burn that bravery life changing decision?

    • Honestly for me it was a bit different, because I graduated from college and didn’t really know what to do so ended up going to France. Now that I’ve established a life and a career in Colorado it would be SO much harder to leave everything I’ve built here!

  11. This is an excellent article, Ashley! I’ll definitely be sharing this and bookmarking it for later. Love that employers are taking blogging experience seriously. A lot of work goes into it and it is great that it can be useful.

    I’m off for an extended trip to Europe in a month, handing in my notice for my mid level job and I’ve been pretty nervous about being able to find a job I love afterwards. This definitely helps!

    Congrats on your promotion, by the way!

  12. I’m a new reader-and had to comment because I love this! I travelled abroad for a year in my early 20’s, and felt completely lost as to where to start on my job search when I came back to the states. I particularly love your advice to ‘not take any job’ – I couldn’t agree more. It’s so hard not to take the first offer that comes your way, but when you get back from extended travels, it is such a unique opportunity to really explore what you want to do before you get locked into a position.

    Thanks for the great post, I love your blog!

  13. Love this! Holds so true. After living abroad for a year in Madrid, the transition back to the states was so tough. I eventually figured it out after an initial job that I received applying through Indeed as well as my current job applying through Monster. Great advice for a difficult transition period!

  14. All so true! When I returned from au pairing in Spain, I lived at home for SIX MONTHS before I finally found a job! Though part of me was going crazy, reminiscing on all my fun times abroad and wondering if I would ever be able to start a new life in the States, the other part knew that I should take advantage of and relish in my “funemployment”. I was able to reconnect with family and friends, go on a few family vacations, and even take a spur of the moment trip back to Europe for Christmas…all things I would not have been able to do otherwise. Plus it made me realize what a wonderful support system that I have at home <3 After months of job searching and interviewing, I finally landed a job in DC that I think will lead to more opportunities and adventures (hello, new city!), and I am glad that I did not settle during those months at home!

    • That’s great you were able to find the positives in the experience! I definitely enjoyed family time as well but towards the end started to go a bit nuts. I have to say I do miss the free time of funemployment!

  15. This is something to keep in mind for those who intend to go abroad for higher education; i.e. Master’s or PhD candidates. Both of those are more than 2 years’ worth of a “gap” on your resume. As I start to apply to universities abroad, people are asking me what I’m going to do “when I come back” – I tell people I’m going to miss Hillary Clinton’s entire Presidency – but what I don’t tell people is that I’m thinking that if I take a PhD in a French university it will probably be better if I head for someplace in the former French empire afterwards rather than coming back. People are telling me to keep in contact with friends Stateside the whole time to see if “it’s safe to come back” or what. This time around, we have Skype and FaceTime to keep in touch. But it is true that when you go abroad for any length of time the job market back Stateside seems to get exponentially worse while you’re away. The last time I was abroad for a mere 4 years when I came back I actually got treated like a “foreigner, FROM overseas.” In the country I was born in (Canada). That experience is why I’m picking my PhD country so carefully; I don’t want THAT to happen again.

  16. Hey Ashley, I’ve been following your blog since you were an au pair in Paris! Love reading about all your adventures.

    Something I think about a lot is saving/investing money so I can have financial independence in the future. I took two years recently to work for myself, travel, and try to start a business — and it left my finances in the toilet, despite having a healthy nest egg and ongoing work.

    What do you do/think about setting aside money for the future?

    • I definitely think setting aside money is important. I haven’t made the leap to become self-employed yet, so I can’t speak to trying to start a business. But for example, this year I’m going to Africa and my salary will be a lot less than it is now. So over the past six months or so I’ve tried to save as much as possible to have a cushion. Anyway, glad to have you reading and thanks for commenting :)

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