I know, I know, you are taking a gap year to “get away from it all.” But what if you’re in Ko Samui and hear about a new fellowship in your home country that you need to apply for NOW to qualify, but your CV is completely out of date? Or if you receive an invitation to attend an exciting networking event in Istanbul, but you don’t have anything to wear?
The last thing you want to do when you're on the beach in Thailand is have to update your CV, but you also don't want to miss out on opportunities that might come up while you're on the road.
You’d be missing out because you skipped a few simple steps of essential preparation before you “got away from it all.” Here are 10 highly manageable -- and even fun! -- ways to continue networking while you’re on your gap year.
1. Have a Serious LinkedIn Presence
Before shipping off to wherever your travels may take you, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. LinkedIn is by far the most useful tool for networking, no matter where on earth you are.
Make sure you have a clear summary with external contact information provided (i.e. your email address) so potential headhunters know exactly what kind of opportunities you are looking for and how to reach you.
Include a professional headshot, follow companies you admire so you receive updates on new job opportunities from them, and make sure you use keywords relevant to your field(s) of interest so you can be found in searches in the first place.
These are just a few ideas for developing a top-notch LinkedIn presence, but no need to stop there!
2. Update your Location on LinkedIn as You Go
The location you list on your profile dictates what news and job openings you automatically receive from LinkedIn on a weekly basis. If you’re interested in working internationally after your gap year, change your location on LinkedIn as you travel to get information on that country relevant to your profile.
Or, set your location to the city you are moving back to when you get home so you stay looped-in on jobs potentially of interest to you while you’re away.
3. Make Sure your Resume is Ready to Go
The last thing you want to do when you’re on the beach in Thailand is have to update your CV, but you also don’t want to miss out on opportunities that might come up while you’re on the road.
Polish it up before you catch your first flight and save it in PDF format, ready to be sent spontaneously throughout the course of your gap year.
4. Bring One Work Outfit
This may sound crazy, but squeeze a pair of acceptable shoes (like flats), a pair of slacks, and a nice jacket into your backpack. What happens if you find yourself in Singapore and there is a kick-ass networking event for computer programmers, or if someone off-handedly invites you to interview for a job in New Delhi?
Especially if you have your eye on an international job after your gap year, you will appreciate being able to look presentable if the opportunity arises.
5. Attend Local Networking Events
Meetup.com is useful, as is googling “City + events + industry,” to find events related to your professional interests wherever you go. For folks in the travel industry, Travel Massive -- which has networking events worldwide -- is another one to look in to.
When you add a new travel friend on Facebook, ask if they have LinkedIn as well.
With today’s hyper-connectivity, you never know when someone in Buenos Aires can connect you to a dream job in New York when you return home or vice versa.
6. Find Expat Bars
Ask where the expats hang out and spend a night mingling in one of those bars. You’ll find an endless source of inspiration from people from all over the world who have made Lima, Hong Kong, or Nairobi their adopted homes. They also make for great business contacts down the road -- especially if it's also a goal of yours to become an expat.
7. Schedule at Least One Informational Interview Per Month
Use LinkedIn to reach out to inspirational people in your field or a field you find interesting. Ask them for a brief 20 minute informational phone conversation to learn about their company, pick their brain, and gain insight into their day-to-day life.
With this tactic, you will quickly be able to determine if that job/company/field right for you and it will make the job hunt when you come home that much easier.
8. Add People on Facebook AND LinkedIn
Inevitably you'll talk about work with your fellow travelers, so don’t be afraid to engage with them from both a personal and professional perspective. When you add a new friend on Facebook, ask if they have LinkedIn as well, and watch your international network grow.
Remember to keep in touch after you return home, as well. You never know when a contact from backpacking or volunteering could be an introduction to your dream job or even a future business partner!
9. Learn the Language
Traveling on your gap year presents a great opportunity to learn a new language. After four months in Latin America, you should be able to add Spanish to your resume or showcase an improved level of the language if you had prior knowledge.
Certificates from language schools abroad are also a great addition to your CV, and from a personal perspective, an immersive foreign language experience is unforgettable.
10. Fit in One Meaningful Volunteer/Work Experience
A year is a long time, so seeking out an internship or temporary volunteer position can provide a nice break from hostel-hopping.
These kinds of roles provide an opportunity to dive deeper into a place you loved and to connect with (and even give back to) the local community.
Most importantly, it provides invaluable experience that can later be added to your resume and helps you explain your gap year to potential employers.
Your Career Shouldn't Suffer Because of a Gap Year
All in all, just because you’re heading off on a life-transforming gap year travel experience doesn’t mean your career has to suffer in the meantime.
In fact, using the above tips and tricks can actually help enhance your resume, broaden your network, and provide a more meaningful perspective on what you want out of your career in the long-term. If you know how to use your gap year to your advantage, it can actually position you very strongly for your next step as a professional once you return!
Photo Credits: Vivian Bi and Jessie Beck.