How To Find a Job While on a Career Break

“What are you going to do when you come back?” said my friend with her head tilted sideways; a concerned and perplexed look on her face.

I felt like this scene was a video caught in a loop as I planned my career break for the year leading up to my departure. It was nice that everyone was concerned about my well-being, but every time someone asked that question, it tied my stomach in yet another knot.

I didn’t know the beauty of ‘not knowing’ then. I was still in my ‘I must be in control’ mode. Slowly my traveling career break peeled away each hyper-planning layer of my personality and left me with delicious ambiguity.

It was that delicious ambiguity that helped me land my next job while I was on my career break. Yes – that’s right, my career break actually helped me find my next job(s).

An expat friend I had met while traveling heard I used to work at a luxury handbag company prior to becoming a career breaker. Upon hearing this she decided she should introduce me to two women who had started CAMENAE , an Italian luxury handbag business managed out of Singapore and Saigon. (Actually the manufacturing is all done in Italy, but the owners live in Singapore and Saigon!)

We all met for a very simple ‘get-to-know-you’ coffee in Singapore as I was passing through and simply discussed the industry.  Nothing came of that meeting, and honestly I didn’t want it to as I was still traveling and had no intention of working at that time.  But, 2 months later when I was about to head back to America with no plan of what I was going to do next, I sent a simple note to the women asking how the launch went. This kicked off a flurry of emails and eventually they asked if I would be interested in doing some consulting work for them. A small consulting job that I wasn’t looking for, landed in my lap. Delicious Ambiguity!

I’ve now been working for the women of CAMENAE running their website and helping them with digital marketing for 2 years now. I can do the job from anywhere in the world and it takes about 20 hrs a month of my time. From that relationship, another work relationship was born when they introduced me to other expats in SE Asia who wanted a little IT work done and I landed other small short-term jobs such as doing photography and creating, a villa rental website in Sri Lanka.

This part time work allows me to work on other things I love such as Briefcase to Backpack! Plus, I get some perks when it comes to handbags…and who doesn’t love that – especially when they look like this!

Sure, maybe I got lucky finding connections for work while I was on the road, but I believe that it was more than luck.  Here’s a few tips on what you can do while on your career break to network for work opportunities when your break is over.

• Traveling around the world is all about making connections; connections with other cultures and other travelers. In fact – you are sort of spending a year networking…but in a very fun sense of the word!

• Keep your resume updated…in fact, update it before you leave on your trip.

• Create some personal name cards with your name and contact information to give out to people you meet while traveling.

• As you meet people while traveling be sure to ask them what they do, you may be surprised at people who you have access to that you never would at home. After all CEO’s travel too.

• Have your story ready. You will encounter people all the time who will ask you what your ‘story’ is and want to know why you are traveling. This is your chance to mention your prior work experience in a positive light. It’s not necessary to go on a tirade about your past employer as you never know…

• Stay in contact with people who can lead to possible work; both from your old career AND from the new people you meet. Check in with them from time to time and let them know what you are doing – or ask them how their business is going.

• If you end up spending a while in one place, try to meet some of the expat community. I have found that by networking within an expat community, you can make all kinds of international connections – especially in business. Get on mailing lists for the expat groups in your community, and attend functions where there will be expats to meet.

Do any of your career break veterans have other ideas to share! Speak up!

Other comments

13 Comments on "How To Find a Job While on a Career Break"

  1. Tweets that mention How To Find a Job While on a Career Break | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- on Wed, 23rd Jun 2010 8:47 am 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BriefcasetoBackpack, Timothy Chan. Timothy Chan said: RT @CareerBreakHQs: How do you find a job while on a #careerbreak? Networking! Worked for @ottsworld […]

  2. Betsy Talbot on Wed, 23rd Jun 2010 11:03 am 

    Now that is a great story. A career breaker who has returned (and started a successful business) told me that he would not have conceived of his idea had he not stopped juggling all the balls and worrying about what would happen. The magic started when he just let them all go.

    Nice to hear his isn’t an isolated story, and I’m wondering what kind of career connections we’ll make on our RTW trip. Loved reading this!

  3. brian on Wed, 23rd Jun 2010 10:07 pm 

    I think you touched on everything you need: get out there and meet people. Travelers are a natural for that, even the introverted traveler has to interact with someone sometime. I think people admire and naturally gravitate towards someone who is doing their own thing and living the life they wish they did.

  4. Writers’ Roundup: June 25 « The Traveling Writer on Fri, 25th Jun 2010 8:38 am 

    […] a career break can help you find your next job, from Briefcase to […]

  5. Emily on the Southern Prairie on Fri, 25th Jun 2010 1:29 pm 

    Great piece. I think some of what helps too is taking not just a vacation but a big break. When I was miserable at work I’d read websites with advice on how to fix it. They suggested stuff like taking a long weekend away, or maybe even a week, to figure stuff out. Ha. It’s been a year since I quit that job, and only now do I have enough distance from the situation to see what I really want to do next.

  6. Sonya on Sun, 27th Jun 2010 12:34 pm 

    Very thoughtful post! The key is always being open to life.

  7. Monica at In Wanderment on Fri, 2nd Jul 2010 9:29 pm 

    This is a great reminder that life can give you what you need even when you don’t know you need it.

  8. Financial Samurai on Sun, 4th Jul 2010 10:59 pm 

    I think it’s great to just chill and explore the world. Don’t worry about money! Cause there’s so much to make!

  9. Ben H. on Tue, 13th Jul 2010 9:32 am 

    I think you really have a great perspective. I will graduate from college in 6 months and, against my parents’ wishes, I will be traveling in Asia for 4 months working on my Mandarin and networking. I don’t see the rush to “get a real job”.

  10. jessiev on Tue, 13th Jul 2010 11:08 am 

    i love this – the serendipity that travel can create is so wonderful – and you’re right – being open to it is key!

  11. Turbo Tourism - Amsterdam Netherlands | Ottsworld Travel Experiences on Thu, 12th Aug 2010 3:34 am 

    […] potential museums for the I Amsterdam card, I had to go. Considering my prior corporate career and current freelance career is all about handbags, I had to see this. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the entire […]

  12. Sojourn » Blog Archive » Meet, Plan, Go event – September 14 on Tue, 7th Sep 2010 12:15 pm 

    […] volunteering in my field. Briefcase to Backback has some good advice on planning my return, like how to find a job while on break. I’m not thinking about that part of the story now, but it’s good to have it in the […]

  13. Passports with Purpose 2011 - Ottsworld + CAMENAE | Ottsworld Travel Experiences on Mon, 15th Nov 2010 9:16 am 

    […] Why CAMENAE?  Read the story of how I met the well-traveled women behind the brand–>  How to find a job while on a career break. […]

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