Next Steps

Re-entering the Workforce: 7 Tips From an HR Professional
Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The thought of re-entering the workforce after a sabbatical or career break can be daunting. However, I am here to tell you it does not have to be. I’ve worked in Human Resources for 15 years, have been involved in various aspects of hiring, and I know a career break doesn’t mean career suicide. If you are willing to put a bit of planning into it, you will set yourself up for success when you return. All it takes is a bit of prep work, maintenance, and effective storytelling.

Prep before you leave

Prep your network. Make sure you inform your network (trusted colleagues, former supervisors/clients, friends, family) about your career break and keep them updated during your journey. This will keep you top of mind when you return from your break. Even if you don’t plan to return to the same industry, your network is invaluable. The contacts you have made are the shortest distance between you and your next job; they are your connections to multiple industries and companies. Statistically, you are 70%-80% more likely to receive a job offer through your network than through job boards and direct applications.

Plant the seed for when you return. If you do intend to come back to the same industry, plan ahead of time. Tell your hiring manager and other potential employers that you intend to come back while you are still top of mind. Your return dates may change, but if you share your intentions, they will have more investment in following you while you are away and be ready for your return.

Stay connected while you are away

Don’t unplug completely. Use social media to stay in touch. Blogging or simply posting updates to LinkedIn or Twitter can achieve that connection. Include quick updates of your trip and examples of what you are learning so your network will see the value of your travel experience. It is easy today to stay in touch with your contacts in the US. Online tools and smart phones make it simple…Google Hangouts and Skype for video calls, Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) for updates, Email for Newsletter…the list goes on.

Volunteer or be part of a trade organization. This is another way to remain visible to your network and stay current regarding trends in your field. For trade organizations, offer to write blog posts or help with activities that can be done remotely. There are also many global organizations that offer volunteering opportunities. The Gates Foundation provides a great resource for volunteering in the US and abroad. Chose one that fits with your current field and/or an area where you want to gain more experience. This is where a little bit of planning goes a long way.

Learn new skills. Remember your career break is also a chance to add new skills, particularly ones you want to learn. Perhaps you want to become a better writer. Use blogging to practice and share your skills. Maybe you always wanted to learn HTML or build a website? Use this chance to build a travel website. These are all useful skills to learn while away and are very relevant to the work place. The tools you use to stay in touch (video conferencing, blogging) also make you a stronger communicator and emphasize your ability to connect with people remotely. These are important skills as the workforce becomes more global and remote workers become more prevalent.

It is important to review your experience and evaluate the skills you are learning along the way. Perhaps you do decide to volunteer. This may take the form of organizing an event or tutoring a student. These experiences provide you with skills such as leadership, team building, and marketing, which are all transferable to your potential job. Don’t overlook the potential of what skills you are learning.

Stay relevant. The skills above can certainly prove that you have been working and staying relevant. However, if you know that you want to enter into a new industry or even return to the one you were in, you can stay relevant by participating in industry webinars, MOOCs, reading books, earning online certifications, etc. This shows your potential employer your passion and excitement for the industry and your drive to stay current. This goes a long way in the mind of a hiring manager.

Sharing your story when you return

Explaining your career break. How you tell your story can make the difference between whether you get the job or not. Many people are intrigued to hear about a sabbatical or career break, but if you don’t share the story in a way that is relevant, it can impact your job search.

Think about this from the employer’s point of view. They want to know your career path and how this career break fits into that. Include your sabbatical/career break on your resume. Share the relevant experience you gained as discussed above. Succinctly share the details of when and why you took the sabbatical as well as the outcome. If you are enthusiastic and upbeat about this time away, your passion will shine through and will excite your potential employers as well. Perhaps it will also trigger a relatable experience for them.

If after you share your story effectively and the company decides not to hire you, this is likely not an environment in which you would like to work. Culture is every bit as important in your job search as your skill set. The company certainly is evaluating your fit for the company, but you are just as much evaluating whether they are a good fit for you. If they do not understand why you would chose to take a career break, this is likely a sign that their culture overall is not going to foster an environment in which you would like to work.

Your time away does not have to sabotage your job search if you focus on how it adds value to your personal brand and your future employer. You will be successful in finding that next job, just be sure to do a bit of planning before and some maintenance during your trip. And always be thinking about how you will share your story to your next employer. Safe travels!

Read more about re-entering the workforce:

With over 15 years of talent acquisition experience, Heather Baker has worked with a wide range of companies to build sustainable workforces in technology and marketing. Recently, she channeled her skills to the other side of spectrum to help students gain and implement valuable assets that help them compete in the workforce at a Higher Education Startup called Experience Institute. She is passionate about the future workforce and enabling professionals at all levels find their career strengths while matching those strengths with workforce needs.

Photo credits: Rawpixel, Quka, Olga Danylenko

Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

In the post “Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card” Lisa shared with us how her career break didn’t hurt her career. It in fact enhanced it and has now opened up more career opportunities.

And this is one of the topics that came up when the New York City panel for Meet, Plan, Go! got together to brainstorm what we would discuss at our recent event. We wanted to touch on “Why don’t more people take career breaks?” and in our encounters one of those reasons is career related.

MPGNYC Panelists

So what did our panel have to say about career fears?

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday) – More Broadly Educated
First off, there WILL be job openings when you come home and your trip can certainly be positioned as a resume builder (which may or may not be BS) but without doubt the trip will make you a more broadly educated person, someone who can hold an intelligent conversation on more topics. Your geography will be better, your understanding of foreign markets will improve, your ability to relate to people of diverse backgrounds will be developed. In short, you will be a better, more attractive employee in virtually any field.


Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card
Monday, September 20th, 2010

Worried that taking a career break to travel can hurt your career? It can actually help enhance it. Just look at Lisa Lubin’s new business card.

[singlepic=1878,250,,,right]As summer rapidly comes to a close, I am reminded that it was four years ago now that I quit my full time job and, in essence, my full-time career in television. Since university, I’d worked in broadcast television, starting after my sophomore year with my first internships, including one at “Late Night with David Letterman.” I graduated college and worked full time ever since, at three different television stations – directing, editing, writing and producing. I built a ‘career.’ I was stable and secure. I was saving my pennies and hard earned money…for ‘something.’ I had a bi-weekly direct deposit check, a really good health insurance package, a retirement plan that I funded generously, and some stock shares in my parent company: Disney.

Then in the summer of 2006, I quit. I gave it all up. And I don’t regret it one bit.

Networking on the Road
I didn’t know what I would do when I ‘returned.’ I wasn’t sure, but I was open to new things and willing to just see what happened. I suppose I’ve always been lucky to feel confident in my resourcefulness and abilities and that I would always find ‘something.’ So I really didn’t worry all that much. I remember back in college learning about something called “networking.” Yuck. It seemed so phony or uncomfortable. Now networking is all I do. But I don’t think of it like that. I love talking to people – learning what they do and how they got there. When I traveled, that’s all I did – meet people and ‘network’ in a sense, which landed me random opportunities from working for Turkey’s largest media conglomerate, the Dogan Group, (I just proofread some presentations, but it was still amazing to just ‘fall’ into that from chatting with people) to doing research at the University of Cologne (through a friend) to landing a year-long freelance gig (which basically funded all my travels from then on, allowing me to break even) doing publicity for an English Immersion program based in Madrid.

Many people asked me, “What about the economy?”

Bottom line, I make much less than I did previously, but it frankly doesn’t matter and hasn’t changed my quality of life at all.


Top Benefits of a Career Break
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I’m happy to report that the term ‘Career Break’ seems to be popping up all over these days! I hope that has a little to do with our upcoming Meet, Plan, Go! event. Regardless of why – we are happy to see people talking, writing, and reporting about them. However, this month’s career break news seems to be a mixed bag of positive and negative! What is a career breaker to believe?!

Let’s start with the disturbing headlines. I woke up and saw this headline in my inbox one day:

Women told to forget about babies if they want to scale career heights
Headhunters’ survey suggests that taking even a few months’ career break for the sake of children will harm prospects of winning a top executive job.
– That’s the message from a new survey, conducted by InterExec, which showed that 53% of those questioned said that women who want a big business post should give up all thoughts of maternity leave – or what they prefer to call a “career break”.

Sure – I know they are talking about a maternity leave career break as opposed to a sabbatical/travel career break – but they are both breaks in your career. If motherhood isn’t an acceptable reason to take a break in your career then it’s going to be darn hard to sell breaking from your career to travel the world. Therefore I put this in the category of disturbing.

However as you consider taking a career break – consider the other point of view – the progressive point of view. Think about how a career break can actually build your skills to find an even better career upon returning. Regardless of why you put your career on pause, the benefits are still the same – you get some time to step away from the rat race and replenish.


How to Make Your Travels Part of Your Career Brand
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

For many career breakers, it would be a dream to continue to travel. But most do return to work, whether it’s a new career or back to the briefcase. Mario Schulzke, Creator of CareerSparx, shares with us “How to Make Your Travels Part of Your Career Brand”.

Your career brand is much more than the sum of your past work experience.  It is the aggregate of both who you are as an individual and why someone would want to work with you.  It is about taking various life experiences and showing how they have—or will—contribute to your career.

If you are contemplating taking some time off to travel or if you are returning to work from extended travel, be confident that it likely did not or will not hinder your long-term career goals.

Wherever travel comes into your life, it is there for a purpose; it satisfies a need and brings clarity to our often-convoluted worlds.  You experience new things, learn about new cultures and often return with a wisdom that informs how you see the world.

When it comes time to return to the workplace, you can communicate the value of your travel experience as part of your career brand.  Here’s how:

Understand how your travels contribute to who you are.
This may take some careful retrospection unless you keep a blog or journal—which is a great idea that I go into more detail about below—but it is important to understand what you learned and experienced while traveling.  Reflect on your time abroad and the qualities you developed as a result of your experiences.  Take the time to write this down and contribute to the list as more things come to mind.

Here are some questions for thought:

  • What spurred my travel ambitions in the first place?
  • What was the most memorable experience and why?
  • What were my most important revelations?
  • Did I think back on my life before travel in any particular way?  Was there anything negative I hoped to change?

Translate these experiences and qualities to work-related skills.
Now that you understand the positive ways in which travel affected your life, you need to communicate how this will help you professionally.  Again, write this down, using concrete examples from your travel to tell a story and make a point.  You can weave this information into your resume or use it during interviews.  Here are some questions to get started:

  • Have my life-long goals changed? Have my career goals changed? How?
  • What qualities have I strengthened that would make me an effective team player?
  • What have I learned from my interactions with strangers around the world that will help me be a better leader?

Demonstrate a better understanding of who you are and what you want.
After traveling, you will be returning with a much better idea of the type of job and workplace that is right for you.  This brings confidence to future employers because if you truly know what you want, what you can provide and how you fit into their company, you will be a reliable and motivated part of their team.  Communicate this.

Document your travels and experiences.
Listen, the Web is here to stay and it’s going to affect your professional career in some sort of way.  An interesting blog, for example, is something that you can do to set you apart from other job applicants.  Usually the hardest challenge about creating a blog is having something worthy to write about.  Well, guess what?  Unless your travels consisted of being holed up in a hotel room in Cincinnati, I bet you have some interesting stories to tell.  So, tell them.

Check out, or for easy ways to set up your own blog.

Wherever your career brand manifests itself—through a blog, resume, cover letter or your persona—know that your travel experience can be as valuable to a potential employer as it is to you.

Mario Schulzke was born and raised in Germany, and lived in France, Spain and England before coming to the U.S. as a high school exchange student.  He has traveled across China and has backpacked many of America’s national parks.  He is the creator of, an online course that teaches recent graduates how to start their careers.  For more information, download their free 61-page guide on how to start your career or check out the CareerSparx blog.

Breaking Into a New Field or Industry
Monday, April 19th, 2010

Ask A CoachWhether you are returning from a career break and trying to figure out your next steps or are contemplating a sabbatical but don’t know where to start, our career coaches are here to help.

Barbara Pagano of YourSABBATICAL answers the question:

I’ve realized I no longer want to go back to my old career. In a market with high unemployment, how can I make myself noticed or create opportunities in a new field or industry?

[singlepic=1762,125,,,left]Congratulations on being a risk-taker! Staying in a career that no longer fits your needs can be one of the most debilitating moves away from future happiness. Plus it robs your potential. Here are three ideas to break into a new field or industry during a sabbatical, even in these trying times:


Next Steps: Easing into Re-Entry
Thursday, February 25th, 2010

[singlepic=1710,250,,,right]Lisa Lubin of LL World Tour shared with us her experiences dealing with Reverse Culture Shock after her around the world travels. Here are some tips she found helpful to ease back into the re-entry process.


  • Getting sucked in to watching too much TV. For about 3 years I barely watched TV. I did not miss it at all. It can be enjoyable at times, but there are so many better things we can be doing.
  • Feeling the ‘need’ to follow too much media about senseless issues (ie Jon & Kate? Who are these people and why do I care?). Being aware of world events and news is good; surmising if Jennifer and Brad will ever get back together is ridiculous.
  • Eating too much – We eat so much more in this country than we need to AND so much of that is barely real food. Strive to continue to eat as fresh and local as when you were traveling.
  • I went for years without a cell phone. I still sometimes forget mine at home now and ONLY have a prepaid phone – no bill, no contracts, just pay-as-you-go and I like it. I don’t NEED to chat endlessly on the phone just because everyone around me is. I don’t want or need to be reachable 24/7.


  • Stay in touch with new friends from travels. With email and Facebook this is so easy and fun.
  • Keep the ‘learning’ going…if you loved salsa dancing in Latin America – find a salsa class at home. Miss the tasty spring rolls in Vietnam? Seek out a cooking class. Have an international dinner party. Organize a monthly outing to a different ethnic restaurant. If you miss the challenge of chatting with locals in another language…take a language class. Go to museums, check local magazines and newspapers for other cultural meeting and groups.
  • Meet new friends back home. In larger cities there are expat groups or other travel groups ( and with which you can get together for a drink or coffee with like-minded people.
  • Couchsurfing – Sign up to be a host. You can meet and show others from abroad around your town. Return the favor for the hospitality you received while traveling.
  • Volunteer with travelers/tourists: Contact your local tourism department to see what’s going on. Free services like Chicago Greeter and Big Apple Greeter are always looking for volunteers to give visitors a taste of your city from a local’s perspective.
  • Volunteer at your local Youth Hostel.
  • Let yourself feel sad or different. It’s okay. Time will ease the sadness, but you don’t want to forget.
  • Reminisce – look at your photos, think about your trip, organize your blog and your photos.
  • Share – You’ve learned so much while traveling. Hold on to this. Share it with others. Maybe your experiences will teach and/or inspire others to get out and see the world…or, maybe not to travel, but just to be more aware of the world around them.
  • FINAL POINT: start planning you next trip!

Next Steps: Turning a Passion into a Business
Monday, December 21st, 2009

We have shared many inspiring stories of Americans who have taken a career break to travel. But then we were contacted by Jorrit and Nicky Jorritsma, a couple who reside in the Lake District of Great Britain with their 11-year-old daughter Kiah. They are self-proclaimed “Briefcase to Backpackers” and wanted to share their story of how they turned their passion for traveling into a business. We found their story to be incredibly inspiring and felt you would as well.

[singlepic=1611,300,,,right]Hi, we’re Jorrit and Nicky. Today we produce and sell classic, sustainable travel bags and outdoor gear but it was a long journey to get here. Here’s our story of how we went from backpack to briefcase, then back to travelling, and finally re-designed our lives to bring our work and our love of adventure together.

We hope that our story will inspire you to take some time out to travel – and to draw on your travels to reinvigorate your life on returning to the workplace. Having married and later set up our own business as a result of travelling, we passionately believe in mixing the worlds of work and adventure!


Jorrit – In Europe, many teenagers go travelling in a Gap Year between school and university. However, despite the fact that we’re both European, that actually wasn’t our story. After our school studies, neither of us took the option of a traditional Gap Year. Instead, we headed to university and, on completing our degrees, immediately entered the world via work and military service. Nicky joined the management programme of United Distillers, part of the Guinness Group, while I did military service in Holland (my homeland) as an officer in the Strategy Department. And it was for very different reasons that we each ended up travelling after that.

Nicky – For me, I came to a point where I felt that I needed to review my career plans. I’d been working for United Distillers for a couple of years. But, within a short space of time, my Grandfather died, my Dad fell ill, a four-year relationship ended, and I found myself in two car crashes. Chatting with a girlfriend at work, I decided to plan to head to South America for a year and see where to go from there. My key motivations were:

  • Realising that life can be short and alter quickly – it’s important to grab chances while we can.
  • To feel the freedom of making my own choices day by day.
  • To experience the excitement of exploring unknown countries.
  • To test my ability to deal with whatever happened while travelling and hopefully grow in confidence.


Next Steps: Career Choices & Resources
Monday, October 26th, 2009

[singlepic=1568,300,,,right]Even before you’ve returned from your career break travels, you probably put some thought into what you want (or don’t want) from your next job.

If you are anything like us (Michael, Michaela, and Sherry), you probably fall into one of these categories:

  • You want to return to the Briefcase, but on a different career track
  • You want to utilize your skills and talents to pursue freelance work
  • You want to pick up the Backpack again, never to return to corporate

You had an incredible around-the-world experience but are ready to re-enter the corporate world. Michael always knew he’d return to corporate, and used his career break to refocus on what his career goals were. These were some of the resources he utilized to get a job upon his return:

Job Boards:

Executive Search Firms:


And don’t underestimate the power of your network. Keep in touch with your former colleagues and mentors during your travels and they can be extremely useful for opening up doors for you upon your return. LinkedIn makes this easier to do than ever.

And if you wish to seek employment from a firm that embraces the sabbatical mindset, YourSabbatical offers a comprehensive list of companies that do so.


Next Steps: Getting Back to ‘Reality’ and Resumes
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I used to hate it when people would say to me while I was traveling “What will you do when you get back? You have to get back to reality sometime.” This really got my blood boiling – what did they think that I was living at that moment…some kind of fantasy? My travels were reality; they were real, and they had become my lifestyle. Why did people feel the need to remind me that I must work again? I always felt those people who made ‘gotta get back to reality’ statements just said it to make themselves feel better about their unhappy life.

Ready for a career break?
Ready for a career break?
Join us in New York on September 20

Regardless, I did go back to the US, but I decided to change my ‘reality’ – I didn’t go back to what I was doing. How could I? I had vastly changed in those 16 months. That made my next steps rather difficult because the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to go back to working for a large corporation in the US.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go