Alumni Perspective: Travel Can Help, Not Hurt, Your Job Prospects

Worried about how “time off” to travel may affect your career?

Perrin Bailey Photoby Perrin Bailey

“When will you be back?”

My boss’s wide eyes and raised brow fixed on me from across his broad desk.

“I’m not sure,” I confessed. “A year?”

In 2010, I quit my steady job planning media for Disney at a small agency, sold my furniture and packed an ungainly Kermit-green backpack.  In this my 25th year, I ultimately made my way to 25 countries across four continents.  This adventure became one of the most constructive and fulfilling things I’ve done.

My sister Sarah quit her hot marketing gig at HBO to join me on the road, and she thinks the trip was the best thing she’s ever done, too.

But what happened when we got back home to New York, you ask?

My former client referred me for an internal position at Disney Interactive, and HBO welcomed Sarah back.  HBO even awarded Sarah the promotion she had passed up to travel.

Sounds lucky, huh?  Perhaps.  But we did follow a strategy not only to make the most of our time abroad, but also to ensure a successful landing at the end of our flight. Here are the four steps that worked for us and I offer to you:

  1. Seek Relevant Experience.  I work in digital media and love journalism, so I auditioned for an online travel documentary to be produced by Jet Set Zero.  With JSZ I learned about production and contributed to social media promotions, rounding out my skill set to become a “digital expert.” This while traveling Italy with most expenses paid. How did we find this gig?  Networking.

    Talk to everyone you know in your industry and attend as many local events as you   can, in addition to researching opportunities directly.  You never know what may come up!

  2. Pinpoint Your Passion.  Did you discover new interests or develop existing ones while traveling? Great!  Apply to jobs that relate.  I’d become consumed with creating and consuming travel videos, so I applied to program YouTube’s new travel channel.  It was the one time Google invited me to interview.  (I wound up continuing my relationship with Disney, but both were stellar opportunities!)
  3. Present What You Learned.  Reflect on the skills you developed on the road (e.g. negotiating, financial planning, resilience) and be able to articulate them in interviews.  For a sampling of job-related skills you can gain on the road, please visit our blog,  (Hint: One way to present your experience is to start a blog.)
  4. Do Memorable Work Before You Leave.  If you tackle the tasks at hand, find ways to expand on your job description, and build strong relationships, clients and colleagues will remember you.  If your former job does not have an opening upon your return, these skills and relationships will help you make a connection elsewhere.

Yes, quitting a good job to travel is a big risk.  But it can be a big opportunity.  So if you think you want to do it, think about how you can get the most from it . . . and go for it!

Perrin currently develops integrated marketing campaigns at Disney Interactive in New York City.  For more travel and work tips from Perrin and her sister Sarah, please visit their blog

Buon viaggio!

by Sue Russoniello

By the time you read this blog post, I’ll be in Italy for the first time.  Usually my preparation for a vacation means rushing around at the last minute, throwing in everything I think I might need, which means I over pack and/or forget something vital.  I have vowed that this trip is going to be different.  Since we’ll be traveling by train and carrying our own luggage from place to place, I’ve checked the weather, carefully considered the activities we’ve planned, and tried to line up a minimal collection of the right clothes and accessories.

As I started making a list for my trip, I thought of other aspects of life where I (and you) should make a concerted effort to plan ahead.  For instance, maybe your search for a summer internship, full time job or graduate school applications could use some tweaking. Perhaps you approach important things in your life the same way I pack for vacation — on the day of an interview you throw on a suit, grab your resume and rush out the door thinking you’re ready.



Even now my palms begin to sweat when I remember one particular interview I had many years ago.  When I got out of bed that morning, I discovered that it was snowing, and began to panic.  I not only had to dress more carefully than usual, but also had to find my boots.   Once I got out of the house, I discovered that traffic was horrendous, parking in the city a challenge; I arrived late, rushing up to the receptionist who was waiting for me.  She had to wait even longer while I awkwardly exchanged boots for dress shoes and attempted to smooth my hair, feeling discombobulated rather than calm and prepared.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that the interview went terribly.  I was so rattled by then, that when I was asked what my then boss would say about me that would make the interviewer want to hire me, (not a terribly difficult or unusual question) I totally froze.  Instead of having the composure to carefully promote myself, the few ideas I babbled about just emphasized my lack of readiness and self confidence. I was embarrassed and just wanted it all to be over.  On the way home I beat myself up with a dozen things I should have said, and tried to incorporate them into my thank you note.  But of course it was too late.  In these situations you don’t get a do over, and needless to say, I did not get the job offer.

So what should I have done differently? Why didn’t I plan ahead — listen to the weather report, lay out my clothes (including my boots and gloves) the night before and set an earlier alarm?  I should have anticipated the slow traffic and arrived with enough spare time to be able to organize my thoughts as well as my appearance.  Setting aside some time to review the job description, my resume and sample interview questions would have helped my chances of landing the job.   If only I had scheduled an appointment with a Career Counselor which would have armed me with the self confidence I needed to put my best self forward.

I encourage you to learn from my mistakes.  Career Services is open all year, even during the summer, so please call us for assistance with your job or internship search, or graduate school admissions process.

I realize that advance preparation for events, whether it’s a vacation or a job interview, is well worth the time and effort invested.  It usually leads to a better outcome, better feelings about yourself, and a much more relaxed and enjoyable journey.