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How to explain long trips on a resume?

Old 04-03-09, 05:04 PM
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How to explain long trips on a resume?

So I am getting into the job market at a terrible time. I would like to get an engineering job. I spent most of the last year since graduating college traveling and I am worried that it is going to look terrible on my resume. Is there a way to put this into resume form without sounding cheesy, or boastful:

Here is the truth of what I have been doing while not working:

May 2008: graduated with undergrad mechanical engineering degree
June - September: Bicycle touring Northern BC to San Diego to New York
October: Living in Montreal
November-December: Rock climbing in Mexico
January-Present: raising puppy from Mexico, working part time at climbing gym, being lazy.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:07 PM
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Blame it on the economy.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:26 PM
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I don't see why just being upfront about it is a problem. Lots of people take a year off after graduation. It might even make you more interesting and be a plus. I doubt it is likely to hurt.

Maybe it is a different thing since I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning, but taking a few months to tour gave my career a shot in the arm if anything.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:33 PM
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Just don't list it as experience. A girl applied to my company and listed traveling under her experiences. Needless to say she wasn't even called back.

Do the companies you apply to want you to explain lapses in employment greater than 6 months? If it is not requested then I wouldn't give any explanation in the resume/cover letter. If you feel like you need to have something explaining what you were doing then put it in a cover letter, casually mentioning it as a life experience, something that has helped you grow and gain a certain outlook or knowledge about the world. FWIW I'm a civil engineer.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by zoltani
Just don't list it as experience. A girl applied to my company and listed traveling under her experiences. Needless to say she wasn't even called back.

Do the companies you apply to want you to explain lapses in employment greater than 6 months? If it is not requested then I wouldn't give any explanation in the resume/cover letter. If you feel like you need to have something explaining what you were doing then put it in a cover letter, casually mentioning it as a life experience, something that has helped you grow and gain a certain outlook or knowledge about the world. FWIW I'm a civil engineer.
If I don't list it, they just assume that I couldn't get a job. I already had one rejection. When I asked why, they said that the large employment gap on my resume. Thats why I am making sure to fix that up this time.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:42 PM
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A friend of mine who works in HR keeps telling me that it's not a big deal, as long as what you did was sufficiently engaging. I.e. it sounds better to say "I rode my bike across the US" than "I sat on my couch and watched Oprah."

I'd truncate things a little bit. E.g. tour for 4 months, then job hunting while rock climbing. In this environment, it may take months to get a crappy entry-level job in your field; it would be pretty easy to spend an hour or two a day, 3 days a week, hunting for work and sending out resumes; and climb the rest of the time.

I don't think I'd list all this stuff on a resume though, especially since you're just out of school they will assume some of that time was spent looking for work. You'll look like you have no idea what belongs on a resume. Just have a solid answer if/when they ask.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:46 PM
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I view taking a year off after college to "see the world" or "gain perspective" is positive as long as your employer is not led to think that you're likely to do it again. If pressed, I'd settle on a few sound bites about your experiences that segue into how they have focused you on your career. (I said career, not your need to make money.)

Traditionally, European upper class males would take off to see the world for a time when they were still young. Even today the non-financially desparate and / or the eclectics take time to do things before committing themselves to the grindstone.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:18 PM
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Here's my resume:

https://www.machka.net/portfolio/CBar...09_website.pdf

I've taken several 1-month tours, and a 3-month tour (and I was actually off work for nearly 5 months then). Can you pinpoint the time I took those tours?


Before my 3-month tour, people told me that if I went on such a tour, I would never be employed again. Baloney! I don't put it on my resume, but if someone happens to notice it and ask about it in an interview, I'll tell them what I did. And sometimes I might subtly bring it up in an interview if it pertains.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:47 PM
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Dan The Man,

You should ask this question on a non-bicycling website to get a more unbiased answer. The chances are, the person looking at your resume won't be a bike rider. I'm sure there's plenty of resume building forums you could ask this question. Good luck.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:47 PM
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So the consensus seems to be not to mention where I've been in the last 10 months on my resume... but in this case the resume is all I have. It's going to a friend that owns a construction company. He said he would pass it on to people that need MEs. Im thinking that what I will do is list under "other experience" the rock climbing and the bicycling, or just leave rock climbing out of there, and say "crossed U.S. twice by bicycle" as an achievement alongside awards and such.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan The Man
So the consensus seems to be not to mention where I've been in the last 10 months on my resume... but in this case the resume is all I have. It's going to a friend that owns a construction company. He said he would pass it on to people that need MEs. Im thinking that what I will do is list under "other experience" the rock climbing and the bicycling, or just leave rock climbing out of there, and say "crossed U.S. twice by bicycle" as an achievement alongside awards and such.
Don't specifically mention touring, rock climbing, raising a puppy, and being lazy. Instead put in any night or weekend classes you took, and any jobs you did (part-time or full-time).

Also when you put in the time periods, don't use specific dates like May 4, 2008, or whatever it was, for your graduation date ... just say May 2008. Being more general helps hide gaps.
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Old 04-03-09, 07:28 PM
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My optimistic gut tells me that putting your bicycle trip on your resume might show the employer that you are dedicated and can work hard at a difficult task - and also that you are not lazy by any means. If the employer is not a cyclist, I think he or she might be even more impressed by this feat.

That's just my 2 cents, but I really don't know what I'm talking about.
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Old 04-03-09, 07:52 PM
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Put it in your resume and it will differentiate you from the thousands of others applicants they get for the job. Highlight your touring experience on your resume, cover letter and in the interview. It is the perfect read-between-the-lines statement for which potential employers look.

More than anything an employer wants to hire a go getter, someone who can take big ideas and turn them into action. Trouble is, it is tough to prove - really prove - on paper that you are a go getter. You are lucky. You have that. Proof.

I don't know you but when I hear that you are a college graduate who rode a bike from BC to San Diego to New York I get a good mental picture of you. That mental picture is someone I would want to hire. Chances are you are in good health, you are mentally stable, you solve problems without constantly asking millions of questions, you have a positive outlook, you are respectful, you do what needs to be done to get the job done....

Change the heading on your resume from "Work Experience" to "Experience". List the tour as something like "Cycling Expedition" or "Bicycle Touring Adventure". Bunch the entire time until you were hired at the climbing gym as the expedition. Be explicit in the cover letter in explaining how this shows that you are a doer. Tell them that you set a big, unconventional goal and you accomplished it.

Your resume will move to the top of the pile.

Amanda and I used this technique when we returned from more than a year of bumming around Europe, the Middle East and North Africa on our honeymoon. She got an incredible job, two or even three steps above her previous level, as Director of Human Resources for a large credit union, because the CEO liked her unusual experience. I was hired by KOA before we had the phone plugged in at our new apartment.

Good luck.
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Old 04-03-09, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Losligato
Put it in your resume and it will differentiate you from the thousands of others applicants they get for the job. Highlight your touring experience on your resume, cover letter and in the interview. It is the perfect read-between-the-lines statement for which potential employers look.

More than anything an employer wants to hire a go getter, someone who can take big ideas and turn them into action. Trouble is, it is tough to prove - really prove - on paper that you are a go getter. You are lucky. You have that. Proof. ...
From a hiring manager, I agree. I suspect that the one rejection you listed wasn't for employment gap, rather that was an excuse selected because it was non-confrontational.

-R
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Old 04-03-09, 09:06 PM
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"Personal sabbatical devoted to travel and study?"
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Old 04-03-09, 09:36 PM
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Skip the "being lazy" part. Put the rest under "interests/hobbies". Do you have any previous working experience? Perhaps engineering related summer jobs? Just put those under "work experience". There is no need to have an alibi for every day of your life. Remember to send your resume to as many companies as you can (even if they do not have hiring ads).

I am an architecture student. I found a job last week. Here's my portfolio. My resume is on the 3rd page. Good luck.
https://www.architecture.uwaterloo.ca..._portfolio.pdf

Last edited by Yan; 04-03-09 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 04-04-09, 12:44 AM
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I am a 53 year old who just got done taking a year and half off cycleing and backpacking and I am just now back joining the workforce. The gap as long as it's explain tells an employer you have goals and make things happen on your own. In most cases those who interview you wish they ahd the guts to do what you did. Actually dropping out for a bit at my age is really not that uncommon.
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Old 04-04-09, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Yan
Skip the "being lazy" part. Put the rest under "interests/hobbies". Do you have any previous working experience? Perhaps engineering related summer jobs? Just put those under "work experience". There is no need to have an alibi for every day of your life. Remember to send your resume to as many companies as you can (even if they do not have hiring ads).

I am an architecture student. I found a job last week. Here's my portfolio. My resume is on the 3rd page. Good luck.
https://www.architecture.uwaterloo.ca..._portfolio.pdf
Are you in the same class as Alan MacDiarmid? He rode across Canada last year.
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Old 04-04-09, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan The Man
I already had one rejection. When I asked why, they said that the large employment gap on my resume.
Did you have an interview/conversation with the company or was your primary interaction via the resume?

Hiring managers will screen through lots of resumes all the time, so I don't take a single rejection too hard. I would first make sure the rest of the resume has those items that show why you are a good match for their work. Things like relevant courses, previous internship/project work, GPA, etc. For the touring itself, don't list it under experience but instead if there is natural spot at bottom, something short like: "Interests: rock climbing, bicycle touring - cycled 8000km from Northern BC to New York"

The other part of the equation is how you describe it in an interview itself. If it is on the resume as an interest, someone may ask you about it, particularly as an ice breaker. You want to be truthful, but it will come across differently if described as "didn't feel like working, so bummed around for a year" vs. "met a goal of cycling across the continent, it was a great experience though it took both planning and perseverance".

My own situation is a bit different because I've been in the workforce for ~25 years, but in that time I've taken a 12-month, 10-month and 3-month gap. I blur it slightly on my resume by listing whole years rather than exact months; and I don't list the full 25-years of work (and gaps) when not relevant to the job I'm seeking. My resume has a simple line with something like "interests: bicycle touring, cycled across four continents". However, as topic comes up, in interviews I've been straightforward about a pattern of working 4-5 years at a position and working hard to keep learning, growing and challenged to increasing contributions - a long period of strong contributions - followed by a chance to take a break and come back refreshed in tackling a new role.

As a hiring manager, sifting through many resumes, I can find lots of reasons to reject your resume for an entry level position. More than that gap, I would more likely reject it if: (a) didn't meet a base GPA screen (b) other candidates were stronger with an internship or relevant experience (c) have some local candidates that I don't have to fly out (d) your stated interest/resume focus tells me you are looking for something else (e) it arrived late when I already had strong candidates, etc.
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Old 04-04-09, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan The Man
So I am getting into the job market at a terrible time. I would like to get an engineering job. I spent most of the last year since graduating college traveling and I am worried that it is going to look terrible on my resume. Is there a way to put this into resume form without sounding cheesy, or boastful:

Here is the truth of what I have been doing while not working:

May 2008: graduated with undergrad mechanical engineering degree
June - September: Bicycle touring Northern BC to San Diego to New York
October: Living in Montreal
November-December: Rock climbing in Mexico
January-Present: raising puppy from Mexico, working part time at climbing gym, being lazy.
I'm in a similar spot
rather i quit my job of 14yrs, to help with my family (dad & grandparents)
then as things turned out, we didn't get along, etc... (totally off topic)
so I've been doing a bunch of time on the bike, touring, wrenching, training camps, etc...

in your case, maybe you could apply your degree to bike stuff.
in that light...
you're last year looks awesome!
either way, sounds like you know what is good for you, and the fact that you've taken time off, is a good thing. better to take the time off, than to land a job, and 1 year into it, take off...

the thing with Career, is that it would be wise to look at the benefits package.
if its 5yrs before you become vested, then you get the picture...
however, not all is rosy on that front.
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Old 04-04-09, 08:13 AM
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I agree with Losligato and CCrew. I'd even note the number of miles, number of days and if solo (I liked it being described as Bicycle Expedition in one of the earlier posts - sounds grand and not like you were bumming around). I work for a big engineering consultancy in the US and occasionally am involved in recruitment for my small group - having something that differentiates you from the pack is important. The fact that you can structure sentences and spell is already a great start. The bike ride shows you can see things through (even when they get tough) and you have the ability to deliver and adapt to what's thrown at you. I don't know if you are looking to work for a consultancy but in my line of work these are important skills to demonstrate you have.

Some employers may not see it this way (I can even think of people in other groups in the company I work for who wouldn't), but I wouldn't like to work for these people and you probably wouldn't either (unless you are after a 9 to 5 job where nothing gets done). Minimise the "spin" you put on your ride and you'll end up in a role that is better suited to you.

Good luck.

Last edited by porter; 04-04-09 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 04-04-09, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Losligato
More than anything an employer wants to hire a go getter, someone who can take big ideas and turn them into action. Trouble is, it is tough to prove - really prove - on paper that you are a go getter. You are lucky. You have that. Proof.
I agree with this.

I am 57, so it may be a bit different, but I have found my coast to coast tour to be something that is interesting and impressive to almost anyone who the subject comes up with, in a professional setting or otherwise. People seem to automatically assume that someone who does what they see as a huge adventure has the ability to make hard effort and persevere through long and difficult projects.

I find I am in more demand both in my current job and in various other potential forks in the career path. I have had way more opportunities to move to a different job in the form of other jobs seeking me out. Strangely enough the bike trip seems to have been the catalyst that made me more appreciated and more in demand professionally.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:27 AM
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There is nothing wrong with taking a year off after college. At that time I was bristling to get to work, but each person has different motivations.

Engineering positions in general are hard to fill, because Americans don't care for it (and for good reason). I don't think you will have trouble landing a job if you contact enough companies.

An even better idea is to go civil service...federal, state or town. After 20 years in corporate America I have decided it sucks, and would rather work for the taxpayers.

Grad school is also a great idea if you have extended trouble getting a job, some management jobs you might apply for later will almost require it. Good luck.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by sleizure
Blame it on the economy.
Be proud. It's a hell of an accomplishment.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Losligato
Put it in your resume and it will differentiate you from the thousands of others applicants they get for the job. Highlight your touring experience on your resume, cover letter and in the interview. It is the perfect read-between-the-lines statement for which potential employers look.

More than anything an employer wants to hire a go getter, someone who can take big ideas and turn them into action. Trouble is, it is tough to prove - really prove - on paper that you are a go getter. You are lucky. You have that. Proof.

... Be explicit in the cover letter in explaining how this shows that you are a doer. Tell them that you set a big, unconventional goal and you accomplished it.

Your resume will move to the top of the pile.

I agree. I think you can set yourself apart because of your experiences. Yes, there will be some people who will be turned off by it - but you donīt want to work for those people anyway. I went into my last interview the day after a triathlon and I hadn't been able to wash off the numbers written on my arms and legs with magic markers. So there I sat in the interview with big, huge, bold 372 written on both arms and legs - which certainly led to questions. I explianed that my whole family - including nine-year-old twins - had participated in the triathlon together. They were impressed with that, and I knew I had the job when I walke dout of the interview. I was different. I was someone who made things happen. I was not your typical run-of.the.mill teacher.
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