Eight months remain on my Peruvian volunteer visa, yet it’s impossible to contemplate what awaits me upon repatriation to the US next March. Therefore I thought I’d ask fellow writer and solo traveler Alexis Grant about her experiences. Grant, a popular blogger, has written a travel memoir about quitting her job as a journalist to explore Africa as a solo traveler. Today she is what she calls “an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist, with a focus on careers and the workplace“.
I hope that sharing this Grant Q&A helps to smooth the repatriation process for other expats who’ve been abroad at length.
Four tips you’d give expats about re-entry.
1. Expect to feel like a different person than you were before your travels. You’ll still be the same at your core, of course, but you’ll see things differently. That’s one of the benefits of traveling, so use it to your advantage!
2. Try not to be overwhelmed by the abundance of choice. Each time it feels overwhelming — whether you’re trying to choose a career path or cereal in the grocery store — remind yourself that you’re lucky to have all these choices. Pick one for now, and you can always change your mind later.
3. Continue to look for ways to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Travel isn’t the only way you can do that! If you go out of your way to try new experiences and meet new people, you can feel that thrill of “new” at home, too.
4. Use your experience to land the job you want. Travel can be an asset on your resume, so long as you present it the right way. Don’t treat it like an employment gap. Treat it like an awesome experience that makes you different and more interesting than other candidates.
ATW: Whilst in China, I knew a man in his 20s who worried that if he stayed too long abroad Corporate America would consider him “spoiled”. I liken that to a house frau decades-removed from the work force. What has your research shown about hiring repatriates? Does it matter what industry, age what you did abroad?
AG: It’s all about how you present your experience. You can learn lots of skills while abroad, whether you’re traveling or working. How can you use those skills and experiences to make yourself more marketable for your dream employer?
ATW: How should people who’ve been and/or worked abroad highlight their new skills into the job interview?
Don’t be afraid to mention your trip! Employers like people who go after what they want, including travel. In other words, following that dream can help your career. And who knows, you and your interviewer might share a love for Thailand or Senegal or Tasmania.
ATW: What are employers hoping you won’t say?
Don’t put down your trip or yourself. Don’t talk about how you decided to travel only because you couldn’t land a job. Focus on the positives of your experience and how it makes you a better employee — and a better person. And show how your personality will fit into — and add to — the company culture.
ATW: What kind of industries will repatriates do well in? Where should they look?
It really depends on your skills, interests, experience and contacts. It makes sense that travelers would tend to go into international jobs, find their place in the travel industry, figure out how to use their foreign language skills, etc. But I don’t think there’s one career path that all travelers should take. It’s all about how you want to use your experience to move forward.
ATW: Where will your memoir be published?
It’s in my literary agent’s hands now, so it’s her responsibility to sell it to a publisher. If that doesn’t work, I’ll consider self-publishing. I’d like to get it out into the world in one form or another.
Follow Grant to glean tips on writing, gathering the courage to move abroad and/or recreate your career.
On Twitter: @alexisgrant