Can Time Off Hurt One's Future?

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I worked part-time throughout college, and then graduated and immediately got a full-time job. After a few months, I decided I had accepted a job too quickly; I want to take several months off for traveling. I thought now would be the best time to experience new things before I get the kind of job I would commit to. I should have thought about this before getting a job, but I really want to do this! I hope my sudden decision to leave work to travel will not hurt me later when I feel ready to get a serious career-type job.

A: You are at the perfect time for experiencing life before starting a major career, so don't beat yourself up for not immediately realizing what you want to do. As a recent college graduate, you are still young and no worthwhile company or hiring manager should hold this change of heart against you.

In fact, you are proof that the new generation of college grads is not flaky nor entitled. Lining up a job after graduating was a mature and responsible act, and you are allowed to make mistakes early on. Suddenly deciding you want to travel before developing a serious career is perfectly acceptable at this point in life. You can only benefit by experiencing this new freedom after years of schooling. Assuming no catastrophic events occur on your travels, you will have more to offer a company when you return with a new level of maturity and open-mindedness. Meeting new people from various cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds other than your own is a brave and exciting beginning to your adult life.

Your classmates who sought careers immediately after graduation are missing the opportunity to grow and learn about life and human behavior outside of their own familiar neighborhoods. They may also miss the chance to contemplate the wide range of career possibilities, especially if their parents were their strongest influences.

Many parents, intentionally or not, groom their children early on to choose the careers their parents want for them, which explains why some families have an abundance of lawyers, doctors or other specialty vocations. This automatic choosing of professions before experiencing an independent life likely accounts for the 60% of lawyers leaving their profession, while "a recent email survey found that 55% of physicians reported having considered quitting the medical field." Those statistics alone should relieve your concern over taking personal time off to travel after graduation and live life on your own timeline.


Of course, anything taken to the extreme can cause a backlash. If traveling for several months turns into several years, companies may balk at hiring you when you seek employment on return. Your independent streak might be interpreted as avoiding the eventual reality of having to work. Everyone has heard the stories of trust-fund babies not wanting to focus on careers, or new graduates (who don't value making money) deciding work is not as exciting as people had made it out to be. An abundance of funds or a lack of interest in it can lead to positive or negative potential. Students who have taken extended periods of travel before settling into a career may no longer be considered promising candidates.

To ensure a successful entrance into the workplace after your return, set a schedule for traveling before you begin your journey. You can always alter your travel plans, and you may even change your mind about living in this state of independent bliss. Having plans will encourage you to evaluate your experiences along the way. Depending on your personality, lengthy travel experiences could either sustain your ongoing interests or become routine. Once you cross a reasonable timeline, no explanations will suffice in the interviewing process to convince a company to hire you. You might also consider researching graduate programs before you set sail; this information could offer a positive alternative to think about while traveling.

Your options are endless, but your appeal as a job candidate may wane as time advances. This is reason enough for setting a travel agenda rather than roaming freely about the continents, waiting for boredom to set in.

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