Let me be clear, I do not think that this is the case at all, but now that we are back in Philly, in the midst of a full-time job search, during the worst recession of our lives, the market (employers and clients) have yet to make a definitive call on the matter. So I thought it was worth a post to explore the issue, hopefully providing insight for other travelers on what you can expect when you return, thus making it less unsettling, as you will be better prepared.
First let me provide a little context for this post. One of the most unsettling interactions we had happened almost immediately upon returning to Philly. It was hearing the personal story of another world traveling couple while at the Meet-Plan-Go event. This couple was from New York and had been back from their trip for over a year. Much like Amy and me, they also had left successful careers with large companies to travel for a year. Upon their return to the States, they struggled for months to find work. The wife eventually found a position with a large company in her previous industry, but it lasted only a couple of months, as she was so miserable she eventually left. Since then, they had been surviving on some freelance work here and there but are really struggling. Hearing this only three days after we returned caused a restless night of sleep or two for us. Like our trip, though, I looked at the job search as another goal that could be successfully achieved through diligent planning, hard work and persistence, so we dived in.
The first task was crafting my story. What was my pitch, my 30-second elevator speech? How could I engage people in helping me to find that perfect next career? Getting this right is tough and it was through lots of feedback from friends and family that I landed on the following:
Hi, my name is Keith Sutter and I’m a Business Development and Marketing professional. I spent the majority of my career in Brand Management at Johnson & Johnson. Most recently, though, I undertook a more entrepreneurial venture, launching GreenAroundTheGlobe to document businesses that are using environmental sustainability as a way to succeed in the market. For this research, I traveled to 18 countries on five continents interviewing sustainability thought leaders from around the globe.
I think that this pitch works because it does three things well. First, it takes less than 30 seconds to deliver. Second, it begins with the key things I want people to associate with me: Business Development and Marketing. Third, it provides enough of a teaser about our trip to get someone to ask a follow-up question. That follow-up question is the key, as I need to get them to engage with me quickly, and asking questions accomplishes that.
But who cares what I think. What do you think? Is this a compelling way to engage prospective networking contacts? After all, the data suggests that a job search will live and die by networking. Over 85% of jobs are landed through networking. Only 15% are landed exclusively through applying to job postings, online or otherwise. I believe that effective networking is critical in securing a job in my target industry and company type, which is:
- Small to medium-sized;
- Employs sustainability as a core strategy for growth; and
- Is in need of effective Business Development and Marketing to propel them to the next level of growth.
Before diving too far into my networking strategies, I want to open this up for discussion. Let me know in the comments below what you think. Is there a more effective way to communicate our trip? A better approach to my elevator pitch?
I also wanted to list a couple of the practical things we did right while traveling and some that we could have been better about in hopes that it will help other travelers and job seekers.
Some things we did right:
- Establish a safety reserve of at least one year of savings. We reserved enough of a financial safety net to support our living expenses for at least a year upon our return. Anything we make in consulting fees or freelance work extends this. I highly recommend that anyone contemplating extended travel build this into your budget. You don’t want to come home and have to live with your parents because you are dead broke.
- Having a professional purpose for the trip. Ours was for the trip to serve as a catalyst into careers that were more focused on sustainability. For me it was also a way to gain creditability for a move to a more entrepreneurial company. Having that guiding goal helped us make decisions while planning and along the way.
- Postcards to professional connections. This tactic was a great way to stay connected with professional contacts back home. While an email is easy to delete, a colorful postcard from China is a something that tends to catch attention sitting in your snail mail in-box. It also makes reconnecting when you get home easier.
Some thing we could have done better:
- Networking while we are traveling. Amy hates the idea of us having dedicated even more time during our travel to staying connected and broadening our network back home. But I think I would have spent more time establishing additional professional connections through twitter, linkedin and facebook while we were traveling.