Travel in your 20s shouldn’t be a speed bump for your career. Can we just kill off the linear resume, please?

There’s a whole boatload of emerging context on the world of millennials vs. the world of their parents and grandparents, and some of it — such as aspects about where to live and what’s desirable in cities — seems logical, while some of it — such as hotel experiences — seems a bit forced. One conversation that’s been happening a lot in the past 18 months is the idea of millennial travel approaches. See, oftentimes millennials are confronting a crappier job market — you can argue they were the generation hit hardest by the 2008 recession — and their options are unclear. Some choose to go back to school, some choose to take lower-paying jobs just to have one, and many seem to be choosing to travel: it’s the fastest-growing segment of international travelers right now, for example. But the notions of traveling are different: often (and of course, everything here is a generalization to some extent) millennials are traveling for experience, and not for luxury or it being a place you “have to see.”

There’s a good personal reflection in The Atlantic on this, and it gets to the crux of the issue fairly quickly:

Travel creates time to reflect on these priorities and decide how our career choices can accommodate them. We understand that bumming around in our twenties for too long is irresponsible, but we also find it irrational to work unfulfilling jobs only to feel legitimate. And if we have the financial resources to pause, travel, and reassess, then why not take advantage of that privilege?

Yes. That’s the value of travel, in a nutshell. When you go to the home of two people who are retired and you see all the travel albums and individual photos, that’s a thing. Travel provides experience, knowledge and context in a way that few other things can — certainly in a stronger way than sitting in an office doing something that you either (a) don’t like or (b) might be beneath you.

I understand that beggars can’t be choosers — if you want to live in a capitalism, ultimately you need to find a way to make money — but I do think traveling at 22-25 isn’t so bad. I didn’t do it — I actually didn’t go abroad until I was 29 — and I regretted it to an extent. I spent a lot of time working; some of it was jobs I liked, some of it wasn’t, but regardless, I distinctly remember around 25-26 doing two things a lot: (a) seeing pictures of other people traveling and (b) going to weddings. It’s a vain glorious time.

And now we come to the rub, also via The Atlantic:

“If you were to ask older people. ‘Is this a good idea, should I go do this?’ the answer perceived is ‘no,’” says Randall Bourquin, 25, who spent six months last year backpacking through South and Central America. “People think that there’s too much opportunity cost, or that it’s going to cause a speed bump in your career.”

This -ish straight up infuriates me. Last summer I was working for a major health care company in the two years between graduate school. I would sit in so many meetings where I’d say something and someone would respond, “Well, you’re not a health care person…” (because I hadn’t worked in the field before). Uh, OK. Perspective is irrelevant? Le sigh.

The fact is: many on the organizational side still chase the linear resume in their candidates (got out of school, worked, progression, progression, maybe a little graduate school, worked, etc.) As you see the millennial generation come to be the primary part of the workforce, the linear resume is going to be less and less common. Can recruiters deal with that, or will they be expecting what they saw 15-20 years before? It’s really depressing that people forego an experience that can make them smarter and understand the world more — and do so predominantly because Sally Recruiter at Organization X might not understand why they did that.

Maybe we need to think in more European ways about all this.

I did Teach for America after college. It has very little to do with my career in a linear way, and yet everything to do with it in terms of how I approach problems and challenges. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve had where someone has said, “Wait, why did you do this?” (as opposed to go straight into something else). You can always explain that stuff (just by being open and honest), but … damn. I did it to challenge myself and gain new perspective, y’all. Sorry I didn’t hop right into the rat race.

Point is, the linear resume should be dying and people should be allowed to pursue experiences out of the traditional path for a bit here and there. It gives you the context you need to be globally successful, and don’t we always hear these days that the business world is unflinchingly global?




Ted Bauer