What do I do now?
August 4, 2006 9:53 AM   Subscribe

So that job? Yea, didn't work out. Now what?

So the recruiter called to deliver bad news yesterday. They canceled the interview due to a shift in priorities. She says that we *absolutely* should stay in touch because the company is still very interested, but feel the need to put resources elsewhere for the next five-ish months.

While it's a let down, certainly, I'd already begun to think about what I would do if I didn't get it. And I came up with the notion of quitting my job, selling my car and many of my possessions. Storing the rest and traveling abroad.

Would that be career suicide? I'm thinking a 2-3 month tour, if not more. I'm thinking Europe, both eastern and western.

After quitting and getting paid out for vacation, a pending bonus that comes in two weeks, selling the car and various other items I imagine I'll have about $8k that I could use on this and I'd put away about $6k as a landing pad for when I return. Insane? Eurail Pass - good idea? I've enough miles to get to Europe free on a Delta SkiMiles award ticket so that's covered.

I'm 36, single, jane of all trade-ish. Never done anything like this before in terms of "dropping out" and feel that a) this might be my last chance and b) I'm both scared and excited by the idea.

Bonus Q: Are there US companies for whom I could do some freelance work while abroad? Writing, editing, scoring? Something portable? I'm probably going to travel with very few clothes, my small laptop and my camera.

Please feel free to poke holes in this idea or make suggestions to improve upon it.
posted by FlamingBore to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've dropped out twice - first in the Summer of 2000 (age 27) for around 4 months, after my dot-com employer folded. I did the Euro backpack thing and ended up getting an excellent job with a big international in austria.

I just ended up my second drop-out, after aforementioned excellent job turned to crap - I took off just under 2 years, did a ton of climbing, sports, photography, blog stuff, thinking about what kind of work I wanted to do next. Just about 3 months ago, I started exactly the job I was looking for, and it's going great (still in Austria).

It's a risk to drop out, but I figure if an employer doesn't want to hire me because I have taken off, I probably don't want to work for that employer, anyway. My current boss is the coolest boss I've ever had. The working environment is laid back, pay is excellent, and I've finally made it out of software engineering (and into consulting / software architecture).
posted by syzygy at 10:15 AM on August 4, 2006

When I see a resume with a gap in it my first thought is "were they fired from their last job or did they leave because they were not working out?" Gaps are not good. That being said you sometimes have to follow your heart in life.
posted by caddis at 10:19 AM on August 4, 2006

Um, I don't think that 2 or three months will qualify as a gap.

Now might be a good time to go to Europe . . . the Euro is high against the dollar and other currencies, but could go higher. Politics in Western Europe are relatively stable, too. It might be a good window of opportunity.
posted by Gordion Knott at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2006

Would that be career suicide?

Would you be considering selling your possessions and going to Europe for a few months had you not received this opportunity for a job? If so, go ahead. If you're treating this as an open door that now is shut so you have to create another door, then I think you should think again.

I was in a very similar situation as you. I was contacted for a job, then they hired someone else, but I was told that I should keep in touch. Naturally I was skeptical because that's what they always say. But several months later, there was another job offer and here I am working at a place I admire.

What I'm saying is that, in your own way, you seem like you're considering doing something drastic to compensate for lifechange that the job you didn't get would have offered (in a different way). Spontaneity, regardless how enriching it sometimes may be, may not be the best thing for you considering your age and direction you need.

Maybe you should stick around and not take a vacation until you get a firm job offer. Keep in touch with your company-to-be. Best of luck.
posted by i8ny3x at 10:26 AM on August 4, 2006

On second thought, I don't think it'll be career suicide, but ditching your job still doesn't jibe well with me.
posted by i8ny3x at 10:29 AM on August 4, 2006

I second i8ny3x. Don't quit your job. Save your money. But if you absolutely must drop everything and get away, I suggest travelling close to home because:
  • you can save some money
  • if you can find freelance projects for a jaunt to Europe, you can find them closer to home
  • if you meet a special someone on your travels, the relationship has a chance if you're near home.

posted by rinkjustice at 10:42 AM on August 4, 2006

I think that 2 to 3 months in Europe on $2k is unrealistic. Your travel costs, let alone food and accomodations will be that much. You should be prepared to have a larger budget for Europe or travel in a less expensive region (i.e., Asia).

If nothing is keeping you where you are, I see no reason in not seeing the world. I never it did it and its one of my my biggest regrets.
posted by greedo at 10:56 AM on August 4, 2006

greedo, I read that as she has $8k for the trip, and then another $6K for savings.
posted by kimdog at 11:07 AM on August 4, 2006

Dear god a 3 month gap career suicide? Really?

I took 8 months off and never had an issue with it. Heck if it's that bad just put "consulting" on your resume in for the time spent away and if anyone does a deeper dive on it during an interview just say you took some time off and did a bit of consulting on the side to pay the bills.

Do it. I think you'll have many more regrets not doing it than doing it. "Leap and the net will appear" has been my motto for a while on this kind of thing.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2006

It could be career suicide - I don't think you can tell, but consider a couple of things:

Is is going to get any better? In other words, is fear of career suicide going to keep you chained to the house, the job, the city and state for the forseeable future. Is that what you want?

As a jack-of-all trades in the internet world, you sound well-positioned to me. I doubt that anyone who knows their way around a computer is going to starve in this century.

If you can construct a cover-story in advance, that would be helpful for the resume reconstruction you'll need to do later. Any sensible narrative will do but, as has been said above, unexplained gaps are bad news. Three months is nothing however, in a couple of years you should be able to skim over the gap without worry.

You're going to find Europe very expensive. If you are happy to rough it, then inter-rail and hostels mean that it can be done on your budget. There are lots of online forums for us Eurotrash, you might start here.

The trip could be a positive feature on your resume. Its quite common to find a resume that's just too good, too by the book - that gives no inkling of personality, colour and spirit. Those go in the rejection bin. I want to work with real people - I'm sure you do too.

Best of luck whatever you do. Europe is wonderful and you must see it properly. If you make it to England, drop me a line.
posted by grahamwell at 11:29 AM on August 4, 2006

For some reason, I've always found better job opportunities after returning from traveling. I have no explanation but it is consistent enough that sometimes I put a trip together so I can find a new job. Maybe it is the mental reframing that comes with being away from the daily grind?
posted by trinity8-director at 11:58 AM on August 4, 2006

Work to live, don't live to work.
posted by footnote at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2006

I don't think it would be career suicide, but quitting your job and throwing caution to the wind for a few months without a solid plan upon return could be a concern to your employer. It might make them think you are irresponsible or impulsive. That said, if you plan a good response to interview questions about your gap, then I doubt it will be a problem.

Maybe you can find some sort of volunteer opportunity abroad which would allow you to (1) see a new place (2) do something good, and (3) have something to put on your resume in place of a gap.
posted by tastybrains at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2006

A gap of a few months won't be career suicide. It's easy to fill in a gap of a few months.

But I'm the type that would rather see someone take that $8,000+ and put most of it into savings (roth IRA!) instead of just pissing it away on some whirlwind European vacation.

Sticking with the current job for a while longer might be a better idea.

"The trip could be a positive feature on your resume." - possibly, but I recall another AskMe thread that shredded that one to pieces and said that it'd just make the submitter look like a pretentious snob. I can't think of many reasons why someone would put "european trip" on their resume. :P
posted by drstein at 12:51 PM on August 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to all thus far.

Clarification - $8k for the trip and ~$6k for when I get back. I've a handful of friends with whom I can stay upon my return until I find a place of my own - or preferably a job in a city that I want to live.

As a life long "responsible adult" I don't *think* this will be career suicide, but one never really knows.

Further point of clarification: I've been in my current job (thru two companies via an acquisition) for over four years. I *need* to get out due to boredom, frustration and a recent event that is well beyond the pale - and had just started looking when this job opportunity fell into my lap - perfect for me. I *do* believe that they mean it when they say "keep in touch", but I also believe them when they say it'll be five to six months. And that time frame coincides nicely with a three month tour that might begin in October.

Any additional thoughts appreciated.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:52 PM on August 4, 2006

It might be career suicide, as some suggest, but so what? Are you trying to be CEO of something, or head of surgery at Cedars Sinai? If not, take the time, relax, enjoy it. Chances like this only come along a few times in a life.

If you're good enough at whatever it is you do, you will always be able to make opportunities for yourself, gaps in resume or no. And under no circumstances put the trip itself on your resume - answer questions about it if asked, but otherwise just leave the gap. Resumes are about work experience.

The question you need to answer is, is life for living, feeling, experiencing and enjoying, or for working 50 hours a week, buying a house in the suburbs, and earning a nice safe rate of return?

Live a little, you'll never regret it. There is no such thing as a bad experience. And don't work while you travel - traveling is for seeing things and for living wonderful experiences.
posted by pdb at 1:04 PM on August 4, 2006

Jesus, ignore the omg-career-suicide people. A break of a few months isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to me or any other recruiter who values experience. Also, bear in mind that a 'gap' of couple of months is going to look less significant on a 36-yr-old-4-years-in-last-job CV than it would on a 22-yr-old-fresh-from-Uni CV.

A few months in Europe will almost certainly provide you with some really positive benefits: it will give you a break from work and increase your happiness, you'll get a huge confidence boost from travelling independently plus you'll increase your people skills. I say go for it. Good luck and look us up if you make it to London!
posted by blag at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2006

I can't speak for anyone but me here but if someone held the answer "I decided to take an extended vacation between that job and my next opportunity" against me then I don't want to work there anyway. Seriously. You structured your life and finances such that you could take a short leave to travel and that's supposed to indicate a BAD thing? That's better discipline than the average bear, not a black mark.

While it may not be career suicide, however, it could be a little hairy. If you want to do it, do it, but be aware that things change quickly and you don't know if you're going to come back to a notably worse employment market. 6k can go quick.

As far as the travel, perhaps you could look into places like Thailand, where your money will go a lot farther? Spending 4k and coming back to 10k would be even better...
posted by phearlez at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2006

Do it. And have fun. The rat race will be here when you get back, ready to devour your soul [again]. At least have one period in your life where you didn't have to answer to anyone but yourself.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:29 PM on August 4, 2006

8K @ $100/day = 80 days

Typical mid-line group tour rates, which take advantage of multiple occupancy, and group discounts, will come in at better than $200/day. So 8K for 2 months would be cheap, while 8K for 3 months would be down right parsimonious.

The key to low budget Europe is planning, planning, planning, coupled with tons of flexibility. As soon as you need something of a certain quality, or at a certain place, or a certain time, be prepared to pay top price. So, transportation, lodging, and food being the main costs, pre-plan as much of this as possible to save money. But also be willing to plead your case at the last moment, and take something a little less than what you booked, if you can save money.

$100/day average for solo travel isn't a lot, because you don't share hotel expenses. If you travel and stay largely in eastern Europe, your money goes further, but on that budget, you'll still need to be creative, and not too picky about accommodations. Rick Steves has useful information about Eurorail passes (and is a generally good source of info about European travel for Americans), but 30 days of jumping on and off trains everyday, gets old, fast. Europe is more than the clickety-clack of its rail systems. Most people want to go places, stay long enough in certain places to see the sights, and move on to their next destination. If that's your style, a Flexipass is a much better option. You might have 30 travel days scheduled in a 3 month trip, and use the other 60 days for local exploration at your various interim destinations. Even so, costs can add up quickly, particularly if something untoward happens, such as getting sick abroad, etc. Look into maintaining health insurance that covers you abroad.

Eating in Europe while traveling can be wonderful, but it can easily be a budget breaker, too. In Germany, you can easily spend €30 ($38.62 at today's rate) for a fairly simple Rathaus style dinner and beer. In Prague, you'd pay 1/2 to 2/3 that for a similar meal. Where you eat, as much as what you eat, will determine what you spend, but trying to constantly economize on food while you travel is tough, as you often don't have much choice.

You might also consider that Europe is a continent uniquely blessed with seascapes, harbors, and maritime history. Banging around on trains only, you miss much of that. Consider some inter-city ship travel, or cruising, where you can. Commercial cruising is not cheap, but a lot of private boats sail Europe in the closing summer months. If you're handy on a small boat, you could do the Greek islands on a private vessel, very cheaply, sometimes just for being good company or willing to watch kids or cook, if you feel adventurous.

As a solo traveler, part of your 8K has to be kept in reserve for bailing you out of tough situations. Maybe you want to keep a credit card for this, but if you're coming back from a trip sick, and with no job, realistically, you need to decide up front how much of a reserve you'd really need for an emergency "bug out," and plan accordingly.
posted by paulsc at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2006

Traveling can be a rewarding experience. You'll get some great stories and do some interesting things. Still, there are some things you'll probably want to think about:

Conventional wisdom is that it takes 1 month for every 10,000 in salary to find a new job. Do the calculation on yourself and decide whether or not you expect that $6K will be enough to support you until you find a new job.

It's always a drag going back to work after extended traveling. Here you won't even have the routine of work to refocus you. are you the type of person who will be able to transition smoothly into job hunt mode, or will you tend to procrastinate? Be sure to figure that into your time planning.

I assume you won't have any cushion in the even of emergency, not that you'd be alone in that, many Americans don't have a cushion, but it's something you'd want to think about.

You'll basically be starting over from zero with no possessions. It will be like being a kid again. It takes a while to build up a layer of comfort. I know some people have a romanticized view of youth, and not being weighed down by stuff may hold some appeal to you, but it will still be less comfortable for you, and probably a lot more stressful as well once the excitement wears off. Maybe that's what you want.

For instance, you won't have a car when you get back. Will you be living in an area with enough public transportation for that not to matter as you scurry from place to place interviewing?

I would probably lean towards a shorter trip myself so you don't have to convert so much of your assets/savings to date. That's me though, and my priorities would obviously be very different from yours.
posted by willnot at 2:27 PM on August 4, 2006

I think this sounds like an awesome idea!

I had a gap (around six months) on my resume and when people asked, I said I was taking care of a sick parent who had since recovered. This wasn't completely a lie since I was living with my parents and my dad did have surgery, but... ;-) When I said this, people just nodded sympathetically and it's never been an issue.
posted by chickletworks at 2:29 PM on August 4, 2006

One other quick point about European travel, often overlooked. Incidental transportation costs add up quickly. Many people who plan Eurorail vacations forget to properly budget for taxis, trams, and ferries, and they can add up, fast. Nothing worse than arriving in a new city center's main station at 10:00 p.m. on a rainy evening, going out to the street, asking about a taxi to get to your discount hotel, and finding out that it's an 80 block walk, in the rain, or your next 2 days meal money, and the trams just stopped for the night. It's great to get to Paris, all jazzed about seeing the city via the Metro, but if you're buying individual Metro tickets, you can spend $15 getting around to the major sightseeing points in a day.

Walking for pleasure and exercise is great; having to walk, with luggage, not so much.
posted by paulsc at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2006

Do something other than be a tourist: morally justifiy your dropping out. Go volunteer somewhere using your skills (not licking envelopes or anything) and then have some adventures. Fantastically unexpected things may happen which would mean you might never have to wear a suit or a skirt again, but at the very least, you'll look pretty interesting if you return to your regularly scheduled career. Also, if you've never done this kind of thing before, 2 months is not nearly enough - give it 4-6. It takes a while to get out of AmericaHeadSpace. That said, I doubt Europe is the best place to parlay that kind of move, as they may not necessarily be in dire need of your skill sets. I'd consider South America, Africa, or Asia. Airfare excepted, your money will last longer there.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:03 PM on August 4, 2006

Absolutely drop out!

You've given yourself so padding money for when you get back, so that little problem of being destitiute when you get back is covered.

Take a chance, live a little, and don't turn 65 and say that you regretted never doing something.

Go see the world!!!!!
posted by matty at 4:38 PM on August 4, 2006

If by "career suicide" you mean "holy effing shit i am so JEALOUS of you that you have the time, money, resources, freedom to do that!!!!" then yes. It is ;).

posted by OhPuhLeez at 5:47 PM on August 4, 2006

I've taken an average of 3-6 months off just about every other year since college and it's never been an issue with an employer. You can always get a contract job when you get back for a while too- they don't care at all.
posted by fshgrl at 6:07 PM on August 4, 2006

Suicide is such a strong word. It may negatively impact chances to get permanent jobs, jobs where the expectation is that you will be for many years. I doubt it will impact much at all chances at getting jobs that are by their nature shorter in tenure (for instance jobs where people tend to job hop a lot) and it should not at all impact your chances of getting a temp or contract job. Only you knows what is best for you here. Sometimes you need to do something a little crazy much more than you need steady employment just to maintain your sanity. Maybe this is one of those times.
posted by caddis at 6:55 AM on August 5, 2006

I don't think it will be career suicide, but it will probably mean that you'll experience extra scrutiny.

If you do decide to take the plunge, you might want to check out World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). For about 4 hours of volunteer work on a farm, you'll get accomodation and meals in return. Might be a good way to stretch out your budget? I've never done it myself, but I met someone doing it while travelling in New Zealand. Her story was similar to yours, she left her job and sold everything to have an adventure. She had been in the country for a couple months traveling from city to city, working at farms for a week, then just doing the tourist thing every other week. She said that it gave her a great chance to experience the country. The host families often took her with them to dinner parties and included her in family events, holidays, etc. Sounded like fun to me, you might want to check it out.
posted by necessitas at 5:14 PM on August 5, 2006

I (and all sane people) would much rather hire/work for/work with someone who had done this than not. Go for it.

And FWIW, I have an 18-month gap in my resume dating from 5 years ago or so, and I get recruited for great jobs in my field nearly every day. If you do good work and have good friends both at and away from work, you'll always have a network of people who will help you find a new job.

Again: Go for it.
posted by mdiskin at 5:24 AM on August 6, 2006

I quit my job and traveled for five months on about $7000, (one month UK/Ireland, two months eastern Europe, one month Turkey, one month central Europe). It did, however, take me four months to find a job after I came back, and that was a temporary position (but this was in 2002 when the job market was particularly awful). I depended heavily on my friends for support and ran up the credit cards a bit. But the time out has never been an issue since then. In fact, very few interviewers have questioned the work gap. I think the break ended up being a very positive thing for my career because I would've burned out and probably become very lazy otherwise.
posted by lunalaguna at 12:45 PM on August 6, 2006

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