Taking an Overseas Working Holiday: Is it Good for Your Career?

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Last Updated 20 October, 2014

Recently, the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) has gained popularity among people younger than 30 years old who want to spend one year abroad, not only to work but to gain new life experiences as well! Some of them are fresh graduates taking a gap year, and some even quit their jobs to take advantage of this rare career opportunity. Amongst all destinations, Europe and America are the two most popular choices.

During a working holiday, participants typically take up jobs they won’t normally do in Hong Kong — for instance, picking strawberries on a farm or working as a bartender or waiter in a pub. The scheme is appealing because you can earn money and travel at the same time.

However, a lot of people are concerned that a working holiday will affect their career, or that it would be difficult to find a job after going away for a year. Read on for our analysis on the pros and cons of going on a working holiday.

First things first: You need to ask yourself why you’re going on a working holiday.

When you ask someone why they opt for a working holiday, the usual responses are “Because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s now or never.” or “If you don’t do it now, you won’t do it in the future.” If this is how you’d answer the question, it doesn’t really indicate the reason why you’re going on a working holiday. Instead, it simply shows that you’re merely going just because you can.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we’re discouraging you from participating in the WHS. We simply want you to figure out your real purpose for taking part in it. Your reasons are very personal; it could be that you want to take a year off and see the world, experience a foreign culture, give yourself a time-out from work and reflect on your future, or simply travel and have fun for a year.

It doesn’t matter what your reasons are; the main point is you have to remember your goal for going on a working holiday. With a clear goal in mind, it’s easier to justify your cause to your family, prepare to learn from the experience, and be able to tell people what you’ve gained. There are some people who went on working holiday with the aim of broadening their horizons, but ended up just working non-stop to earn money and failed to go anywhere during their free-time, which means they have completely forgotten their initial goal.

Would employers mind if job applicants have been on working holiday?

In Hong Kong, since the WHS is quite common, a lot of employers and HR staff wouldn’t mind if job applicants have been on working holiday. Some of them actually favour those applicants because they tend to be more independent, decisive, and courageous (or else how could they go abroad for a year alone?). What’s more, they’ve seen a lot of things and tend to have a higher language proficiency since they have lived abroad for a long period. These are all assets for someone who has been on working holiday. Yet, Hong Kongers can still be somewhat conservative, so it would be a lie to say every employer approves of people who have been on working holiday. So, when facing these employers, how can you convince them the experience was worthwhile and beneficial?

Employers that frown on people who went on working holiday mainly think that they are immature and irresponsible, or that they have a free spirit and are self-centred, with the probability of quitting in the middle of their jobs. If you come across these kinds of employers, it is important to explain why you went on working holiday. Then, you could use examples from your trip as illustrations to convince them you have the strengths and the qualifications they require. This could change how they view you as a candidate.

However, during interviews, you must remember to be mature and avoid putting on a face that says “You haven’t been there, so you won’t understand anyway.” This will only give them a bad impression.

Will going on working holiday affect your career?

Up until this point, you should all have an answer to this question. As long as you are clear about your goal, you would definitely gain something from working holiday. You should then use them wisely to your advantage in job interviews and your job. Working holiday would affect your career, but it’s up to you to make it a positive one. So stop wondering whether you should go or not, and act today!

Please visit EF’s website for more information about their Working Holiday Jobs.

Extra Tips:

Working holiday is like your usual trip: You need to purchase valid travel insurance for your own protection. Take a look at our website for a comparison of different travel insurance plans and find the best bargain!

Also, because of the huge expenses from working holidays, you should also apply for a credit card with air miles benefits. This way, you could even earn a free flight back home! The American Express WorldMiles credit card is doing a promotion that offers an exchange rate of $1 = 1 miles, while the American Express Cathay Pacific Elite Credit Card is offering $4 = 1 miles for overseas spending. The following links are for your reference:

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