Can I take time off before starting work?

Mary Ann Hogan
Chips Quinn Writing Coach

Dear Coach,

I am taking time off between my internship and job search to travel. I want to see the world. Will it look strange on my resume that I was “out of commission” for a year? More importantly, will my reporting and writing skills get rusty, and therefore, less attractive to potential employers? — Traveling Bug

Dear Traveler,

The great Oscar Wilde put it best: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” Well, we may not all have Mr. Wilde’s ego, but we all could benefit from adopting his habit of writing on the road. One of the great things about being a reporter is that you are always that — a reporter — whether you have a newsroom job or not. Yes, do travel. Take the back roads. Go by bus, whenever possible. Take your notebook and plenty of pens. Interview people wherever you go. Look for trends. Write down snippets of color and overheard comments. Describe a busy café. Report on yourself trying to buy something personal in a language you don’t know.
Watch. Listen. Write. Don’t forget that newspaper travel sections always are on the lookout for free-lance features from far-flung fields. And when a job interview comes up and an editor asks where you were from September to June, answer with self-assurance: “I was in the mountains reporting.”

Mary Ann Hogan’s Ask The Coach columns, first written for the Chips Quinn Scholars program, are republished with permission from the Freedom Forum Institute, 2019.

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