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In Job interviews, honesty is the best policy



I graduated last year and took time off after four grueling years of college to go around the country before visiting some of my relatives in Canada. Upon coming back, I felt scared because it would seem all my friends were already working, and I don’t know how to explain to my prospective employer why I was not able to find work within a year after graduation. Do I just tell the truth? Would it be taken against me that I did not look for a job immediately after graduation?
Throughout your professional life, always tell the truth. Your peers will respect you for it, and so will your boss. My biggest pet peeve at work is when team members did not accomplish a task, and then try to hide it from me. I would rather have them say they failed in their task, and we would work together to accomplish that objective. This is largely why I do not want you to start your professional career by spinning excuses—just say it as it is.
In your case, I do not see any reason why a prospective employer would hold it against you when you decided to take time to see and enjoy the world. More than that, I am sure they will appreciate the fact that you opened up your world and mindset by going around and experiencing something new. You would have learned new perspectives that no one in the company would have.
Work experience can come in various forms. It does not necessarily mean direct hardcore work in the industry you intend to build a career in. It does not mean that if you desire to work for a restaurant or hotel, they will be looking for someone with one or two years experience in the fast food or service industry. What matters more are the skills and knowledge you acquired. Soft skills like discipline, patience, integrity, collaboration, among others, are not taught in schools, but are acquired after immersing in meaningful activity.
I recently met a group some months ago called Teach for the Philippines. They are an NGO whose mission is to teach in public schools in dire need of teachers. They enlist cream of the crop graduates of top-tiered schools and ask them to spend two years of their life giving back by teaching. The organization pays these teachers a surprisingly decent salary. However, being an educator, I know how hard it is to teach primary school. That is why I acknowledge that, regardless of the salary, the benefit is not really for the elementary students being taught by energetic and intelligent graduates, but for the teachers themselves who are taught discipline, courtesy, patience and understanding. These skills seem rare in the workplace, and I would definitely consider them to work for me—teachers who took two years after graduation to learn and find themselves while teaching, contributing to society as a whole, and learning from the experience. If you want to learn more about Teach for the Philippines, do check out their Facebook page or their website. If I were much, much younger, I would have taken that opportunity to go through that journey.
In the end, remember that you are a new graduate and the road is long. Do not fret if you make wrong decisions—be more concerned that you have not made any. I am sure your perspective of the world, because of your traveling, made you wiser
and more mature. Experiment, try something new, give back. You should not be defined by work, but instead define yourself with your passion and what fulfills you.