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This is exactly how to position your passion project in your next job interview

Taking time off to volunteer, travel, or even raise a family can make you a standout job candidate. Here’s how to sell it.

This is exactly how to position your passion project in your next job interview
[Photo: bowdenimages/iStock]

Whether you took the summer off to travel, or a few years off to start the company of your dreams, pursuing your passion can inspire new ideas and personal growth. But how do you successfully re-enter the traditional workforce after your passion-fueled sabbatical?

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In a recent University of Phoenix survey, nearly 2 in 3 (64%) of employed U.S. adults agreed that life experience, particularly pursuing things they are passionate about (e.g., having and/or raising a child, traveling, nontraditional jobs, volunteer work) is valued just as much as work experience at their workplace. Positioning that value into securing a new job can be a challenge, but it can be done. Here are six strategies to use when you are interviewing.

Know how to speak about your passion project

Avoid downplaying the experience you had while away from the traditional workforce. If you cannot professionally articulate what impact your time away from the office has had on your experience and skills, you won’t be able to show your future employer why your passion project–whether it was traveling, volunteering, or starting your own business–was a positive thing. Practice speaking about your experience in an inspiring and engaging way that makes it relevant to your career move.

Take classes to supplement your experience

To ensure that your industry knowledge and experience are current as you head into interviews, think about taking a class. Whether it is becoming certified in a particular area or even starting the process of earning an advanced degree, there are numerous curriculum options in fields like healthcare, IT, and business, and you can schedule your classes around your new professional schedule.


Related: These are the five “super skills” you need for the jobs of the future


Identify your transferable skills

Skills like time management, problem solving, communication, or even a new language may be things you mastered during your time away from the office. Don’t undercut these new abilities. Put them onto your resume with confidence.

Audit your passion project

Ask yourself what you specifically love about your passion project and find a career field that utilizes those skills. That travel blog you started while backpacking in South America for the year would make an excellent portfolio for a future media job. The fundraising and canvassing you did for while volunteering for a political campaign sets you up for a great career in sales. Take a look at the skill set for the job you’d like to land, and see how you might parlay what you learned during your time away.

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Related: Unsure how your career impacts your kids? Here’s some perspective


Have an end goal in mind

Don’t get too caught up in the short term–have a bigger picture in mind. Your resume is a living, breathing document, and a year or two of exploring your passions isn’t going to be the only experience on it. What do you want to achieve before you retire? And does your passion project play into reaching that ultimate goal? Write down where you see yourself to help get a clear vision. Then work toward it with patience and persistence.

Embrace your unique path

More people are forgoing the traditional career path, whether it means pursuing higher education later in life, switching gears to a new career field, or taking time away from the workforce. No matter how unconventional your path, it is what makes you unique. Embrace it and be proud to tell your story.

The power is ultimately in your hands. Your experience–whether it is traditional or not–is valuable, and the skills and insights you have from your passion project are transferable. Have confidence when reentering the workforce and remember to bring your passion with you into your new job.


Angie Williams, EdD, serves as the dean of multicultural affairs and diversity at the University of Phoenix. Williams has served in the educational arena for over 17 years in various roles that stretch from the classroom to the U.S. Department of Justice. She has conducted specific research on nontraditional student success, persistence, and student satisfaction.

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