‘Lost Girls’ tout travel to aid career

LG Press & Media — By on April 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm

From the Boston Herald by Darren Garnick:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 3.14.19 PMAs an editor and internship coordinator for both Self and Shape magazines, Amanda Pressner noticed a disturbing trend among the pile of resumes clogging her desk. Students weren’t just competing for the right to earn a marquee company name for their resume — in some cases, they were vying for their fifth or sixth high-profile internship.

The problem? At least in this select group of overachievers, no one even thinks about the possibility of taking one summer off to recharge their creative batteries anymore.

‘‘College students seem to feel that they need not just one but several internships in their chosen industry if they want to stand out among their peers and land a coveted entry level spot upon graduation,’’ Pressner says.

‘‘Guilt isn’t as big a driving factor as fear. They think, ‘If I pass up a chance to work at XYZ major company this summer, I’ll miss out on a chance to make connections, and another grad will end up getting my dream job.’ ’’

Pressner didn’t need a crystal ball to see where these interns were headed. She was already there, sacrificing most relation- ships for 60-plus-hour work- weeks. When she one day realized how thrilled she was to be serving on jury duty, she didn’t need an expert to diagnose career burnout.

She convinced two Manhattan friends, Jennifer Baggett and Holly Corbett, to join her for a 10-day escape to Argentina in 2005. The women bonded on the road, leading them to fantasize about ‘‘pressing the pause button’’ and traveling around the world for a year.

Each at successful stages of their careers in their late 20s, the self- dubbed ‘‘Lost Girls’’ embarked on a 12-country journey from June 2006 to June 2007. Corbett left a job at Woman’s Day magazine, while Baggett gave up a marketing position at the VH1 network. Their adventures are chronicled in a new memoir and at their Web site, LostGirlsWorld.com, which gives budget vacation advice and encourages others to view long-term travel as a path to self-discovery and life-career balance.

The Lost Girls trekked through Peru, Brazil, Kenya, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Panama and Australia. At a rural school in Kenya, they taught dance classes to abused teenage girls and wrote a play about Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maahtai, an environmentalist known as ‘‘Africa’s Mother of Trees.’’

Now back working in their chosen fields, the women give career guidance talks to college students. As for those already halfway up the career ladder, Corbett asserts that many bosses will respect employees who leave to pursue a life-long dream. Making life easy for your successor will keep the boss in your corner when you return from your global adventure, she says.

‘‘Create a ‘cheat sheet’ to your workspace and paperwork,’’ Corbett suggests. ‘‘Include any computer log-ins and passwords, a status report of your pending projects and instructions for locating digital files and their hard copies. It’ll take a little time to get the document together, but going the extra mile shows your ongoing dedication.’’

And Baggett adds that a little marketing spin will prevent you from being branded with the dreaded S-word: slacker.

‘‘If you position your time off as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that gave you insight into what you’re most passionate about, you really will be a much more valuable candidate,’’ she says. ‘‘Any traces of career burnout should be gone, which will make you a much more productive and efficient employee.’’

For those who can’t justify the time or money to travel for a year, Pressner pleads that workaholics should at least take the full amount of vacation owed to them.

‘‘So many people don’t even take their two weeks,’’ she says. ‘‘People are scared they’ll be seen as someone who doesn’t take his or her job seriously. But employers are more understanding than you think. They understand the need to renew and recharge.’’

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