I was 21 when I first decided to work away from home. I accepted a job with the Electricity Supply Authority on the eastern outskirts of Central Queensland. The job location was only a 500km drive from my home town but with a population of less than 500 and no bakeries for 80km it was a daunting prospect!
I remember thinking at the time that I was neither excited nor enthusiastic about the move. In my head I had every reason not to go, but the words of my father still ring loudly in my ears: “If you don’t like it, you can always move back. What have you got to lose?”.
Well at the time, at 21, playing 1st grade Rugby and having a fantastic time in a big city; I thought I had everything to lose. But ever since that fateful day in January 1998 when I arrived for my first day of work, it has been the best decision I have ever made.
That experience really sparked my passion for adventure, challenge and continuous progression through work and travel. I travelled away from my home to work many times back then, even relocating overseas to work in numerous foreign countries. Granted I was a public servant in London and built houses in Canada, but nonetheless I was working away.
I have also been in jobs where I needed to leave my family and travel away from home for ad hoc work trips. Sometimes for weeks at a time and sometimes for five 3 days trips / month.
Now I am heavily entranced in the FIFO (TATH) lifestyle.
Many would argue that the biggest incentive for working away is the money. For me, this is not the case. Not all my work related travel was rewarded with a financial gain; in fact through most of my work career I could have been remunerated much higher working closer to home. But that would have been know where near as much fun and character building.
So what do I think are the benefits of travelling away for work? Why have I and why will I continue to choose this career path?
Here are my 5 reason to take the plunge!
1. It removes you from your Comfort Zone
Do you love to travel? Are you passionate about your career? Do you have a high tolerance for risk? It doesn’t matter if the answer to all of these questions is yes. Travelling away to work puts everyone in some way outside their comfort zone.
After all, you are away from your family, your friends, your house….your safety net. Weather travelling away to work for a week, a month, indefinitely or permanently; the decision is a brave one. Slowly you will move into a new comfort zone. You may choose to stay here for a while or jump from that one also!
Being out of your comfort zone, for me, is one of life’s great experiences and the feeling of fulfilment when you find steady ground again is almost overwhelming.
2. It makes you more Adaptable, Flexible & Tolerant
Working away exposes you to a vast range of people, culture and behaviour. The saying “you can’t choose your family or your work colleagues” rings true. Like the yearly Christmas lunch, you have to bite your tongue when dodgy Uncle Richo makes his speech and turns everyone off their lunch. Sometimes you have to just smile and nod.
You can never like everyone and everyone will never like you but any good work place is not build on fondness for each other. Great work places are built on respect. With respect comes tolerance and with tolerance comes adaption and acceptance. After all, you all have one thing in common. Your work!
3. Obstacles become Challenges
You face many obstacles in day to day life, both at work and at home. Small, generally unnoticed obstacles that we are so used to overcoming, we’re not even aware of them. When working away, many factors can cause these obstacles to become magnified; as well as new ones presenting themselves.
You learn very fast that if you want to survive in that particular line of work, you need to embrace these challenges as they are small yet golden opportunities to prove that you can do it. Eventually, you tend to be less reactive, the challenges seem less and your time away at work gets easier.
These wins are more fulfilling given the somewhat foreign environment you can find yourself in… Where is that comfort zone again??
4. You become more open to making friends with new people
When you choose the path of working away, especially for extended periods of time, two things tend to happen. You have to accept the fact that you will lose some of your current friends but you will also gain a few new ones.
I’m talking about actual friends. Friendships that are formed under the adversity of circumstance and challenges you both share. For me, close friendships formed while working away are rare but the ones I have made are strong and lifelong.
Another aspect here is that you become friends with people that you otherwise may never have been in the situation to meet or be exposed to. You are forced to be friendly with people who you could otherwise avoid.
5. It makes you more appealing to future employers
This might be an overlooked benefit of working away, but this sort of work experience is definitely something employers look for. This is especially the case if the employer has had similar experience with working away. How do I know this?
Because I have been interviewing and employing people for many years now and it is one thing I always look for in a CV, particularly if the job requires regular away travel for long periods of time.
Having the experience and demonstrated ability to work away shows many characteristics. It tells the employer you are willing to go outside your comfort zone, consciously or not. It demonstrates the ability to be flexible and adapt.
It shows that you can overcome the obstacles that will definitely arise and it also gives the employer some kind of insight into your ability to make friends in a relatively unfamiliar environment. When I interview candidates for both crew and supervisory / engineering roles, this is a big focus.
It may not be obvious from the above 5 points when considered individually, but if you combine them it leads to a sneaky point number 6….Working away is EXCITING!!!!
My job is exciting. My previous jobs have been exciting. When I was safely in my comfort zone and the excitement faded, I changed positions to seek new challenges and intensity.
Take all the professions outlined on Blog 3. They are all the kind of professions that are high risk, different, fun, challenging, interesting, intriguing and…exciting. This is not to say you have to be some kind of crazy person or adventurer, but I believe you have to want to take this path, and not feel that you have to.
These jobs can be demanding and you have to be prepared. They are also not the highest remunerated professions but for those who work them, they tick more important boxes.
I’d love to know what keeps you working away, or why you are thinking about choosing this type of career. What boxes does working away tick for you?
Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!