You’ve spent the majority of your life in classrooms up to this point and probably haven’t seen as much of the world as you’d like. So, when will you-after secondary school, after university or after a few years in your first job?
Remember that most people will support your choice to take a gap year or extended break, even if some may fear that if you don’t go straight into the next stage of education or work you’ll lose the mind-set of a hard worker. Perhaps because you won’t have duties and responsibilities to keep you focused or because are only accountable to yourself and therefore likely to have no routine.
In reality, a gap year experience will be very beneficial to your career, The chances are you will have to fundraise and work before you travel in order to save some money. You’ll need to be self-motivated, organised and capable of sorting out problems you encounter when overseas. It will test your resilience, develop your world view and mean you go back to university or into work feeling fresh and ready for anything.
A gap break is also an opportunity to reflect on what you really want to do in life and the opportunities that are out there for you, which you might not even have been aware of before.
Here are three reasons why taking a gap year is a great career move.
1. You can learn about other cultures
The travelling that you’re going to be doing is where you’re going to get the chance to change your outlook on the world. If you go to a country you’ve never visited before and completely immerse yourself in the lifestyle there for a number of weeks, you will get a good sense of the people and the culture and the hopes and concerns for the future. This kind of knowledge can help inform what you decide to do with your life and these choices will probably have an indirect impact on their lives-from the choices you make about buying food, the career you have, how you travel in future and who you vote for in elections.
You might find your true calling in a place that you didn’t expect to find it. You may be moved to make a difference in some way by working for charitable organisation, an NGO or perhaps a social enterprise, technology company or financial institution.
You might also realize that an aspect of a particular culture appeals to you on a personal level and that you want to live and work in a different country. Instead of taking several trips to several different places, you may decide to spend an extended period of time in one country, trying to learn their language. Language skills are highly sought after by employers but also great to have for your own interest and open up doors for you in future.
On top of all that, a good understanding of different cultures can help your deal with customers, clients and colleagues in the workplace and being well-travelled is as appealing to employers if not more so in today’s world.
2. It’s the best time to volunteer or gain work experience.
A gap year should be fun and understandably you don’t only want to be thinking about future studies and careers. Whilst most people aim to travel during their gap year, everyone will be constrained to some extent and have choices to make about how much they want to spend, where to go and for how long. Some feel the need to keep moving during their gap year and cram in as much as possible, however fleeting but you should also consider a bit of slow travel and a great way to embed yourself a bit deeper into a place is to volunteer.
The great thing about volunteering or gaining work experience is that you can do something to fulfil a dream, to try something new or to build particular experience and whatever you choose you will be learning skills and developing knowledge that will of benefit when you return home.
You can gain some great experience doing this while not being under the pressure of a formal paid role. That’s not to say it won’t be challenging or that you can chose to work as little as you like but rather that you have the freedom of knowing this is entirely your choice and your contribution will be valued because of that. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate to yourself just what you are capable of and comes with other benefits too.
Once you’re actually trying to break into the working world, time spent volunteering will look great on your CV but remember that it will be reason why you chose to do it, what you actually did, what you have learned from it and why you have now chosen to apply for a particular job that the interviewer will be interested in.
You can volunteer in animal care, political campaigns, libraries, art museums, scientific research, healthcare, radio, social enterprise and many other areas.
You can also apply for courses, internships with companies overseas, teaching English as a foreign language or train as a ski instructor, a super yacht crew member or expedition leader. You can then find work in those industries to help fund the rest of your gap year.
It will show dedication, compassion, work ethic and all kinds of things that will be appealing to a potential employer in the future and a gap year or extended break in your late teens and early twenties is a really great time to do it.
3. You have the time to make the right decision
The fact so many people are expected to know what we want to do with our lives, before finishing school, has its problems. Whilst it helps to know where you going in order to take the right stepping stones to get there, you never really get a second to think about it.
While you’re actually in school, it’s hard for many to make that decision because they are focusing so much on doing well in everything but you still have to have a specific program in a specific college decided on and applied for before you get your exam results
So much focus on so many different subjects can make career choice difficult to make and is not as informed as it could be which leads to many dropping out of college or deciding not to continue in career they have studied for.
A gap break provides a chance to let thoughts and learning settle so a plan for the future can evolve. There are many fulfilling jobs out there that you might not know about because the subjects in schools don’t cover them and there is little presented back in terms of the sorts of careers that are available or future employment trends.
For example. the impact of the BBC’s Blue Planet on people view of plastic has been astounding and it might drive some to develop skills relevant to work in marine research, recycling, developing alternatives to plastics or in the oil and gas engineering industry itself. Take a look at this guide on Vista Projects about building up your skills for a job like that.