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After spending over a decade working hard through your school years, it seems only fair that you take a little bit of a break before diving into college or a career.

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?

Most people will support your choice to take a gap year or extended break. 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. In reality, a gap year experience will be very beneficial to your career. 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 work feeling fresh and ready for anything.

A gap break is an opportunity to reflect on what you really want to do in life and discover the opportunities that are out there for you.

 

Here are three reasons why taking a gap year is a great career move.

1. You can learn about other cultures

Where ever you’re going you’ll get the chance to change your outlook on the world. Go to a country you’ve never visited before and completely immerse yourself in the lifestyle. 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. Buying food, the career you have, how you travel in future and who you vote for in elections-they will all have an impact on others.

Your true calling might be in a place where 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.  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. 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. You will have choices to make about how much you want to spend, where to go and for how long. You might feel the need to keep moving during their gap year and cram in as much as possible, however fleeting. But also consider a bit of slow travel or embed yourself a bit deeper into a place through volunteering.

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. 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. 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.

You can volunteer in animal care, political campaigns, libraries, art museums, scientific research, healthcare, radio, social enterprise and many other areas. Apply for courses,  internships with companies overseas or teaching English as a foreign language. Train as a ski instructor, a super yacht crew member or expedition leader. You can find work in those industries to help fund the rest of your gap year.

Once you’re actually trying to break into the working world, time spent volunteering will look great on your CV. Remember that it will be reason why you chose to do it, what you did, learned and why you’ve now decided on this job that the interviewer will be interested in.

Your gap experience will show dedication, compassion, work ethic and all kinds of things that will be appealing to a potential employer. A gap year or extended break in your late teens and early twenties is a really great time to do it but a career break is also an option later in life.

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. It helps to know where you going, in order to take the right stepping stones to get there. However 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 choices difficult. It is not as informed as it could be which leads to many students dropping out of college or changing careers.

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. You might not know about these because the subjects in schools don’t cover them. Often 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

Ultimately, the decision on whether you want to take a gap break of some kind or get to work and study straight away is yours. It’s worth spending some time to research, learn and build up new experiences either whilst you study or by taking a gap break of some kind. It will mean your career choice is based on something more substantial than schools subjects chosen at 14 and 16.
And if you’re worried about the impact of a gap break on your career, don’t be. You can make a gap year worth your while from a work perspective, while also enjoying some time when you are not tied to a particular institution for the foreseeable future.

Gap Year Guide