When I was studying at high school, I was determined to pursue a career in the art world. I wanted to be a painter or a museum curator. Did I complete further study to pursue this career? No. Do I regret it? No, because art is my passion, not my ideal career. Did I consider a Gap Year? No.
Is it reasonable for other people to expect you to know what you want for a career, and to commit to paying off a mortgage on your brain, when you are still relying on others for your financial (and in some cases emotional) needs? Don’t get me wrong. Many students each year leave school in pursuit of further education and they will be successful in their chosen fields, but the statistics are telling us that perhaps there is a better way.
With an increase in gap year programmes the opportunity to travel and work abroad is proving attractive to many newly graduated students.
How Can Travel Help?
In the United Kingdom and the United States, students who had taken a gap year were more likely to graduate with higher grade point averages than individuals who went straight to college. What’s more, gap year students with lower academic achievement in high school were achieving similar averages. (Crawford and Cribb 2012, Clagett 2013)
A Gap Year will teach you to step out of the structure of the classroom and your home environment, learn by making mistakes, practice life skills, fall in love with learning again, and – of course – travel! Time is spent exploring and discovering yourself as an individual before committing financially to further study. I meet too many students who have invested thousands of dollars in student loan debt, only to discover midway through the course that they chose the wrong path. Or worse, they can’t secure work! (But that’s a subject for another article).
What Do Employers Think?
Most employers and recruiters recognise that a Gap Year adds colour and texture to the character of a person that books simply can’t teach. Ultimately, how a student spends their time during a Gap Year will determine how well an employer will respond to them.
Plan some form of work in your gap year. It doesn’t have to be paid. It could be maintaining a daily blog or vlog of your trip and what you learned in your travels, to demonstrate your communication, organisation and research skills. Learn a new skill from one of the locals and share one of your skills with them, or join a community group so you can immerse yourself in the new culture. These are all powerful experiences that show your versatility and willingness to learn and accept new challenges. And more importantly, highlight your Gap Year on your CV in a manner that adds value and distinguishes you from your competitors.
Evidence shows that 80% of students felt that their gap year added to their employability and 66% of students took their academic work more seriously after having a gap year.(Source: https://yearoutgroup.org/gap-year-statistics/)
If you are one of the students who are fortunate enough to go abroad before you commence your studies, plan your time well. What do you want to achieve while you are away, and what experiences are important to you? Give thought to your return and your future career prospects because, after all, time flies when you’re having fun!