Taking a year to travel and experience new things, sounds great, but could this decision hurt your career? Here are all the pros and cons you need to consider.
Prepare for the Future
School and university are responsible for equipping us with all the knowledge we’ll need to lead fulfilling professional lives, but as anyone who’s ever graduated university will tell you, there’s no way to prepare for the workplace unless you experience life.
One of the most important gap year benefits is that it allows you to acquire life skills that will prove invaluable in the future. Learning to take initiative, make decisions fast and find solutions to problems that may appear to be unsolvable are all skills that are essential in the professional world and they are skills you’ll master after spending a year abroad on your own.
See the World
Another great gap year benefit is that it allows you to discover the world. This is important if you’re just about to graduate since entering the workforce often means saying goodbye to extended vacations. As you’ll inevitably find out, taking time off in the adult world means having to coordinate with a lot of other people which often results in only being able to take a few days here and there. So if you’ve been dreaming of adventures in the Amazon and visiting Machu Picchu, it might well be your last chance.
Learn New Skills
To succeed in the workforce you need to make your CV stand out, and as recruiters are now driven to find highly skilled professionals, you need to ensure that your CV features skills that the rest of the competition does not possess. Luckily, one of the benefits of a gap year is that it allows you to acquire such skills.
As you’ll be forced to step out of your comfort zone, you’ll gain skills that will be useful in the professional world. To maximise the positive effect consider finding work or volunteering opportunities that are relevant to your chosen profession.
Gain Work Experience
Volunteering, interning and getting work abroad can help you overcome a major graduate issue: lack of work experience. As many employers are not willing to hire people without experience, graduates often need to look for opportunities outside their sector that are below their qualifications. Finding similar work abroad, however, could help you overcome this problem and gain work experience, so it’s important to be smart about your time off and take advantage of it.
Reflect on Career Decisions
Choosing a career is not easy for everyone. Many people enter university and even graduate from it unsure of their decisions. A sabbatical can give you time to reflect on your decisions, which, in turn, can help you avoid other mistakes and fix mistakes you might have already made.
Learn a New Language
As the quote says ‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world’, and it’s essential for any individual who dreams of becoming a successful professional to move beyond the limitations of their language.It will not only benefit them in various work relations, but it will also expand their cognitive abilities in general.
Pursue Other Interests
As previously discussed, not everyone is confident that they’ve made the right career decision. One of the most important gap year advantages is that it allows you to explore other interests and see how you can incorporate them into your life. So, if for example, you’ve studied Business Administration but are quite the social butterfly and would much rather go into event planning, you might want to consider joining charity causes and helping out in their fund-raising events. This will allow you to explore your interests as well as find ways to incorporate these interests into your professional life.
Waste of Money
The sheer cost of taking time off could be a major gap year disadvantage for you. If you are considering volunteering abroad through an organisation you should know that their programmes can be costly, and there’s always your student debt to take into consideration as well. You also need to consider whether having this experience could be beneficial to your career and potentially help you earn more in the long run. Getting a job and making paying off your student debt is the smart thing to do as not only will you reduce costs, but you’ll also be gaining experience that makes your CV stand out.
Creates a Gap on Your CV
If you’ve ever applied for a job, then you probably know that recruiters prefer that you have all of your time accounted for on your CV. They are weary of graduates with CV gaps as they consider them to be unreliable or not committed enough. As such, a year you spend abroad doing nothing but travelling will speak poorly about your dedication to your career, unless you can demonstrate how the experience has shaped you into a better professional. This is why finding work during your time off is crucial and why you should be careful when explaining your year on your CV.
Another major gap year disadvantage is that it might make you lose momentum. Going from school to university and from university to getting a job could be incentive enough to motivate you and allow you to focus on your goals. Interrupting that linear progression can make you disengage from your goals, and also affect your professional future.
Many admission tutors reject candidates who want to take time off after their studies because they worry about them losing momentum, as well as forgetting valuable knowledge (especially in highly specialised fields). Talking to the university about your plans is strongly advised as it can help save you from heartache down the line.
Miss Out on Graduate Scheme Opportunities
As you probably know, graduate schemes are highly competitive since they offer a fast-track route to career development. If you are planning on taking a year off after graduation, then you should know that you’ll be damaging your chances to apply and get selected for these opportunities.
Note that graduates are always selected, and even though you may have a chance to apply a year after graduation, it’s still a risky decision to make so make sure that you are certain you are not interested in graduate schemes.
Reduce Your Chances of Taking Advantage of Internships
Internships are a great way to make professional connections and get the lay of the land in your chosen profession. Interning after graduation can help you get a head-start in your career, while it can also help you determine if you are happy with your career choices.
But, taking time off could hurt your chances of exploring this opportunity. This can definitely hurt your chances of starting on the right foot in your chosen career so make sure you take it into account when weighing gap year pros and cons.
Settling Back Home Could Be Difficult
One of the major drawbacks of taking time off to travel is the fact that getting back home and readjusting to everyday life can be tough. After experiencing strange cultures and different ways of living, returning to what you’ve always known can take an emotional toll whether you expect it to or not.
Deciding whether to take a year off should be the result of deciding which of these gap year pros and cons apply to you. These gap year ideas might also guide you to professional opportunities.
Would a gap year benefit your career or not? Let me know in the comment section below.