Want To Take A Gap Year?

What you do during your gap year can be almost as important as your exam results in the eyes of a potential employer. In an increasingly competitive job market, candidates need to ensure they present themselves in the best possible light in order to stand out from the crowd.

While taking on an unskilled job to save some money and reduce your level of student debt may show a degree of shrewd financial planning, it may not ultimately be the best use of your time, particularly if it prevents you getting a higher paid position a few years down the line.

Similarly, a year spent bumming around the Far East or India with a few friends may be a hugely tempting prospect and lots of fun, it won’t look particularly impressive when it appears on your CV.

Although you might try to argue that travel broadens the mind and builds independence, many employers no longer see it that way. The advent of mobile phones, internet cafes and growth of the hostel network mean that backpacking is nowhere near as challenging as it once was. Employers may also be wary as they might suspect you could be tempted to up sticks and head off once again.

The key to making the most of your gap year is to plan ahead. The more relevant your activities are to the course you plan to study or to the career you plan to follow once you graduate the better.

If you want to study law, for example, spending some time as an unpaid intern in a solicitor’s office could be invaluable. Choosing this kind of option for your gap year need not prevent you from broadening your horizons. Interning in a law office in New Zealand, Hong Kong or Canada would allow plenty of opportunities for travel but also give you a head start in your career.

If the idea of work experience, even in another country, fails to satisfy your wanderlust, another option is to consider volunteering abroad. Developing countries require a steady stream of enthusiastic workers to help build schools, develop irrigation systems and provide basic health care.

Living in a remote part of Africa or South America with a small group of other volunteers will be a once in a lifetime, character-building experience and you’ll get to know your destination country and its people in a way no tourist ever could.

Knowing that you have freely giving your time to help others less fortunate will leave you feeling immensely proud inside and few prospective employers will fail to be impressed by such commitment, no matter which profession you choose to pursue.

Although taking time off between school and university is commonly referred to as a gap year, most students find they actually have around 15 months at their disposal. This makes it possible to spend some travelling, some volunteering and some gaining work experience – you just need to plan it out well in advance.

Even if you choose to remain at home during your time off, you can still use it wisely by learning a new skill or doing some part-time study in an area that interests you but is not necessarily related to your choice of career. There are also plenty of organisations in the UK that could use your assistance, from working with disabled children to helping out at an old people’s home.

Whatever you do, the best advice is to focus on developing skills that employers value the most. If you can show that you have learned how to work as part of a team, how to solve problems and developed your interpersonal skills, you’ll have made the best possible start in your chosen career. 

This post was written on behalf of OCVC.

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