So you’ve decided to take a gap year…why not make the most of it?
When done right, a gap year provides you with an incredible opportunity to gain skills and experiences while giving you time to reflect and consider your future. If your gap year is productive and demonstrates that you have successfully managed your time, it can be a great addition to your CV.
Here are five of our suggestions that will help you get the most out of your gap year:
Lots of people use their year out to explore the world. A gap year gives you the time and space to organise an adventure abroad which will help you to develop your communication skills, independence and cultural sensitivity.
If you do decide to go travelling, it’s important to plan your trip carefully, making it creative, purposeful, exciting, and within your financial means.
So before setting off, do your research into everything from prospective locations and travel buddies, to the length of your trip, budget, and potential employment opportunities. You might find that travelling can be more affordable than you think, with some gap year programs subsidizing travel costs in exchange for volunteering, while others connect students to overseas jobs.
Having a year to explore means that you can really get to know a country and its culture, and perhaps even learn a new language.
Learn something new
Gap years are a great time to learn something new.
You might be working and saving money or already abroad, but wherever you are, you can find the opportunity to learn a new and valuable skill. Not only could this expand your knowledge, but it could also be the perfect way to boost your career prospects.
You could pursue a passion that you’ve never had the chance to dedicate time to, or even choose something at random – whether it’s taking up new language, learning how to code or gaining a new practical skill such as cooking, a musical instrument or life drawing.
There are plenty of online courses to sign up to, but if you’re after a more sociable experience, then you can also find a wide range of day and evening classes local to you.
And, with universities and employers on the lookout to see what you’ve achieved during your gap year, gaining a new skill is a great way to prove that you haven’t just taken the year off.
And let’s face it, it beats school.
Gain some work experience
Work experience is an incredibly useful and often quick way to gain some sense and understanding of your future ambitions.
The more relevant the experience is to your career ambitions or field of study, the more beneficial it will be when submitting an application or CV. However, that doesn’t mean you should veto anything outside of your comfort zone.
Any work experience is good experience, and will teach you a wide range of transferable skills to apply to almost any job. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with and learn from a new group of people.
And, if you work hard and leave on good terms, you might even open yourself up to full-time role in the future – as well as guarantee a positive reference for future employers or universities.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to support a worthwhile cause and engage in a community, whilst gaining valuable work experience.
It could mean anything from helping out at your local soup kitchen or high street charity shop a couple of days a week, to joining an international program and teaching children overseas for a month.
Working with charities shows dedication, compassion and commitment – all of which are extremely valuable to employers. Especially if the roles you’re looking to do are based around helping others.
But no matter what kind of volunteering you choose to do or how long you decide to do it , you’ll be helping people or causes that you care about. And, with volunteering opportunities available in almost every field, you’ll also be able to use what you’ve learnt to find work in the future.
Keep track of your experiences
However you decide to spend your gap year, it’s sure to be a whirlwind of unique experiences and accomplishments.
But if you don’t document your time off, you might find that relaying everything you’ve done in a year’s time results in a sudden mind blank; which is the last thing you want when you’re face-to-face with an interviewer.
So whether it’s by writing a diary or scrapbook, or even starting a blog, keeping a record of your memories is a great way to make the most out of your gap year – whilst ensuring future employers can see exactly what you’ve achieved.
If you’re interested in working in the creative industries, these are also great ways to demonstrate your writing, photography, or drawing skills.
Because let’s face it, keeping track of events as they happen is much easier than trying to remember them all at the end of the year.
Gap year dos and don’ts
- Make new friends
- Have fun and enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity
- Research your travel destinations
- Underestimate the importance of money management
- Make yourself an easy target (be careful with camera and cash)
- Party all night and sleep all day
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