Eight ways a gap year can help your future career

July 29, 2015

Some students graduate high school and go right to college. But for other young people, they take a step back before college and take a year off. A gap year before college can be a great experience. It may not only be a time you remember forever, it may help you in your future career in the following ways:

Helps you step out of your comfort zone

Depending how you spend your gap year, you may meet new people or explore a different part of the world. Even if you never leave your hometown, you may still have new experiences doing volunteer work or completing an internship. Being forced to talk with different people, or do new things can push you out of your comfort zone, which may result in increased confidence. Having self-confidence will help you throughout your career.

You may develop new skills

If you spend your gap year working or doing volunteer work, you may learn new skills, which can pay off down the road. For example, if you spend a year teaching English in another country, you may learn a new language, which can be an asset in any career. Think of all the new skills you can gain during a gap year from computer skills to communication that may help your future career.

Allows you time to make decisions

Taking a year off whether it is to travel, work or both can be just what you need. Sometimes it can be hard to make decisions if you are on the go all the time. You may need to slow down and reflect on your goals for the future. A year away from school may give you time to consider what direction you want your career to go in. A gap year can help you gain clarity and perspective on how you want to spend your working days. Finding a career you are passionate about will make your working hours more enjoyable.

You may become more independent

Working, volunteering and traveling, especially aboard, can increase your independence. Feeling more independence may help you become a better decision maker and more confident in your choices, both of which will help you regardless of what career you pursue.

It can be résumé building

If you spend your gap year working or volunteering, it shows you are committed and provides you with work experience. As you move forward in your career, employers look for workers who have diverse experience. Even if your gap year was spent working or volunteering in a field other than what you plan to pursue in college, it could be beneficial. Keep in mind, you have a lot of options from volunteering abroad to working to an internship in a nearby community.

Increases motivation

Everyone needs to recharge his or her battery occasionally. If your focus has been on your studies whether it was high school or college, you may need a little breathing room. Taking time off can help you refocus and allow you the break you need to come back more motivated than ever. Being more motivated may help you do well in college, med school or wherever you are headed.

How should you spend your gap year?

How your gap year helps you largely depends on how you spend it. Sitting around and becoming a video game champ or hanging out with friends every night may be fun, but it won’t provide you with a lot of benefits.

Give a lot of thought to how you will spend your gap year. There are not a lot of opportunities in life to take a year off from the real world and do something new. You have several options depending on your budget and interests. Travel, volunteer, get a job, obtain an internship or do a combination of the above. Your gap year can be life changing and provide you with valuable insight into what direction you want your career to go in.

Think outside the box

When a lot of people think of a gap year, they think of volunteering. Although volunteering can be a rewarding experience, don’t forget you can design your gap year how you see fit. For instance, you can spend your gap year learning something new, accomplishing goals or pursuing a passion. Start a small business from home, travel to all fifty states or learn something new.

You also don’t have to spend the entire year doing one thing. For example, if you want to volunteer, no one said you have to do it for the entire 12 months. Consider taking six months to volunteer or work and six months to travel. The point is, decide what matters to you and what you want to gain from your gap year. Are you hoping to gain a new skill or do you want to have an adventure or give back to your community?

Figuring it all out

Before you decide whether to take a gap year and how to spend it, you have a few things to consider.

Plan ahead of time

Don’t wait until you graduate to plan what you will do during your gap year. Consider options months before you get your diploma. A gap year may be a once in a lifetime experience, and you want to spend it doing something that you will enjoy and will benefit you.

Weigh the pros and cons of a gap year honestly

Be honest with yourself about how you plan to spend your gap year. Is it doing something constructive or is it just a chance to chill out for a while and sleep in. Consider what you can gain from the experience and decide if it is worth delaying school.

Don’t let other people decide what you should do

Well-meaning friends and family may have ideas on how you should spend your gap year or even if you should take one. While it is a good idea to hear people out and consider their advice, you have to make the decision.