When your life in education comes to an end, whether after school or university, it is understandable that you may want to take a bit of a break before going straight into a career. Whether you want to recharge your batteries or try something new, it is certainly not essential that you enter the job market straight away.
However, there is good use of this time and bad. The former can not only prove personally enriching, it could ultimately be useful in your job search. The latter will likely be viewed as wasted time by recruiters.
Relax, but not for too long
Between education and work, it is perfectly acceptable for you to take some time where you don’t do much apart from relax. Spending some time on the beach or living with your parents is fine for a couple of weeks, but then what? If you have a blank year on your CV and you’ve spent it sitting on the sofa, it doesn’t give a great impression to employers.
Of course, your time off between education and work shouldn’t simply be about getting the right job, so making time for yourself is vital. However, your first job may end up being the most difficult one to secure. Without prior experience to draw on, your educational credentials are the primary way that recruiters will distinguish you from other candidates. This will be especially true if you spend all your time relaxing post-education. Other candidates that may have used the time productively may be viewed more favourably when the time comes to look for work.
Come up with a clear plan
One way of ensuring that you use the time wisely between education and work is to come up with a plan. Even something as simple as a spreadsheet showing how long you are going to spend at home and how long you are going to go travelling for can help. Plus, you can use this approach to lay long-term plans for acquiring a job when the time is right.
Learn some new skills
Is there something that you’ve always wanted to learn but you’ve never had the time? Well now you do. Using the time between education and work for something productive will help develop you into a more rounded person and look great for your future career prospects.
What’s more, these new skills can take any form you like, you don’t have to have a future job in mind. You could learn first aid by completing an online CPR course, acquire a second language by taking formal lessons, or pick up a musical instrument and explore the host of online resources available to beginners.
There are now more opportunities than ever to pick up new skills, particularly as a result of the internet. Online courses are available in a wide range of subjects and YouTube tutorials provide a more informal way for you to acquire new knowledge. Of course, for some jobs to recognise your skills you may prefer to have a qualification of some kind, but for other skills your own personal progression should be enough to satisfy you.
Preparing yourself for independence
If you are going from school or university into the world or work, it is quite likely that it won’t be long before you have your own accommodation and greater personal responsibilities. Of course, this may already be the case, particularly if you’ve spent time at university away from home. For anyone that has not had much experience of independent living, however, the time between education and work could be spent preparing yourself.
There are a great number of skills that go neglected by education providers, and while they may be supplied by your parents, they also may not. Are you able to cook nutritious and tasty meals for yourself, for example? If not, then make sure you learn how. Ask your parents for advice and pick up some second-hand cook books so you can learn the basics. You don’t have to become a Michelin-starred chef, but being able to cook for yourself is a major aspect of living a long, healthy life.
Similarly, could you stand to learn a little bit more about future household outgoings? Apart from your utility bills, there are other considerations like council tax that you may have not had any experience with. Then, there are also financial considerations relating to employment, like the rate of tax you will pay. The time before you start employment is a great time to educate yourself on these matters, whether you conduct your own research or ask someone for help.
See a new part of the world
The image of the classic gap year experience is travelling the world, but it doesn’t have to conform to the clichéd examples you read about online. Instead, use travel as a way of encountering new experiences and broadening your horizons. Travel can force you out of your comfort zone and, as a result, help you to discover something about yourself that you never knew.
There are also ways that you can put your travel to good use. There are a wide number of volunteer programmes that specialise in work abroad that would look great on your CV. Not only does volunteering give you an opportunity to give something back to the world, it also gives you an chance to learn new skills. Depending on the programme that you are taking part in, you can use your volunteer work to demonstrate responsibility, time management, attention to detail and many other skills to a recruiter.
If you do decide to travel between education and work you could also ensure that you have something concrete to show to future job prospects. Starting a blog, for example, is straightforward and lets you demonstrate creativity and writing ability. What’s more, you may discover that it’s something that you absolutely love doing and decide to make a career out of travel writing! You never know how your experiences will inform your future work, so be sure to make the most of the time you have before you enter full-time employment.
Did you enjoy your time off before work? Share any gap year or time-off stories in the comments below.
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