To Gap Yah or not to Gap Yah? It may be the question facing you after secondary school or university One aspect of making that decision should be whether you think that prospective employers in the future will roll their eyes at your year away from education, or clap with glee when you talk about it.
Taking the risk
The risk of a gap year is that it can come across to an employer as an extended vacation, especially if conducted by someone perceived as privileged. Some may see a year out of education as likely to have lead to losing knowledge and momentum.
Are you taking time out, or putting that time to valuable use in the eyes of your employer? A multinational bar crawl or breaking all records for movie marathons on Netflix are not going to impress during an interview, no matter how hard you try to spin it as a truly life changing experience.
However, a mindful and constructive gap year can be what marks you out from the crowd of fellow, equally qualified, job seekers. Taking a gap year can be a sign that you have been proactive in seeking the experiences which will best benefit you, and is often the year in which a person will become properly independent and grow up.
Employers need to see that this year has been productive, so ensure that your gap year is filled with activities which challenge you and develop skills which make you shine brightly through the CV pile. Activities which have taken leadership, initiative and an element of risk taking are widely valued. An interesting gap year of volunteering work or teaching a language overseas stands out among lists of numerical achievements.
Gap years which are the most impressive to employers are those which involve a relevant work placement. In a highly competitive job market, a year of experience in the industry you are looking to find a job in puts you well ahead of the game and can make you a more desirable candidate than someone with higher grades.
Gauging the value
If you are unsure about the value of the plan you have then try to convince a few cynical relatives and a teacher or professor who you know has no qualms with dealing out tough love. Their reaction will help you to gauge whether your enthusiasm comes from wanting a break, or genuinely wanting to expand your horizons and do something daring and different.
When sending in applications and going for interviews, your gap year is only one small part of the equation which will either equal a yes, or no from the company you are approaching. Gap years are rarely solely about increasing employability. The decision to take one should hinge on personal development, not just ticking another box.
What do you believe employers think of gap years, from your experience? Tell us below.
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr