Gap Year. Recently these two words have been used, thought about, and planned around more than ever, but what is a gap year actually? Most people understand a gap year to be time spent post-graduation before pursuing more schooling, jobs or other exciting opportunities. In some cases, it may mean traveling, getting a job or fellowship, or dedicating time to do service work before pursuing a specific profession.
For many, including myself, it’s a chance to try something completely different even as you explore a specific career path. I originally intended to use my gap year experience as a career advisor to gain more formal work experience, to better prepare to apply to law school, and learn more about my self as a professional. However, I gained more than that. As someone pursuing a career in public service and going to law school, there’s a sense of adaptability that is necessary to be effective. For example learning how to give (sometimes the same) information to different people from diverse backgrounds in different ways challenged me to be a better communicator. I tapped into and honed abilities like project management skills, public speaking and thinking critically about different problems around every corner. I am confident that everything I gained from my gap year experience prepared me for my next steps even though naturally, my work as a career advisor is completely different.
Being intentional about how to spend your gap year is a great way to gain as much as you possibly can that will benefit you in the next opportunity you seek.
Some things to ask yourself if you’re considering To Gap or Not Gap?
First begin by thinking about the length of time you¹re hoping to have as a gap. Is it 4-6 months? 1 year? More? Be mindful of the length of commitment of different opportunities as you search and apply.
Secondly, think about your goals for your gap year experience. Is it to sharpen particular skills? See parts of the world you¹ve never been? Contribute to a social cause or gain educational experiences? What do you hope to learn or do?
As you think about these questions, understand a gap year isn’t for everyone. For example if you want to jump start your career right away. Also, if you are unsure of what’s next after your gap year you may need to think about and research how you can specifically explore your interests and related fields.