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Why Gap Year Jobs Matter

Friday 29th July 2011

Using your gap year to work, paid or voluntary, is a superb career stepping stone

Not so very long ago, the concept of the gap year was considered by many to be a bit of an indulgence for the wealthy; a luxury that few could afford in the race to finish education and get on to the career ladder.  Partly, this was due to the fact that the trustafarians of this world might use a gap year to bum around Goa, and develop poor personal hygiene in the hair department... If this applies to you, and you have the pot of cash to fund such behaviour, you have our grudging blessing and simmering envy...

However, for those of you who are planning to work in your gap year, the experience can be truly priceless.  Taking time out from education is an excellent way to get a more balanced view of the world than one might develop moving directly from one educational institute to another.  Necessarily, the school system is largely geared towards providing the training needed to pass exams, but sometimes this can leave little room for more holistic life experiences.  Qualifications open doors, for further and higher education, and ultimately careers;  but the danger is that without taking adequate time out for reflection on the path you wish to follow, you may be opening the wrong doors entirely.

Careers advice is no substitute for thinking for yourself, and the momentous decisions faced by the school leaver are not ones that can, or should, be taken lightly – or too quickly.  Knowing what you want to do for a living can be difficult to work out at any age of life, but at least with a little experience you can narrow your options somewhat: knowing what you do not want can be just as important a part of the jigsaw puzzle as (thinking you have) a firm idea of what to do when you leave school.

Additionally, a year out, working in a job that you do not necessarily want to do for the rest of your life, can really focus the mind when it comes time to head back to the world of education, and pursue your blueprint for the perfect career.  You may find an exciting new direction to take during a year away from the more standard channels of career advice, and in so doing avoid the potential pitfall of spending  time and money starting a course that turns out to just not be for you.

So look far and wide, and try not to limit yourself too much when it comes to the type of job you are looking for in your gap year – there are valuable experiences to be found in all sorts of surprising places.  Look at the jobs section in papers like the Guardian, speak to friends, and do as much research as you can.  The world is yours!