Written by Jenny McWhirter on 29 / 03 / 2018
Gap Year Advice
Which gap year is best for my career?
A very common question and before we dive into the nitty gritty of different career paths, let’s clear one thing up. No matter what career takes your fancy, a gap year will benefit you.
From developing those elusive transferable skills you’ve probably heard lots of people talk about, to specific career related experience, to making your application stand out over and above your peers, a gap year has you covered.
I could write a whole blog on the benefits but, in short 65% of HR executives surveyed by gapyear.com said that volunteering on a gap year made a CV stand out.
So if you’ve got a career in mind, check out this list to help narrow your options for what might work best.
Psst – if you haven’t got any idea on a career scroll right down, I’ve got an option for you in there too…
If you’re thinking about going into the world of medicine, then as you have probably been told you’re in for a VERY competitive process.
A great way to help you stand out, is to gain vital experience within a medical environment. It not only helps you to develop passion and ensure the next 6 years of studying will be worth it, it also shows to universities and future employers that you’ve had experience in the field prior to starting.
Head out to somewhere like Sri Lanka and combine travel with gaining medical experience. You experience a different culture and vastly different medical system that will allow you to draw on a wide experience when you come to finding your way of working.
Ultimately, this will give you a broader perspective to resolve any issue that may be thrown your way.
When it comes to computer science you may wonder how a gap year can help. A desired skill that many recruiters look for post-study is communication.
Many students focus on the high grades and impressive experience you have obtained. However, having communication skills are key – being able to explain a problem, your thought process or plans is essential.
A great way to develop these skills is by putting yourself in a room full of children. Sound strange? Well yes, but trying to explain concepts to children is one of the best ways to learn to be articulate, compassionate and think outside of the box.
Head over to Tanzania to work with the students there and you’ll return with a great understanding of how to help people (especially where culture and common reference points may differ) understand your way of thinking.
With the recent Blue Planet II series bringing to light our endangered marine life I wouldn’t blame you if this has become top of your list of potential careers. Similarly to medicine, not only do employers want a degree-level education they also want that elusive endless list of work experience.
You can spend your gap year, or at least part of it, gaining dive qualifications, survey techniques and more. It will also allow you to understand the reality of the job. Yes, we all would love to be in the Blue Planet series but marine biology does differ slightly from the constant excitement you see in an hour on the TV.
My tip; head out to Madagascar gain your PADI qualifications, learn research techniques and work alongside professionals in the industry. You’ll gain a real insight into the importance of a marine biologist’s career and get some time to network.
If you’re wanting to brave the financial world, good luck! No, but seriously, your gap year is a chance to make that CV stand out and show off. Gaining an internship at Goldman Sachs will give you the chance to network but many in recruitment say a carefully planned gap year can out do an internship.
So how do you use your gap year to it’s full potential? For investment banking a key skill is showing you are willing to take a risk and be fully responsible for the outcome. Sorry a three-month jolly up Australia’s East Coast just isn’t going to cut it in the banking industry.
Instead head somewhere that will push you beyond your comfort zone and the boundaries you are used to. Explore Borneo and trek through the jungle, work with remote communities and get yourself so far from your norm that you will feel uncomfortable. Being able to come out the other side of this having thrived will be a true judgement of character.
If you’re wanting a role with the UN, to work in languages or have a career that will take you around the world then a gap year is a great time to pick up a language.
A key requirement for many international roles is a second language so why not immerse yourself into another culture and pick up the local lingo. Heading out to Guatemala will give you the chance to explore the country, work with turtles and communities whilst providing you with language lessons. The perfect combination to have fun and build that CV.
I know I’ve already mentioned Blue Planet but if you aren’t sure on the marine side, maybe like me you want to be David Attenborough, in which case gain conservation experience on your gap year.
Head out to somewhere like Costa Rica that has conserved more than 25% of its land in national parks and has 10% of the world’s butterflies – along with lots of other amazing wildlife. Gain experience in environmental conservation, turtle protection and more.
You’ll truly live the David Attenborough life and find out a little more as to whether this is a passion you could dedicate yourself to.
Panic not, you are not in the minority! If you are unsure what career you are destined for then use your gap year to pick up those transferable skills I mentioned earlier.
Leadership, flexibility, passion, resource management, team work. These are all possible to pick up throughout your year, whether you are travelling, volunteering or dipping your toes in the working world.
Activities such as keeping a blog, help to develop writing skills, a skill that is almost essential in any career. Communication skills, again needed for almost any career, you can build upon throughout your year just by interacting with a range of people.
Volunteering, where you are offering up your time for the benefit of others, helps to showcase a lot of these transferable skills and build upon them. Explore Ecuador and experience a range of community work, cultural exchange and conservation will ensure to leave plenty of doors open.
A wise piece of advice I was given and could not be truer. Ultimately what will drive success is passion. During a gap year you will be able to find that passion, develop an existing passion or find out that what you thought you were passionate about maybe wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Either way you’ll come out the other side happier (hey you’ve just spent a year exploring and making everyone jealous) more focused and with a cracking CV.
on 29 / 03 / 2018