Not many of us are fortunate enough, or brave enough, to pursue a ‘gap year’ abroad, but those that do find it one of the most invigorating experiences. But a gap year isn’t without risk. The gap on the resume can be interpreted very differently: one person could consider a year spent travelling as nothing more than an avoidance of the realities of life, while the next person may consider it something that enriches the character and broadens horizon.
It comes as no surprise, then, that some people worry what a prospective employer may think when they see a missing year in a job application. Could one year out mean a lack of employment for years, or open doors that were previously closed? In reality, not all gap years all created equal. Some are much more justifiable than others. And, in fact, the gap year can play a pivotal role in your differentiation as a candidate, so long as it can be justified as more than an extended break.
Having said this, here are a few ways to make the most of a gap year so that it compliments the rest of your resume. And with competition for the top university places and jobs getting stiffer each year, a compelling story may just be the leg-up you need to get hired.
An Opportunity to Learn New Skills
Many students treat this as a time to learn new skills, particularly those that you would otherwise not have the time to learn. Whether it is learning a new language, teaching yourself how to write computer code, volunteering for a charitable cause, or even broadening your skillset, a gap year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn something new. And that something just might come in handy and beneficial to the job he is applying for.
Travel and Experience a Different Culture
Traveling and living amongst different people in a foreign land is probably the most popular way to spend a gap year. It remains a great way to be exposed to a culture you are not used to.
Done right, this can be a hugely rewarding experience on so many levels, not simply widening your cultural appreciation, but opening your eyes to the issues that matter to others who are perhaps less fortunate in life. Increasingly, at least part of a gap year on the road is spent doing volunteer work. As they say, the best way to learn a new culture is to experience it for yourself, and there’s no better way to do that than through volunteering.
There’s no doubt about it: experience working abroad will certainly look good on your resume. Whether you are working for free, doing volunteer work, interning at a company, the experience you get is invaluable. What’s more, a prospective employer will more than likely appreciate the effort and the fact that you are a self-motivated person who didn’t shirk away from work. And given that we are living in an ever more globalised world, being able to say that you spent several months working as part of a team in an overseas company will stand you well. How many college grads will have that on their resume?
Perhaps most of all, going abroad at a young age during your gap year is a great time to learn about yourself. Once the safety blanket of home comforts have been removed, you’ll quickly have to learn the ropes of life. It won’t take long before you find out your strengths and weaknesses, how you perform under pressure, what it’s like having to build relationships with people you’ve never met and have nothing in common with, etc. This is highly valuable. It can’t be taught, only learned through first person experience.
What it Means On Your Resume
The key takeaway here is not to lose sight of your career path when away. Planning for the future and enjoying your time while on a gap year are not two binary opposites.