As May has quickly come and gone you may be feeling pressure to land your dream job the moment after graduation. But what if you have no clue what, where, or how you’ll be getting any job related to your major? What if you’re not sure about your choice of major at all? You hit the panic button as you reevaluate the ten year plan you’ve laid out for yourself. Don’t be scared because there’s a little something called the gap year that’s here to save you.
What exactly is a gap year, and what does it mean for you?
A gap year is one academic year in which the student, you, steps away from your career to travel the globe, figure out what you want out of life, and what career path you actually want to take, rather than just panicking after college graduation.
No, a gap year after college is not a symptom of being a lazy, unmotivated, or unsuccessful student after graduation. Don’t worry if you haven’t planned your whole life out by the age of twenty-two. The gap year is a time for you to reflect on what you want out of this world while also gaining many personal and career benefits. It’s a time in your life to take a breath and enjoy it before you may become a working slave in the corporate world.
Believe it or not, taking a break from work may actually increase your workplace performance amongst your return. Throughout your gap year, you’ll develop greater career ambitions and goals for yourself.
When you eventually do return, you won’t take your first real job for granted. It won’t be something that’s just landed in your lap, because you’ve already taken the time to explore your options and find what best suits you. You took the time to work for this job and prove your worth. You will have greater work ethic than your coworkers.
Maybe during your time trekking around the world you had to wait tables or wash dishes to make ends meet. Perfect. It’s another life skill you’ve added to your resume. There’s no shame in this. Everyone in their life should experience having at least one or two of these gigs before landing the job of their dreams. It teaches you how to work hard, like work your ass off hard. Yet, you may also find that along the way you gained a sense of appreciation towards people who always have jobs like this. You’ll no longer take the custodian or barista for granted because you’ve learned what it takes to work hard.
Amongst your return, you’ll feel more motivated to jump back into things because you’re not feeling burnt out. It can be rather difficult to pound the pavement right after you’ve spent the last four years studying hard in college. But with a slight mental break, you’ll feel fresh and rested enough to put all of your energy into your new career.
A gap year is also a great resume builder in many ways. During your time off you may learn a new language, a new skill set, or experience a new culture that will change your perspective on the world. You’ll be more adaptable to new situations than someone who hasn’t taken a gap year because you’ve experienced a different culture than that of your own. Living amongst a different society will give you different perspective on things, which will make you a valuable commodity. Your experiences of traveling abroad will give you unique ideas about people and places around the world.
In addition to the numerous perks a gap year will add to your future career, time off will provide you with many personal benefits as well.
If you’re not that college graduate who has your whole future planned out, then that’s ok. This is your time to figure out which path you want to take personally in life and with your career. Or this can be the time for you to reflect on, and confirm your decision of your academic major and future career plans. It’s that extra bit of reassurance that will destroy any doubt in your mind that you had before graduation.
Being young, healthy, and adventurous is also a great time to give back to the world through volunteer work. You’ll be making a huge impact on the local communities you serve by working on many projects that matter to them. Many volunteer programs offer housing to live abroad and volunteer for an extended amount of time. This will be an experience you can always look back and reflect on. Again, it’s something that will give you insight and a greater perspective on the world. Taking time to volunteer abroad will humble you and will make you an all around improved human being. Plus, it’s always better to volunteer now before you’re tied down by a mortgage payment, future children, or your career.
Speaking of kids and careers, this is your time to find out what you want out of life. Time alone by yourself in a different country allows for much self-discovery. Without anyone or anything there to influence you, your mind will have a lot of free time to contemplate what will make you happy in the future. Those who rush into a demanding career right after graduation but are still confused about what they want life often run into problems like an identity crises later in life. You’ll never get this time of reflection in your life back once the ball gets rolling. Take advantage of it while you can.
Sometimes when rushing from one phase of life to the next it can be easy to lose track of what’s truly important. Taking a gap year allows you to learn about what’s really important in the world at a very early age which sets you up for success. Being a twenty-two year old college graduate and knowing about pressing global issues rather than being upset about losing a round of beer pong or having a crappy blind date is colossal. It puts a good perspective on the whole scheme of things.
As we all know, life moves pretty fast. Yesterday it seemed like you were just starting your freshman year, and today you’ve graduated. You need this time to slow the clock down, and soak in the beauty of life. Trust me, you won’t look back at this time in your life when you’re eighty years old, sitting in a nursing home, unable to travel and think, “Man I sure regret exploring the world when I was young.”
As scary and daunting as taking a whole year off may seem, it will teach you so much about yourself and the world. Not having your shit together may be a gift in retrospect because after it’s all said and done, you’ll be confident in who you are as a person and what you want your life to be.