A gap year can afford you time to more fully explore career options, clarify values, and develop skills for the career path you would like to pursue. We often get the impression that getting a full-time job or going immediately on to graduate school are the only post-grad options. However, taking a gap year after college can be a very worthwhile or even necessary experience. During that time, you may spend part of your week earning income, and other parts of your week engaged in internships, intensive volunteer work, research, engage in informational interviewing, etc. – experiences that will allow you to develop skills, perspectives, and networks relevant to your future.
Even as you may be eager to finish school, you might also have a sense of anxiety about life after college. Perhaps you still don’t have a clear idea about what you want from a career, or have not yet been able to secure a full-time job. Despite the fear that everyone else has a job or knows the direction they want to take after college, the truth is that many new graduates are still in the exploration stage or skill-building stage when they cross the stage at graduation.
Yes – there are some students who already know what they want to do and have known this for quite a long period of time. The important thing to know is that everyone is different and although some commit to a particular career path early-on, this does guarantee a particular type of career or job-satisfaction over one’s life.
You may need more time to refine your career goals and interests, or you may just need some time to take a break and not worry about finding a job or adapting to the workforce. There is no right way to “do” life post-college; but it would be most useful to remain engaged and do something that will further help you gain new knowledge and develop your skills, as well as your network.
Trying new things and meeting new people can expand your horizons and give you new perspectives on your personal strengths, interests, and skills. Most organizations value applicants who have significant experience outside of the classroom, and the perspective that comes from living outside the supports of college life.
If you are having difficulty securing full-time work, volunteer or internship experiences can help you continue to build skills, as well as your professional network (and keep you sane). Developing or improving on these valuable transferable skills will be seen as a positive to most employers. A recent graduate who makes the most of their gap year experience will be seen as a motivated and resourceful individual, not as someone who is lazy or unfocused.
Meet with a Career Development Advisor to determine if a gap year makes sense for you, and if so, how to spend that time intentionally.