Mind the gap!…

When I did my gap year back in 1996, I had graduated and been working for two years. My gap year involved a combination of travelling and working in Australia and Asia. It was a lot of fun, and I met lots of friends and gained stories for life… but that’s a tale for another day.

I hadn’t given work much thought until the last few weeks of my trip when by chance, I met someone who worked in Market Research! That was the first time I had ever heard of MR & Insight. Little did I know how my life was about to pan out.

At the time, back in the good old days, there was no email/mobile/facetime so it really was a gap from everything for a year. I did it because I didn’t know what I wanted out of life, but I knew I really wanted an adventure, and I wanted to be as far away as possible from everything I knew. At the time I didn’t give a second thought to my future or my CV.

It’s different now – the world is small and you, a family member or a friend on their gap year can share every moment of every day, so the distance between ‘real life’ and the ‘gap experience’ isn’t so big. No need to queue up at random post offices in strange towns in Australia in case someone may have sent you a letter.

This may be part of the reason that the gap has taken a different format, as it now means something different. People tell us they take or took a gap year as it was good for their CV, so it now has an agenda. In some cases, it’s almost compulsory, and funded by the Bank of Mum & Dad.

There is also a different level of consciousness when planning the year – put the term into a well-known search engine and you get a list of volunteering options, work options and a constant list of people selling life experiences.

So has the gap year become a bit of a cliché, and when do you take the gap? After school? After university? After your first job? Second job?…

Is it now more valuable; taking a year out to teach at an orphanage, volunteer on a farm, build a school? In many ways, I think that these are the things that teach skills that will take you through your career and life. The world in 2017 is very different to the one I ‘gap’d’ in 1996.

In recent years we have seen that gap years tend to take place before university, once the student has incurred the debt of their university years, they are pretty keen to get to work.

It’s still good to see it on a CV, as it does demonstrate that the person in question has an adventurous streak and won’t always play it safe. However, it’s not for everyone, so don’t feel the need to follow the crowd at 18 or 22 – you may decide to take your gap in your 30’s or 40’s, and it will be just as valuable then.