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Standing out in the job market: Take a ‘grown-up gap year

standing out in the job market adult gap year

A gap on your CV would often be viewed as a negative for a candidate keen to make themselves stand out from the crowd in the ever-competitive job market – as a result, people would have been previously reluctant to take a career break, or a sabbatical.

No longer. One person’s career break is another person’s ‘grown-up gap year’ and, owing to a change in attitudes to professionals pausing their careers to focus on a range of different options, including childcare, charity work, building a dream home or travelling the world, there is no longer the stigma around simply taking a break. It’s a great way of standing out in the job market.

In fact, two-thirds of workers in a survey conducted by LinkedIn have taken a career break before, and more than a third would like to take one in the future.

The gap year was previously reserved for young people coming out of university before taking their first job, but with the news that popular destination Australia has relaxed rules for those looking to do so, this could become even more popular for those in their 30s.

Taking a year out is something that can have benefits for the career of professionals, if it is done in a way that is purposeful and well thought out.

Gary Clark, Director of Basecamp Adventures and SIA Austria, said:

“At many of our locations we see individuals undertaking activities such as ski instructor courses, which often form part of a gap year or a year out from the professional world. They can be useful for personal and professional development, as well as gaining some real-life experience out of the standard comfort zone.

“During the experience, people are able to extend their network of contacts as they meet like-minded people, and above all, have an experience that will see them develop and create memories for a lifetime, that they can take back into everyday life”

Real-world experience helps you stand out in the job market

A key opportunity to be gained from taking a year out is that of real-world experience. Of course, academic experience and qualifications are very important as a base point to your career, they are complimented by the skills and knowledge you can acquire by engrossing yourself in real-life experiences.

This could be through volunteering, stepping out of your comfort zone, travelling or working an internship, a year out can enable you to develop transferable skills, gain industry insights, and demonstrate your commitment to learning beyond the confines of a classroom.

While qualifications are important as part of a job application, employers value candidates who have practical experience and can hit the ground running from day one, and being able to showcase this experience can make you stand out amongst the crowd in a hunt for a new role.

Personal and professional development

A year out can be a transformative time for personal and professional growth. As well as the opportunity to gain a better understanding and “find” yourself, time away can give you the chance to explore your interests and discover or rediscover your passions.

Whatever your choice, whether it be to travel, gain new skills or just to take the time to reset, the period will enable you to build character and enhance your interpersonal skills.

Qualities such as these can be transferred into not only everyday life but to the jobs market and your professional career too. showing you can adapt, engage in activities that are not part of the day-to-day routine, and work among others as part of a team are all skills that are highly valued by employers.

Building connections and adapting

While engaging in activities during a gap year, you may meet people that could be crucial to your career once you return. Whatever the reason for your gap year, whether travelling solo or as part of a group, you won’t be alone. Tourism Australia state that there are more than 35,000 arrivals from the UK each year, as part of a working or travelling arrangement.

With this in mind, wherever your destination, you may end up collaborating with professionals who are also in your industry, and this could result in collaboration at a later date, or even a job opening that you may not have even considered.

The time out may also open your mind to other industries and career changes, as you meet and spend time with a wide range of people from a multitude of industries.

The job market can at times be driven by word-of-mouth recommendations, and having a robust network can significantly enhance your chances of securing employment or accessing hidden job opportunities. Relating to this, having an increased global perspective is a valuable asset.

While you take in incredible experiences, embrace different cultures and broaden horizons, you are immersing yourself in diverse environments. This creates a sense of open-mindedness, the ability to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings and an understanding of various different cultures and walks of life.

These are skills that can help you stand out in the jobs market – showcasing adaptability and working with a diverse range of cultures and nationalities can be very useful to an employer, particularly in today’s world of multi-national companies.

Doors could open to new opportunities across the globe because of the experiences you gain.

Using your initiative

Taking a year out can showcase your initiative to potential employers and shows that you are willing to take a few calculated risks in order to achieve what you want to get out of life. Proactivity and motivation are key parts of business, and a year out can signal to employers that these are strengths of yours.

Taking a year to enhance your development on a personal and professional level will appeal to an employer. A gap year could be seen as a risk, particularly if you are leaving a steady job in order to do so, but it also gives out the impression that as a person you are open to continuous growth and are unwilling to get stuck in rut and become complacent.

A drive to succeed and willingness to do what it takes can set you apart from the rest.

If you can’t take a gap year but would like to work abroad instead, see which workcation countries are the best for PAs and EAs.