How a gap year can help your career

Gap years are highly valued by employers for the skills and character they can help develop.

Raleigh International volunteers in action A past survey commissioned by gapyear.com [new window] showed that 85 per cent of HR executives questioned felt that relevant work experience is more valuable to a job seeker than an average non-vocational degree, and 65 per cent believed that a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience overseas made a job application stand out. 

Almost half of those surveyed said they would be more likely to employ a graduate with gap year experience involving independent travel, working or volunteering overseas than one without. Plus over half also thought that young people taking constructive gap years tended to get better value out of subsequent education.

“It’s never been more important for young people to make the most of their time between school and career,” says the Founder of gapyear.com. “This survey shows that a constructive gap year involving independent travel, volunteering or work overseas makes a big difference to potential employers.”

What skills will you gain from taking a gap year?

So what skills do you gain from taking a gap year that make you more employable?

As well as helping build your confidence, experience and self-reliance, it's a great way to learn to work with people from different cultures and possibly develop a language; useful skills that multinational companies will be happy to see. Also the skills you gain are useful for project-centric careers, covering a wide area of engineering work.

“A gap year gives you a new perspective, international experience and helps you grow as a person, which will all benefit your career. They can also help you build soft skills like teamwork, problem solving and specific skills such as a language, as well as improving your CV and making you stand out from the competition,” explains Emma Jones, Author of Gap Years - The Essential Guide.

“A gap year, especially one that combines an element related to your career, shows future employers that you can plan and commit to a course of action, are motivated and have experience in the wider world,” she continues. “For engineering and technology, where a lot of recruitment is focused on the degree and educational achievements, it helps candidates stand out.”

“Through facilitated learning and unique experiences, they can enhance their education and career prospects by building key skills such as teamwork, leadership, planning and problem-solving,” agrees Raleigh International. “By challenging themselves physically and mentally, young people learn to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, giving them a greater sense of achievement and increased confidence in themselves.”

How a gap year provides career guidance

A gap year can also provide career guidance by giving you a taste of different sectors and work environments, potentially allowing you to target specific areas for future studies as well as find out what you like and don’t like in a workplace.

As you can see, a gap year can make you more employable in many ways, providing you with a wider skill set than many of your peers – a very useful selling point in today’s competitive job market. If you’re considering taking a gap year hopefully we’ve given you a good insight into how it will help your future career. Now all you have to do is make sure you make the most of the opportunities.

Other things to consider

Although gap year positives outnumber the negatives, you need to keep in mind how your gap year could also affect your future career options in a negative way.

For example, you need to consider the sector you’re hoping to work in. If you wish to work for a defence contractor or similar, their security clearances requires you not have lived abroad for more than six months during the five years previous to your application. Little things like that can make a big difference, so it’s important to do your research well!

Originally published 2012, updated July 2017