While some employers might prefer prospects who make a beeline straight for college after high school, more and more graduates are taking gap years to work toward specific goals, including saving for college.
If you’re currently a gapper — that is, someone taking a gap year — or have a gap year in your sights, here are some tips for making that choice more appealing to your next employer.
Know the Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
This guide to gap year basics created by Counseling@NYU, which offers an online master’s in school counseling, can illuminate some of the potential benefits of gap years. Of course, to realize these benefits, you’ll need to make sure your gap year has some structure.
According to Ethan Knight, executive director of the American Gap Association (AGA), one of the greatest benefits of a gap year is that you learn more about yourself.
Gappers “confront limits they didn’t know they had, succeed more frequently than they would have thought before, and are exposed to new and different ways to lead this thing called life,” Knight told Counseling@NYU in the gap-year basics guide.
According to the AGA, gappers:
x- have a clearer sense of self;
- possess deeper multicultural understanding;
- acquire skills and knowledge that further their careers and academic goals;
- are viewed as being “more mature, more self-reliant, and independent”;
- say the experience “significantly added to their employability” (88 percent report this);
- and are “overwhelmingly” satisfied with their jobs.
Working and Saving for College
Many students take gap years because they cannot yet afford to go to a four-year college or university. These students take time off from school to work and save money so they can attend college in the near future. In addition to putting some money in the bank, taking a year off from work can also help gappers gain real-world work experience.
Gracefully Entering the Job Market After Taking a Gap Year
Whether you took a gap year to work and save or to have new experiences, effectively communicating the benefits of your time off to future employers may be a little challenging.
The AGA offers the following resume tips:
- Reflect on your experience so you can clearly articulate its value.
- Focus on the skills you learned rather than what you enjoyed most.
- Structure your resume correctly; record your gap-year experience under the appropriate section.
- Know your audience and adjust the focus of your resume accordingly.
- Provide details concisely and use quantitative and qualitative metrics to communicate your value.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Knight offered a few more recommendations, including:
- Treat your experience like a job.
- Make it clear why you took a gap year.
- Know what key skills the employer is looking for and show how you honed them during your gap year.
Show Employers How They Can Benefit From Hiring Gappers
Now that you’ve had your gap-year experience, it’s time to show prospective employers why they should hire you. As Knight shares in an article for Mediaplanet, you can do that by focusing on the career skills you acquired, the money you saved that allowed you to attend college, your greater self-awareness and sense of purpose, and the fact that you can now make the most of the opportunities before you.
Alexis Anderson is a community manager covering K–12 education at 2U, Inc.