Think ‘gap year’ and images of lost twenty-somethings in harem pants and tie dye t-shirts will probably spring to mind. However, with a rise in graduate unemployment in an ever competitive job market, many people have been obliged to take time out in order to re-evaluate their career options. As a consequence, a new generation of travellers is emerging: those who manage to create opportunities through unique experiences and demonstrate how a gap year can provide the means to enhance that all-important Curriculum Vitae. So don’t delay! Follow the ten tactics below to ensure that your time abroad is worthwhile and book your one-way ticket now!
1.) Recharge your batteries
Time out from years of studying will give you the opportunity to contemplate what it is that you want to do later in life. You could even make travelling your career! A common misconception behind the idea of a gap year is that you won’t want to return to working or studying after your time away but the truth is that you’ll feel refreshed and motivated, ready to take on your next challenge with a much broader outlook on life.
2.) Improve communication and interpersonal skills
It’s inevitable that you will meet a range of different people during your gap year and this will undoubtedly develop your communication skills. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the ability to communicate effectively between clients and colleagues is indispensable to future employers.
3.) Demonstrate cultural awareness
People see, interpret and evaluate things in different ways. For example, in western culture, retaining eye contact is essential to express interest and engagement, however, in countries such as China and Japan, a straight look into someone’s face can be deemed as inappropriate. Travelling and experiencing diverse lifestyles will therefore enable you to become aware of the impact that culture has on our behaviour and avoid any future misinterpretations in the workplace.
4.) Make new contacts
Whether you travel alone or with friends, sharing the same memorable experiences will connect you to like-minded people who may even become part of your circle for life. Acquaintances such as these will help you on your career path as invaluable contacts. Mix with everybody and accept invitations as you never know who someone is or what they can do for you until you talk to them. Networking is important wherever you are and someone you meet could be your avenue into your desired career.
6.) Become more confident and adaptable
There’s no doubt that travelling will cause you to step outside your comfort zone. As you spend more time living in an unfamiliar environment, you’ll quickly become much more independent and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve on your own. Your future-boss will want to be assured that you can adapt to their company and any future amendments to procedures or technology smoothly. Correspondingly, they’ll want to see that you’ll fit in with your new colleagues but that you’ll also be confident in leadership.
7.) Practice problem-solving
It’s likely that you will encounter various mishaps on your time abroad whether these appear in the forms of lost luggage or a missed train connection. Your ability to recognise and utilise efficient methods to rectify these situations can be easily transferred to the workplace. Experiences abroad may also put your work problems into perspective. However difficult a task may seem, it will never compare to that time you accidentally told someone: “merci beau cul” and not “merci beaucoup”, the former meaning: “thank you, nice bum”.
8.) Plan successfully with effective time management
There is usually an extensive amount of planning behind a gap year that covers where to go, how to get there and what to pack. Choosing how to manage your time effectively abroad will reveal to future employers that you are capable of making strategic decisions that make use of all available resources.
It’s claimed that market vendors are impressed when a customer knows how to play the haggling game. In order to avoid someone pulling the wool over your eyes, don’t be inclined to accept the first offer but try your hand at negotiation instead. Not only will this get you the best value abroad but it will also be a useful skill in the workplace where business deals are made daily.
Perhaps the most important aspect of your year abroad that will increase your chances of employment upon your return is the accomplishment of a new skill. Make the most of your surroundings and free time by learning a language or a new craft that will be instrumental in obtaining a job in your desired field. This will set you apart from other candidates as a strong series of skills will stress that it is YOU who is the right person for the job.
Finally, don’t let anyone ever tell you that travelling is futile. This is your time and the most important thing is to enjoy it. Make memories that will last a lifetime and come home as a more rounded individual with a whole backpack of anecdotes and an appetite for success!