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Once finishing A Levels, students are welcomed with the opportunity to take a break from studying to enjoy completely new experiences before going to university. Some people are more suited to gap years than others; it's definitely not for everyone.
You may feel that taking a gap year could make you lose your focus and change your perspective on the value of studying, or it could be the best way to prepare you for independent life at university and give you a chance to do and see things that you may not be able to do in 10 years' time!. Like I said, a gap year is not for everyone, but they can be beneficial to your job prospects, depending on how well you've made use of your free time. It's down to you to make sure you get the most out of it, as a gap year should not be time for you to be lazing about at home for a year, it's not that type of 'break from work'. If you're still on the fence about taking a gap year, here are four things that can make your gap year fulfilling and beneficial for your future.
Taking a gap year can be very expensive, depending on what you choose to do with your time, so you have two options. If you plan on travelling, spend a couple of months beforehand earning some money so you can afford to get by when abroad, or you could go abroad at the beginning of the year and find work once you're there.
Not only will work help you financially, it will benefit your job prospects and look good on a CV. If it's just waitressing at your local restaurant or getting an internship (paid or not) in an industry that interests you, it all counts as work experience and will help in the long run when applying for jobs in the future.
See the world
Opportunities like being able to travel when young and care free do not come around often. Go explore the world and be open minded to visiting countries that are out of your comfort zone. South America and South East Asia attract vast amounts of young travellers from all round the world, but you will almost certainly meet a lot of English people along the way so you won't feel too out of your depth. Travelling is the best way to meet plenty of people, but to also experience things that you would never normally do at home. Whether it?s climbing volcanoes, going to 24 hour beach parties on paradise islands, you will make some lifetime memories.
Employers like candidates who have travelled in their gap year, as jumping on a plane to a country half way round the world shows independence and maturity, but also shows you are a risk taker and can face new challenges; all attributes that employers like to see in candidates. Your endurance levels will be tested to all sorts of extremes when abroad, but this will give you some worldly experience that gives you that extra bit of edge that employers like to see. For example, sleeping in cockroach infested hostels can seem shocking at first, but this is pretty standard when travelling - think of it as character building!
This is always a popular option for gap year-ers who feel that they want to give something back to a community. This can involve volunteering at a local orphanage, protecting endangered species or teaching English to primary school children abroad. It's an experience that not only helps others, but is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for you too. Volunteering can be very intense as it requires a lot of hard work. However, you will work with a group of people and endure all sorts of highs and lows with them, and come out with good friends and lasting memories, making that experience even more special.
VSO is a great charity that always offers fantastic volunteering opportunities local to you and abroad, and is a recognisable charity that any employer would be impressed to see on a CV.
Learn a new skill
Use this time to develop your skillset or even learn a new skill. If you plan on being abroad in part of your gap year, there are plenty of things you can learn to do: Scuba diving, teaching English, part-time nanny, bar promoter, learn a language - the list is endless! Learning a language is an especially good skill to learn as employers like candidates who are bilingual. This doesn't mean you have to be completely fluent in their language, but make an effort to learn a few things to make a good impression!
If you plan on working at home, this will enable you to develop your work skillset such as your communication, team work and organisational skills, all attributes that employers love to see in job applicants.