You’re almost there — only months away from the end of your long, grueling years at college.
Soon, you’ll be the proud recipient of that coveted bachelor’s degree you’ve worked so hard for.
But if you’re like many students nearing the finish line, you may be experiencing some anxiety over what to do next, whether your ambitions involve graduate school or landing that high-profile job.
Here’s one option you may have not yet considered: taking a break.
Here are five reasons why a gap year could help enhance your career in the long run.
1. Learn From Travel
Even if your undergraduate program afforded you the opportunity to study abroad, you know there’s so much more you want to see. Just think of what an enriching learning experience the art of travel can be. You’ll gain knowledge about different cultures and maybe even master a new language.
Committing to a set of travel experiences doesn’t mean you have to hike throughout Europe or visit the Australian Outback. If money is too tight to fly across the world, there are plenty of low cost options. Consider taking a themed road trip with your friends or family and travelling locally. You can check out that museum in your own backyard that you’ve always meant to visit but were too busy writing your research papers.
2. Build a Network
Visiting new places most leads to meeting new people.
Research shows that up to 80% of jobs are secured not through advertisements but rather through networking.
If you’re more of a “staycation”-goer, you can search for local networking events in your area — including meet-ups and conferences with like-minded individuals.
If you’re a typical millennial, you know how to use social media to your advantage. During your time off, you can focus efforts on making sure your profiles, especially on LinkedIn, are up to date and that they highlight your most valuable qualities.
Choosing a career path is a major life decision. You may not have figured out what you’re looking for yet. Instead of jumping impulsively into a new job you’re unsure about you could instead, take some time off for you, and make new contacts.
3. Give Back
A 2010 study by UnitedHealth Group, found that people who volunteer feel healthier than those who don’t, both physically and emotionally.
And don’t think these efforts will go unnoticed by potential employers down the line. Volunteer activities can go a long way in sprucing up your resume and can communicate to executives (or graduate admissions committees) that you’re altruistic — which can translate into a lack of selfishness on the job.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious in your gap year, consider joining the Peace Corps or engaging in other humanitarian efforts to serve underprivileged populations. Depending on your specialization, you can also tutor at your local secondary school or serve as an educator through programs for disadvantaged youth in urban areas.
Volunteering can give help you gain perspective and compassion, which are invaluable traits if your goal is to pursue a field working with people on a regular basis.
4. Explore New Hobbies
What’s the one thing you’ve always dreamed of doing but never had the time to try it?
Maybe it’s jumping out of an airplane or taking surfboarding lessons. Whatever tickles your fancy, a gap after university is the perfect opportunity to explore a brand new hobby (or a few).
Making time for hobbies is essential to your overall well-being, which can have applications for your productivity on the job or in graduate school.
Do you remember the old saying: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Find out what you want to do instead of what you have to do. You’ll accomplish a lot of self-exploration in the process, and this can help you define your professional goals.
5. Time to Decompress
You’ve been in school now for most or all of your life. Chances are that during your final year, you’re feeling a little burned out from all those years of exams and lab assignments.
Now likely isn’t the time to make major decisions about your future career. You may be too stressed to think clearly and carefully about what your passions truly are.
Taking a mental break after you’ve put your all into your college program can help you refocus and decompress. Research shows that you can increase your overall productivity if you give your brain some downtime.
A gap after you graduate from college is a great opportunity to learn how to relax. Whether that’s from training yourself to sleep better or how to do regular meditations, your attention levels will improve when you’re ready to challenge your mind again with cognitively taxing activities.
Are you considering taking a gap year when you finish studying? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!