Monday, July 26, 2010

Live to work or work to live: the gap year post


image via clevercupcakes





I met someone a couple of weeks ago who made a decision to not do any career-related work for the whole of 2009, straight after graduating. To all the graduates who stress and sweat it out until they’ve secured their first position, this could seem totally insane. Don’t mis-read this, they were still getting paid for doing work, but it wasn’t doing stuff that related to their degree or what they anticipated being their ‘real career’. It struck me as a kind of gap-year, post-university. This person recognised the value that work held in their life, and that at the point directly after graduating, for them, it wasn’t as valuable as pursuing other things.


There are a bunch of programs that cater to those students who want to take a year off between high school and further study. It’s actually a booming market, and some have suggested that there is more purpose to the gap year than just doing a Europe or south-east Asia trip with mates. Valuable stuff happens when people purposefully make space to reflect on their own position in the world and learn from what others are doing.


But what about post-graduation? Whether it be to take another trip overseas before starting life as a grown-up, or to get some valuable volunteering experience, or even to donate their recently minted skills to a worthy cause, taking a post-uni gap year seems to be a growing trend.


Basically, taking a gap year after graduating, to stock-take what is valuable to you, could be a really good idea. My friend? They’ve started doing some paid work as a result of volunteering last year. In an area entirely unrelated to what they studied. The reward of the year off for them has been realising what they are (and aren’t) passionate about. Turns out, their degree didn’t relate to their passion, but it didn’t matter, because the gap year provided opportunities of its own. Opportunities that weren’t already formulated from a cookie-cutter program, but from deliberate, personal examination. Taking a year off was a risk, but it paid off.


Food for thought.