How to market your gap year to graduate employers
Research has shown that future employers are impressed by candidates who have done something useful in their gap year. If you've done voluntary or paid work, you've obviously done something productive and will have plenty of skills to show for it. Even a year spent backpacking will have helped you to develop essential skills and competencies that will appeal to employers.
How your gap year helps you stand out when you apply for jobs
Employers look for interesting people, who can do the job well and be a pleasure to work with. They'll see loads of applications from graduates with great qualifications, but your gap year could be a way of standing out from the crowd. Seeing new places and meeting new people will have taught you about other cultures and lifestyles and you're likely to have a more mature attitude than applicants straight from university. Many employers feel that universities don't sufficiently develop the skills and competencies necessary in the world of work, so doing a gap year could put you at an advantage by giving you time to gain more of the qualities and experience that employers are looking for. To make the most of it, you first need to identify the skills you've developed so you can highlight them in your applications.
Gap year skills that boost your CV
Whatever you did during your gap year (unless you did nothing), you are likely to have gained something from it. For example, planning your gap year project and making it a success calls for enthusiasm and good project management. If you've spent six months teaching English, you'll have developed strong communication and leadership skills. Involvement in the construction of a well in Kenya will have tested your teamwork abilities and may have given you a chance to show leadership qualities. Even your decision to leave the security of home is a sign that you're independent, eager for a challenge and willing to face new situations. Travelling on your own requires organisational ability and increases self-confidence. Mobility, flexibility and adaptability are vital in the fast-changing world of work.
If you put together and carried out a successful fundraising initiative to pay for your gap year project, that may provide you with evidence of analytical and problem-solving skills, creativity and innovation, lateral thinking, networking and rapport building. If you took on a job to save up for the trip, that shows you are highly motivated. It will also have given you concrete work experience and may have developed skills such as commercial awareness. Any work you have done is potential evidence of your employability; even picking up casual work on your way round the world demonstrates your resourcefulness and flexibility.
Show your commitment to starting a career after your year out
Some employers may be worried about how committed you are to the world of work. If you've become accustomed to a mobile lifestyle, moving on whenever you get bored, what's to keep you from deciding to take off again as soon as you have a tough week? You might need to convince them that you are committed to the fresh challenges of a professional life. Perhaps, now that you've satisfied your desire to travel, you may be keen to settle in one place, put down roots and develop lasting friendships.
Remember employers may want employees who are willing to travel
If you are employed by a large multinational company, your employer may want you to undertake a placement abroad at some point. Experience of living and working in a different culture may help to prove your suitability for this kind of opportunity. The cultural sensitivities you developed during your gap year could also help you to work more effectively with international colleagues and clients.