Usually gap years are associated with students who want to take a break from their academic trajectories to explore the world but the concept is becoming increasingly popular among working professionals too. Infact as far back as in 2005, a survey by Harvard Business Review found that 37% of highly qualified women and 24% of men, left their career at some point with an intention to return.
Alok Bansal, MD of Visionet Systems India and Global Head of BFSI Business
Alok Bansal, MD of Visionet Systems India and Global Head of BFSI Business says, “A career gap year or the ‘adult gap year’ is being normalized in the employment sector, especially post the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are weighing their options, reconfiguring their priorities as well as lives and it is perfectly fine to do so. However, it would be important to remember that many potential employers still consider these gaps as a red flag. This is why it is important to have a long term plan when you step away from the corporate ladder.”
He mentions a recent survey conducted by TechGig that stated how 78% of employees in the IT field find it hard to get their desired jobs, due to gaps in resumes. Says Bansal, “These gaps can be intentional or due to job loss but the point is to make the most of them to upskill yourself, look for better opportunities and not let this time make you lose your confidence, or make you stagnant. With a little effort, you can make this time productive and use it to scale up in your career.”
Here are a few of his suggestions:
Learn a new skill
Upskilling is very important for career growth and a gap year can be a perfect time to do a few online or offline courses, attend to parts of your resumes that seem weak, gain some freelancing experience, ideate and start a project on your own steam and focus on hobbies that nourish your spirit and improve your mental or physical health. At the end of the year, when you account for the gap year with additional skills, testimonials and success stories, you will surely impress the recruiters. Upskilling will not only increase your confidence but also help you in exploring new roles in organisations and avenues you had not explored before.
Travel and forge new connections
Staying in one place for a long time can make you feel stuck and stagnant. Use the gap year to backpack across new cities and spark your joy for living once again. It is easy to travel economically these days by couch surfing and even on a small budget if you have the will. Travelling lets you explore new aspects of yourself and connects you to new people, and potential business opportunities. Travel also enhances your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which incidentally is considered to be one of the top skills recruiters look for as per a World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ report. Traveling solo will not just give you a chance to explore a new culture, learn a new language but also teach you resilience, resourcefulness and even crisis management. It goes without saying that these skills will come handy when you are working in an organisation sometime in the future.
Pursue a passion
Remember that dream you buried under a heap of responsibilities? During a gap year, you can salvage it, dust it and explore it and who knows, you may be on your way to becoming a polymath! Be it painting, photography, singing, or dancing, fearlessly chase your dreams to rejuvenate your dormant creativity. These days, multiple careers are possible if the person in question has the passion and the commitment to expand his or her knowledge in multiple directions. A gap year also gives you a clearer perspective of the goals you really want to achieve in life. This is also a good time for inspection and course correction.
Volunteer and do some good
In hectic corporate careers, it is easy to lose touch with grassroot realities but as research has proven, when we do good, we feel good. Working for social good and larger issues also enriches your resume and gives you an edge over others. So during a gap year, look for opportunities to volunteer in old age homes, orphanages, animal shelters or lend your time to any cause of your choice. Offer your technical skills to rebuild a website, design brochures and help spread the word about an NGO. These experiences will enhance your soft skills and make you discover the priceless joy of giving back to society.
Plan your professional sabbatical with an eye on the future and you will never look back in regret.