Oh how the concept of the gap year has changed. Where once it used to belong almost exclusively to fresh faced 18 year olds making their first foray into the adult world, now it's being reclaimed by those of us already doing the adulting thing - jobs, relationships, taking the garbage out.
See, for many of us, there was never much opportunity to stray from the path of 'progression'. We go from school to uni, or school straight into jobs, and in a world that constantly shouts how impossible it is for young people to get jobs, get houses or stay afloat, we get scaremongered into the 'work, work, work' mentality.
Feeling trapped by the 9-5. Feeling like we haven’t really achieved anything, or seen much of the world.
Cue the rising trend of the adult gap year. But unlike those carefree 18 year olds who are yet to make a serious dent on adult life, taking a mid-career break is not as easy if you’re teetering either side of 30. After having built up a career for yourself, the prospect of dropping it for a year is terrifying. You might be wondering if time away from the industry could hurt your career, or possibly contemplating whether your position will be there waiting for you when you return – or whether you’ll struggle to get back into working life at all.
What to do? Take a step back from your career and ask yourself what would damage it more: taking time out to re-discover what actually makes you happy, or staying put and always wondering 'what if'.
You may absolutely adore your job and feel like you’re on a career climbing roll, but as we understand more about mental happiness (or unhappiness as the case often is), we’re left wondering what’s more important – the pay check, or your mental health.
Going abroad for a year and completely disconnecting from life as you know it gives you time to reflect on what’s important to you. Maybe the time out will confirm your do love your job, and ignite a whole new passion for it you never knew existed, or maybe you’ll discover that actually, as you suspected, you are in the wrong field of work, and you’ve now found the balls to try something completely new. Don’t forget that travel teaches us some pretty mega lessons about self-confidence and learning how to survive on our own, and it’s these new skills you could be lacking right now.
Corporate burnout can stifle you in more ways than one, affecting your relationship with your friends, family, and yourself. Taking time out can make you reassess your priorities and figure out, if you haven’t already, where your passions lie. Money isn’t everything, and paper chasing can be draining. What’s more, treating yourself to time out can make you feel like you’ve rewarded your hard work with a well-deserved treat.
Gap years are what you make of them. A career break doesn’t need to constitute a guilt-ridden year long holiday, consisting of the all too familiar routine of lounging around and perpetuating the question of “wtf am I doing with my life?”. Maybe there’s a language you’ve always wanted to learn, a charity you’ve always wanted to volunteer for or a new skill or hobby you can finally explore. Your future employers will be more than impressed to know you took time out to better yourself in learning something new for the sake of your long-term career.
Most importantly, taking a career break is in your employers best interest. No one wants uninspired employees, and alongside being the perfect incentive to invest a long amount of time in the company, your employer will be delighted when you return to your desk with a new found passion for the business, brimming with fresh ideas on how to get the most out of your job.
Taking a career break to travel can expose you to how other countries approach working life, and you can pick up techniques for coping with stress which you can then feed back into the workplace when you return.
All in all, one awkward conversation with your boss vs a lifetime always wondering “what if” should be a no brainer. Why wait to renew that spark inside of you that you thought had long since died? Taking a career break is a win-win for both you and your employer – future or otherwise.
Have you taken an adult gap year and come out the other side a changed person? Would you recommend it? We want to hear your stories. Head over to our community contributor program to find out more.