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students on gap years and working holidays
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Gap years and working holidays

Consider a gap year to reflect while gaining new skills

Gap years and working holidays can give you the space to learn about yourself and the world, while gaining essential skills that set you up for the workforce.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is time out from study, often taken after high school before starting university study, although some students decide to take time out during or after their university studies. It’s usually, but not always, 12 months in duration, and can include travel, work experience, working abroad (via a working holiday) or volunteering.

There are also opportunities to spend a few weeks, a semester, or a full year studying overseas on an international exchange program during your degree.

The benefits of taking a gap year or going on a working holiday

Knowing what you want from your time off from study will allow you make the most of the experience. A gap year or working holiday can be helpful if you’re unsure of your career interests or study preferences, giving you time to reflect and gain experiences to help you better understand what you’re seeking in a career.

Other common reasons to have a year out are:

  • to develop your confidence and increase independence
  • to develop your employability skills, knowledge and gain practical work experience relevant to your future career
  • to research career opportunities and make contacts in a specific country or field 
  • to get to know yourself better – your interests, values, strengths and work-related preferences
  • to raise your cultural awareness and develop a global perspective
  • to ‘give something back’ by working for an organisation or cause that you’re interested in.

If you decide to stay in your home city or region during your gap year, you can spend the time gaining practical work experience relevant to your future career.

Making the most of your gap year

A well-structured and planned year out can set you apart from others when applying for future jobs, so carefully plan and prepare for your gap year.

During your gap year:

  • Reflect on and keep a record of your skills, responsibilities and achievements – it might be difficult to remember these later.
  • Make a list of the contacts you make and get references. Keep evidence of any positive feedback you receive.
  • Review what you hoped to get out of the experience and assess whether you have met your goals. Look for opportunities to fill any gaps and note additional skills you have developed.

Presenting your gap year to employers

Taking a year out isn't an issue for most employers. You’re likely to gain a range of valuable experiences and employability skills during your time out that can be useful when trying to secure a job after graduation. Ensure you can communicate your relevant skills and experiences to future employers in a concise manner using professional language.

When applying for jobs, highlight the value of life experiences gained during your time out that provide evidence of sought-after qualities such as resourcefulness, resilience and adaptability.