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Make the Most of Your Gap Year

Like so many other young people, you may opt for a gap year because:

  • You’re not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life.
  • You want to see the world before you settle down.
  • You know what you want to study, but you need to save some money before you start a post-secondary program.

A gap year can help boost your knowledge, your bank account, and your resumé. Along with career planning, you can choose gap year activities that will help move your career forward. Depending on what you choose, here are some things to consider:

Look for work that interests you

You may need training to work in the industry you want. Finding part-time or full-time work in an industry sector that interests you can help you become more familiar with your career options. It can also lead to new networking connections.

Remember to consider the non-profit sector. Browse or search the jobs advertised on Charity Village.

Consider working outside Canada

When employers look at resumés, they often see international travel as a sign that you have important world experience. With some planning, you can spend your gap year working abroad. Think about travel destinations that can benefit your career. 

Check out these resources:

Volunteer to build your resumé

Volunteer to boost your career while gaining experience, skills, network contacts, and knowledge. You can volunteer close to home or travel abroad to lend a hand.

Canadian students often pay to volunteer internationally—but there are lots of ways to fund your volunteer activities.

Take some courses

  • Take a course online that fits with your other gap year activities.
  • Look for part-time study options in the educational programs on OCCinfo.
  • Get a head start on your program by studying on your own using library and online resources.
  • If you’re travelling, consider broadening your horizons by studying abroad.

Improve your employability skills 

Employability skills are also called transferable skills. These skills, such as computer use and communication, are essential for most occupations.

  • For example, you might have great time-management skills but aren’t a confident communicator. Consider taking a continuing education course or starting a personal project to gain some experience and improve your skills.
  • International travel is a great way to develop transferable skills. It requires you to be more independent than you may be used to. Look into study, internship, and other opportunities in international development offered by Global Affairs Canada and Canada World Youth.

Practise networking

Your network includes the people you know and the people they know. Find out if your contacts can help you make connections with people in the industries and occupations that interest you.

  • Work on improving your networking skills, including online networking.
  • Join professional associations and other networking websites to meet new people and learn about career options.
  • Use your network to identify someone who works in an occupation that interests you. See if you can set up an information interview to learn more about the occupation.
  • Get hands-on experience by job shadowing—spending a day on the job observing someone who works in an occupation that interests you. Perhaps someone in your network can introduce you to a person in that line of work.

Set goals you can achieve during your gap year

Now is the time to set some goals you can achieve during your gap year. Set goals that work for you, such as:

  • Update your resumé and portfolio at the start of your gap year and every 3 months.
  • Identify at least 3 potential occupations that match your career plan. Set up at least 1 job shadow or information interview with each of them.
  • Identify your weakest transferable skill and enrol in a course to improve it. Join one online network that can further your career. Each month, set a target of adding “x” number of people to your network who can help you.
  • Volunteer with a charitable organization.
  • As you travel, observe how others your age earn a living in different cities, provinces, and countries. Write it down in a personal career journal and review your notes in the final 3 months of your gap year. If you’re working, make a list of the transferable skills you’re learning on the job and how you can apply them when you return to school and continue on your career path.

Make the most of your gap year 

By setting goals around career-based activities, you’ll be better prepared and more confident that you have the skills and knowledge you need for your post-secondary program and your career.

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