You are about to finish high school. You might have a career in mind but need to save money before you start a post-secondary program.
Maybe you’re not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life. Or perhaps you want to take the opportunity to see the world before you settle down.
Around the world, students often take a gap year before starting a post-secondary program. A gap year is a time to further your career plans—to think, save money, learn new skills and discover new interests. Plan properly and make your gap year work for you.
Choose gap year activities that can benefit your career
Your gap year is your opportunity to work on your career plan and understand your possible career paths. Along with career planning, you can choose gap year activities that will help move your career forward. Consider these options:
Take a training course that can help you meet your career goals.
- 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 traveling, consider broadening your horizons by studying abroad.
Improve your employability skills. Also called transferable skills, these skills, such as computer use and communication, are essential for most occupations.
- If, for example, you have great time-management skills but aren’t a confident communicator, consider taking a continuing education course or starting a personal project to give you some experience in that area and improve your skills.
- International travel is a great way to develop transferable skills as 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.
- Search for professional associations and other networking websites that you can join 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 with that person 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.
Look for work in the industry sector that interests you. You may need training for the occupation you want. In the meantime, finding part-time or full-time work during your gap year in the same industry sector can help you become more familiar with your career options and make new networking connections.
- For help in your job search, use job banks and job search engines.
- Remember to consider the non-profit sector. Browse or search the jobs advertised on Charity Village.
Gap Year Gains Traction in Canada
As a new generation of Canadian students prepares to make the transition from high school to college or university, a small number will consider taking a year off to travel, work, volunteer and carefully consider some of the most important decisions they will need to make in their young lives – though many more would benefit from doing so. (Globe and Mail, June 9, 2015)
When they look at resumés, employers often see international travel as providing important world experience. With some planning ahead, you can spend your gap year working abroad. Think about travel destinations that can benefit your career.
- Be sure to investigate visa and work permit requirements before you go.
Volunteer to boost your career while gaining experience, skills, network contacts and knowledge.
- Find volunteer centres in Alberta or across Canada.
- Find international opportunities through organizations like the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation, Projects Abroad, and International Volunteer HQ.
- Canadian students often pay to volunteer internationally—but there are lots of ways to help fund your volunteer activities.
Set goals you can achieve during your gap year
Now is the time to set some goals you can achieve during your gap year. Find out about setting SMART Goals. Set goals that can 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 1 online network that can further your career. Each month, set a target of adding “x” number of people to your network that can help you in your career.
- 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 will be better prepared and more confident that you have the skills and knowledge you need for your post-secondary program and your career.