Taking a gap year from work

By Juliet Soh

A “gap year”, sometimes known as a “sabbatical”, refers to an extended period of time you take off work to undertake activities you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do. Many may think that taking a year off work is only justified if you want to pursue higher education. But this is also a great option if you are experiencing a career burnout - it gives you time and space to rethink your priorities. If you’re seriously considering to take this time off, jot down these notes on what you can do:

Work
You must be thinking: Are you kidding me? I went on a gap year precisely because I wanted a break from the office – and you’re asking me to work during this time?

Now, cool down and read on. We’re talking about taking up a short-term job that you wouldn’t otherwise try if you were still in the rat race. Think: ski instructor at a resort or waiter on a luxurious yacht. Working while on holiday not only ensures that you won’t dry up your savings, it also allows you to meet people on a professional level while picking up new work-related skills.

Volunteer
Always wished you had more time to contribute to a cause that’s close to your heart? If you’ve always wanted to help the less fortunate in another country, now’s your chance to do so. There are many organisations that facilitate such arrangements. Shortlist them based on the cause you feel most about and whether you think you can make a difference. Charity begins at home too – so don’t restrict yourself only to overseas missions.

Along the way, when you realise that your skills and talents can be used for the betterment of other lives, you will be more aware of and appreciate your strengths better. This, in turn, will help you discern about how you want to harness them in your next job.

Study
Make use of the gap year to feed your mind. Whether is it studying for an MBA or attending pottery classes, the gap year is the perfect time to explore your interests and pick up a skill you’ve always wanted to.

What’s more, taking time off to learn something new is one of the best ways to justify the break to your future employer. And who knows – your new skill may just be the deciding factor for your recruiter to employ you instead of another candidate.

Take note of these tips in order to stay relevant after your gap year:

• When you update your resume, remember to include your achievements made during the year – be it the new skills you have acquired through jobs or the additional degree you have attained.
• During the interview, do not tell your recruiter that you took a gap year to “get away from work”. Instead share how you went away to clarify your future goals and now that you’ve got them sorted out, you are more ready to take on more challenges at work.
• Your exposure to different cultures and working with people from different walks of life is an asset. Highlight relevant encounters and experiences you had during the gap year.

Would you ever consider taking an extended break from work? Share with us in the comment box!

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