The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability Service

Gap Years

A gap year can be an amazing experience giving you and an opportunity to reflect on your skills, try out different types of work or experience different cultures through overseas travel. There really are no rules to what you can do during a gap year and ultimately your options are only limited by your imagination. You may want to take a break from your studies or reward yourself with some down time at the end of your degree. Whatever the reason for taking a gap year and whatever you do, the secret to making it a useful experience is to plan well to make the most of your time.

A gap year could be a home or abroad
A world of potential

Gap years are becoming increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why. The opportunities to travel, experience new things and live a little are endless. A gap year can give you time to reflect on what's important to you, to learn new skills, to discover new places and to have fun. You could look to volunteer, gain work experience, pursue additional studies and learn about the world.

Make the most of the opportunities available to you and use the time wisely to ensure you gain something from the time out. Whether you are volunteering in Tanzania, trekking the temples of south east Asia, scraping a living in the bars of Australia, or working in as an intern in the city you will be on a journey of self-discovery. When the gap year comes to an end it can take some time to come back to reality and establish the next steps you should be taking. To avoid this, here are some top tips to ensure taking a gap year aids your employability, rather than hinders it.

What can I do?

Do employers value them?

Plan your Gap Year

There are a many options for those considering a gap year. You may be looking for employment or a year in industry, volunteering or overseas adventures. You can take a gap year before, during or after your degree, however if you plan to do it during your degree you must speak to your academic department and get their permission.

The short answer is yes, but only if you use your time productively. A gap year can help develop maturity and independence, help you gain insights about yourself and formulate a plan for your future. A gap year should not be seen as a break from your personal development or a way to hide from the job market but viewed as an opportunity to boost key skills on your CV, demonstrate initiative, gain language skills and appreciate different cultural values.

A well structured gap year can easily be sold to employers as a beneficial experience where you develop skills such as independence, confidence, maturity, work experience, international awareness and project management skills. All of these are valuable skills to employers.

The better you plan the more you will get out of the experience. You should research your options thoroughly and plan accordingly. Remember that gap years can be expensive so take in to consideration your financial arrangements too.

Some Useful Links about Gap Years:

Foreign Travel Advice - Government Travel Advice for a range of countries

GapAdvice.org - Gap Year advice for people of all ages

GapYear.com - Travel Community

GreatGapYears - Help in planning a year out

Prospects - Gap Year

Prospects - Working Abroad

Prospects - Study Abroad

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