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The Productive Gap Year or Career Break: A Myth?

Busting Misconceptions About the Gap Year or Career Sabbatical

What do you think of when you hear ‘gap year’? A bunch of late-teens and early-20-somethings, between their college years, partying their way across Europe or Southeast Asia?

And similarly for the professional crowd, what does the term ‘career break’ or ‘sabbatical’ mean to you? Do you envision a potentially CV-destroying, money-draining waste of time?

These stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. For the ones who do take breaks, the experience doesn’t destroy your work ethic upon return to work or studies. Rather, it makes you more targeted in what you choose to do because now you know yourself better. Your path may change, but for the better. Any time you take to focus on where you’re going in life is time well-spent. Hence these not-so-surprising stats:

  • Nine out of ten students who take a gap year do return to attend college, and they are actually more focused and motivated than their counterparts.
  • 58% of participants in a survey by Hostelworld reported that their break occurred in their 20s, 30s, and beyond – Breaks are not only for college students.
  • Many employers respect that you questioned your current paradigm and took the road less-traveled to develop yourself and your skills
  • The skills you gain (often leadership, creative thinking, and other soft skills) are great additions to your CV
Gap year

During a final presentation.

Structured vs. Unstructured: Making the Most of Your Time

So, you’ve decided to take a step back and analyze where you are going. You have a sizable chunk of time to devote to this. There are many ways you can carve this chunk of time. You’re using it to focus on yourself – Thus it should be done with focus and intent. Some people leave the chunk as it is and go for an unstructured gap year. Little or no planning; this could mean landing in Thailand with the intent to trek wherever you see fit; letting the experience lead you and being open to whatever comes up.

Others are structured breaks. This makes sense: Even ‘free-form’ traveling ones tend to have a minimal amount of planning (answering the question what experience would I like to give myself?)

Some college students and professionals choose to enroll in a structured gap year or career break program such as volunteering in an NGO. These are fabulous initiatives in which participants walk away with new insights and skills.

Oftentimes though, these programs are more geared towards early-20-somethings than professionals in their 30s. In addition, both students and professionals may be looking for something that allows them to focus purely on what they want in life and how they can make an impact in society with their unique talents. Entrepreneurship skills can then serve as the container to be filled with whatever you can offer. For this reason, many people between the ages of 18 and 38 are choosing Knowmads. What’s different about it? It blends the flexibility of being able to design your own education and schedule with the structure of being on-site three to five times a week, with built-in times for reflection and project work. In addition, its focus is decided by you: You decide what you want to learn and what you want to create. All the tools are there to form the structure that you then fill. And there’s an instant network of socially-conscious businesses, trainers, alumni, and professionals right at your fingertips.

Gap year

Trainers and participants take in in Tribe 8’s final presentations.

Why a structured gap year or sabbatical?

  • Unstructured breaks give you street smarts, but focused ones allow you to get a head-start on road-mapping your life goals or reevaluating a life you’re not content with
  • The benefits can be amplified tenfold if you decide where to focus and then undergo a structured process to get there. Example: Finding your passion or life path – It may occur naturally with an unstructured gap year, but is more potent when you are guided through a process to focus on them and dismantle them
  • Oftentimes there are less concrete results that can be added to your CV after an unstructured gap year
  • Specifically, Knowmads gives you the unique combo of entrepreneurial smarts and soft skills. Leadership, communication, teamwork, and social entrepreneurship training looks great on your CV. So do ‘harder skills’ like product design and sustainability trainings.
Gap year

Tribe 15 during their 3rd day of the program

You’re setting yourself up for the rest of your life.

At Knowmads, you will:

  • Learn habits that will benefit you for the rest of your life
  • Learn tools to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE YOUR LIFE
  • Learn new skills by actively doing them
  • Projects or concepts you’re exposed to can show you where to go next if you’re questioning what to do with life.
  • Delve into the questions, who am I, what world do I want to live in, and how to get there? You work on these things directly here, as opposed to distracting yourself in a formal gap-year program and indirectly getting your answers
  • Learn how to communicate effectively  and work in a team with people from all different backgrounds

Chances are, you chose an unstructured break because you didn’t know what you wanted to do, just roughly that you would land somewhere and ‘see where it took you’. What if you got the freedom and exploration that traveling affords you, while also learning tools to work through those questions of what it is you really want and where you should go?

Gap year

Tribe 14 on their nature quest

The Point?

  • A gap year or career break is an incredible energizer and clarity-giver to your entire life. So many other dimensions of your life than just career or studies are developed. If you are unhappy with where you’re headed but feel ‘stuck in a track’ and too busy to change it, a more radical move may be needed – Take some time to step back and plan so you come back stronger than ever in a life of your own design.
  • Choose to explore who you are, what you want for your life, and how you want to contribute to the world. This is the foundation for everything.
  • In the end, only you know what you need: Depending on what you’d like to focus on, you could choose a structured or unstructured gap year; free-form traveling, a career gap program for professionals or one for students to develop work experience in another country.
  • But if you want to dig into your unique potential – If you’re ready to ask the important questions that can set you up for years of success in consciously building your life, Knowmads is a program specifically for that.

As a final point, I’d like to leave you with this infographic from Gap Year Association:

Gap year

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