Considering taking a ‘gap year’? Advice from the Careers Service

Joanne McKinney, Careers Manager for Coleraine, Limavady and Ballymoney in the Department for Employment and Learning's Careers Service.
Joanne McKinney, Careers Manager for Coleraine, Limavady and Ballymoney in the Department for Employment and Learning's Careers Service.

Taking a year out to do something else can enhance your skills, confidence and CV.

Many people take a gap year before starting work, college or university, but you could take one at any time.

Joanne McKinney, Careers Manager for Coleraine, Limavady and Ballymoney in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Careers Service offers the following advice: “In your gap year, you have a number of choices and options.

“You could gain some work experience to build up your skills, volunteer at home or abroad, or see the world and learn about new cultures. The most important thing is that you use your gap year effectively. Gap years can be used as a way to gain relevant work experience, learn another language or improve your life skills like problem solving, resilience and communication.

“Whatever you do, taking a gap year could be a good way to help your confidence and to become more independent. It can also show employers that you are not afraid to spend time broadening your horizons and learning new skills.”

“You may want to go travelling and sample life in other countries during your gap year. Check out http://www.myinterrail.co.uk/interrail-passes/ for details of affordable public transport fares in Europe.

Many tour operators run gap year trips that visit as many places as possible in a year. If you haven’t saved enough cash, you could work your way around the world. You may need to have certain types of visa to work in some countries, so check before you go.

“If you decide to go abroad and want to work, there is a huge range of casual job opportunities. These range from fruit picking to conservation projects; working in a sun or ski resort; on a cruise ship or acting as a camp counsellor.

“Teaching English as a foreign language is another option and careers advisers can advise on how to obtain qualifications and training in this area. If you have skills in areas such as music, dance, extreme sports or even yoga, why not consider teaching these?

“If you choose to go abroad for a gap year, it’s important to do lots of research before you go. Knowing about the culture and customs of your destination means you’re better prepared to deal with situations while you’re there. It can also help you avoid breaking any local laws by mistake and keep you safe.

“For useful advice and information on how to stay safe and healthy during your gap year overseas go to https://www.gov.uk/gap-year-foreign-travel-advice or check out www.carolinesrainbowfoundation.org/”

“For more information you can contact a careers adviser. Go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers where you will find the contact details for your nearest Careers Office and careers adviser.

“Volunteering can provide you with the opportunity to gain experience while making a difference. Many organisations offer young people the chance to volunteer in different countries around the world. Opportunities range from helping out in school classrooms or children’s summer camps, to assisting in hospital clinics.

“Volunteering takes dedication and hard work, but it is a unique chance to experience working with others, and even learn about other cultures.

“Check www.nidirect.gov.uk/volunteering for more details on volunteering overseas.

“If you want to do your bit but would prefer to stay closer to home, there are many projects in Northern Ireland that involve volunteers. Further information is available on www.volunteernow.co.uk/.

“If you are considering taking a gap and need further advice and guidance, please go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers where you will find the contact details for your nearest Careers Office and careers adviser. You can also contact the Careers Service by phone on 0300 200 7820.”