How To Come Back Strong in 2017 After A Gap Year

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Whether it’s taking a year off to backpack through Europe, or just giving yourself time to decide where your life is going — a gap-year is a healthy career move. But coming back to the job search after an extended break is undeniably intimidating.

Many family members and friends may not understand your choice for taking a gap-year, but you’re not alone. In fact, a November survey of 1,000 U.S. citizens by HostelWorld, A gap year, found a quarter of adults surveyed have taken a year off from work or school. Even though this year is used to take a break from both work and school, there are ways to come back into the workforce even better equipped than before.

Now that you’re refreshed and ready, here’s how to come back strong in 2017:

Go tech

It’s impossible to find a career or course of study that doesn’t use a form of technology. So, it’s no surprise tech skills are number one in demand on LinkedIn’s list of Top Skills of 2016. No matter what field you decide to jump in this coming year, it’s beneficial to begin with a coding bootcamp or online tech course to ramp up your skills and career possibilities.

If you took a gap year from your career, it’s wise to brush up on tech skills. It may have only been a year, but technology is always evolving. Bring yourself up to speed by taking a few online courses, or if you prefer a classroom setting, see what your local college has to offer. Consider both a generalized tech course to re-familiarize yourself with common programs and a specific class that will give you a specialized skill.

Go soft

Coming back from a gap-year may leave you worried you’ve missed out on those hard-hitting job specific skills employers are looking for. If you are stressing over this possibility — take a breath and relax. Employers are looking for candidates who have a knack for soft skills, like dependability, integrity, and respect, according to Entry-Level Applicant Job Skills, an October survey by Society for Human Resource Management.

No matter how you’re presenting yourself — resume, cover letter, online presence, or interview — showcase your values, behavior, and professionalism. Research a company before sending in your application or speaking with an interview to understand their company culture.

If a company focuses on their outstanding teamwork capabilities, explain how you’ve demonstrated teamwork skills in previous jobs or during volunteer opportunities.

Get experience

Even those who haven’t taken a gap-year find the job search challenging. If you haven’t immediately landed your dream job, don’t give up or idly sit by. Volunteering will not only add work experience to your resume, it may help clear up any uncertainties you had about a career path.

Sometimes it really is all about who you know. Networking not only gets you noticed by recruiters and employers, it’s also a great way to find a job that’s right for you. Speaking to a company’s current employees helps you get a true feel for its culture and position details. Remember, it’s not all about an interviewer choosing you — it’s about you choosing an organization and career that fit your passions and needs as well.

Show what you learned

No matter how much you wanted to, most likely your time off wasn’t spent by the pool sipping mimosas all day. What did you learn about your career path or yourself during the gap-year? Where was most of your time spent and how will that benefit your professional life in 2017?

Once you’ve determined the positive aspects of your break, it’s time to begin sharing that with employers. Be confident in your decision to take time off by explaining it to potential employers in the beginning of the interview. Let them know which soft skills you’ve obtained, how your experiences will directly benefit their company, and that you’re ready and eager to start working for them.

It doesn’t matter why you took a gap-year. What’s important now is where you’ve ended up, what you’ve learned, and where you want to go next. Get creative. Use any skills and experiences gained during your break to set yourself up for success — even higher than those who worked through the last year.

What suggestions do you have for those coming back from a gap-year in 2017? Let us know in the comments below!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.