Mind the Gap

Over on the Jobster blog, Julian and Shannon from Exceler8ion post about taking a grown-up gap year. I like the idea (and mine might involve culinary school in Europe), though I have never been in a financial position to do it. I've seen what a sabbatical can do to someone's perspective and it's pretty awesome. Maybe I'll do it someday. In the meantime, my manager has to convince me into taking vacation time (yesterday, she convinced me to book a spa day and therefor, there will be no blog posting next Thursday and Friday).

I hope Julian and Shannon's next post is about how to address your gap on your resume when in an interview situation (hint, hint). And I hope they write it on Shannon's PC rather than Julian's Mac so we can actually see the apostrophes...sorry Julian, I had to  ; )

Comments (12)
  1. Lauren Smith says:

    When can one find the time?

    Like you mentioned, it requires either a pretty strong financial base to start from or no base at all which makes it possible to wander around the European countryside taking odd jobs and generally just enjoying the atomsphere and soaking in all that there is to soak in. Without an income for a year, family responsibility needs to take a backseat to mere survival. At some point real-life meets Utopia and making a living becomes suddenly very important.

    Not that I think that Americans don’t work too much. We do. But I have to question the wisdom of taking an entire year off to "find yourself". Besides the obvious atrophy of skills during that period, you’re facing a whole host of other negative forces such as aimlessness, laziness, not to mention the cost of financing a year of ‘vacation’. Add to this the responsibility of providing for and caring for a family and suddenly the idea becomes less heroic than selfish and childish.

    That’s not to say that I think it’s a terrible thing and no one should do it. One of my roommates from college left his job at an investment bank to go ride his motorcycle around the world. That was very cool and probably very mind expanding. But his sabbatical was taken with an explicit goal in mind, just as the author’s example of Anna Hingley started off with a solid goal in mind. It wasn’t the willy-nilly backpacking through Europe that most gap years resemble but a carefully thought out plan with a goal at the end that tells you when you’re successful.

    Jeez. Listen to me. I sound like a PM.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm, I see a lot of value in a little mental time off. People take time off for infant care leave and come back into the workforce without concern around skills atrophy. I know that the times that I have take more than a week out of the office (a small number of times), it really helps me put things in perspective. I had a manager that took a sabbatical (5 months, I think) and she came back totally refreshed and energized.

    I didn’t realize that "gap year" had the connotation of willy-nilly backpacking. That’s not how I perceive it, but maybe that is just me.

    So this may sound a little touchy-feely and zen of me, but I think there’s value in feeding the other aspects of your personality outside of the ones we associate with work. And I think caring for those other aspects actually does make you a better employee when you return. Balanced people perform better…that’s why the topic of work life balance exists. I’m a believer, despite the fact that I have a hard time deciding when to take my time off (I’m pretty good at unplugging at the end of the day and working out during the day and making the time up at night).

    I do think I would derive more benefit from a year off now than I would have when I was right out of high school or college. I think being more settled, you can comfortably take the time without wondering what you are going to be when you grow up.

  3. Michael says:

    Heather, check out this guy’s blog:


    I *think* he used to work at Yahoo, but is in the middle of a full-year off, travelling around the world.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    The list of countries he’s gone to make me tired (and jealous!)

  5. Jim S says:

    Everyone should take a year off at least once. After my company did well I was able to lighten my workload by hiring and training people below me. I then took off on a 9 month motorcycle tour of the US and Europe. I still have 3 months to chip away at it as I see fit. One word of advice: Always, and I mean always bring an extra pair of glasses.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jim S- what kind of bike do you have? My dad has Triumphs. He loves them.

  7. Wine-Oh says:

    Graduate school has been my gap year (or years). I have done stuff in my program that I wouldnt have been able to do if I was working full time. When I started the program I did work full time, but soon realized I would get alot more out of it, and speed up the process if I made it priority #1. I now feel refreshed, have new skills to try out, new insights into thought process, and ready to work!

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, what kind of things did you get to do that you would not have had time to do if you were working? Is that about specific classes, projects or other stuff?

    I started taking MBA classes as a grad student at large when I was in Chicago. I had thought about taking the GMAT but the thought of the time commitment scared me (along with working full-time). So the opportunity to take the classes to try it out without having to commit to taking the test sounded good to me. It was a small college that allowed admission if you took 4 GSAL classes and got an A in each. I did that and then moved to company that didn’t have tuition reimbursement. Only time I ever had a 4.0 ; ) All for naught

  9. Wine-Oh says:

    For me it was a combination of things. The highlight for me was this past March when I went with 25 fellow students to Shanghai for a week to learn about doing business in China. As a frequent traveller the places we went on this trip, would not be things one would do on a pleasure trip. I really gained some important insight into doing business with other cultures.

    Another advantage to going part time is being able to take skills and experiences learned in class, and being able to apply it in real time to your job.

    The classes for this specific program were developed for people who had a certain amount of work experience. So I took classes on project management, analysis, strategic HR, IT, and leadership dynamics.

    For me I came to a crossroads in my career and having the advance degree would give me a leg up and instill some skills that I needed to advance in the working world. Where the gap year stuff comes in, is that I grew as a person in many ways, and expanded mentally in ways I didnt know possible.

    On top of that business school is alot of group projects. Because this was a distance learning program, it taught me how to work in group settings with people in different locations. This is a critical skill to have in today’s working world.

    Oh and the bonus was no GMAT if you had 8 years of professional work experience. Which I did and that made it all the more attractive of an opportunity for me. 🙂

  10. Jim S says:

    I rode a Harley for the american leg and a Goldwing for the euro. I do own an Indian that I will never ever take out of my dock garage. I had to pick the two cozy rides just to avoid a sore back and kidneys.

    You should definitely take some extended time off. It’s good for the soul.

  11. mrscrooge says:

    WOW..Michael I have to thank you for that link to goneliving.com. I have been talking to friends , throwing around this idea of taking about 2/3 of a year off and just traveling. Its very daunting to think about walking away from the safety net of health insurance, decent paycheck, benefits, etc.

    Heather, just wanted to say I’ve dropped by your blog occasionally, its always been a fun read – I think its partly because you’re a great writer! I added your RSS feed to my mysite at work – maybe you can spot me :).

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, that Shanghai trip sounds like a great experience

    Jim S- that’s was probably a good idea. I get a sore back from my chair, I can’t imagine what motorcycle can do to you.

    mrscrooge- I was wondering who you were, being an MS employee with a screen name. : )

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content