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The pros and cons of taking time out

Time out can give you a chance to think about your career plans – and put some useful experience on your CV.

If you’re considering time out, make sure you’re clear on your motivation. Is it for positive reasons, such as new experiences, challenges, developing skills etc, or are you avoiding facing responsibilities or decisions in your life? 

The best decisions are made when you have all the facts in front of you so explore your options and seek the advice of a professional careers adviser to ensure that you make an informed choice. For some it may be that they just need a break from study, while for others it may be a chance to travel and learn more about the world around them. 

Taking time out for some students involves discovering more about ‘who they are’ and ‘where they are going’ in life; a path of self-exploration where they become more aware of their own individual skills and abilities. It can be a time for discovering where they may ‘fit’ career wise in the working world, perhaps opening up the prospects of further study in a more defined and specialised field.

It pays to plan ahead

When applying for jobs or courses, remember that application forms usually have sections on employment history, relevant work experience and skills. ‘Time out’, if used well, can be a very valuable selling point when answering these questions and is also valuable in interview situations.

Before leaving:It is worth finding out whether course providers or employers that interest you are willing to defer offers for a year. In this ideal scenario, you can travel worry-free for a year, returning to a secure position.

Ensure family or friends are aware of courses and positions that interest you and ask them to inform you when they are advertised. In today’s world, communication to prospective colleges or employers is immediate no matter where you are. 

Finally: remember before returning home that some companies accept ongoing applications; it is worth having a list of these and applying a few months prior to your return.

The pros…

  • Time out can provide a good opportunity to research career opportunities and postgraduate options to ensure that you make an informed decision.
  • It can help you develop key skills and relevant work experience which may be a prerequisite for entry into certain careers and postgraduate programmes and will enhance a CV.
  • It provides a valuable opportunity to travel and avail of working visas abroad. Prospective employers are likely to be impressed as your experience will show your ability to explore other cultures.
  • It may be a good time for you to pay off debts or save for further study.
  • If you feel burnt out from study then time out provides a good opportunity to take a break.

… and the cons

  • Your future CV may have gaps in it unless you market your experience effectively.
  • Employers will be looking for reasons for your decision to take time out and may not view your activity during this time as productive.
  • Depending on the length of time out, some of your skills may become underutilised and perhaps even rusty, such as languages/computer skills.
  • You may miss closing dates and interviews for employers and postgraduate programmes or it may be more difficult to apply/attend if abroad.
  • You may find returning to study or work difficult.

How your careers service can help

Careers advisers in your college will have frequently dealt with students prior to departure and on return. They are the people best placed to help you reach decisions based on your own individual circumstances. You will also get help drafting CVs and cover letters. Careers services have many resources available to students wishing to take time out including hard-copy material and databases of gap-year work, exchange programmes, volunteer work and visa requirements. It is worth checking out your careers service’s website for further information.