Career Break or Post Career Gap Year Concerns
As we mention on our Time For Yourself page, it's more of a challenge for a mid and post career adult to take a gap year than for a college student or recent grad. Yes, there are greater challenges, but they can be met! Let's be more specific and identify key concerns you might have. We believe that any list of concerns would probably start with your family, followed closely by your finances, career or business, and your home and belongings. And if you can resolve those concerns you might still worry about fitting in, your age, and where to go. You may have other concerns (and we'll be happy to discuss them with you) but these are the concerns we most often hear.
How Do You Get from Thinking about a Gap Year to Taking One?
Our advice is to face those challenges with integrity and to communicate honestly and completely with your partner, family, and colleagues. Taking a gap year is a significant life change, so commit to your gap year in small steps and identify the key items you need to act upon. Recognize the importance of economics; review and actively manage your money and finances. Commit to taking your gap year as inexpensively as you can.
On the positive side, if stress underlies any part of your desire to take a gap year, recognize that you may actually improve your health (relaxation, less stress, new climate, etc.) by taking this time to change your life.
Anyone who follows these guidelines can reach his or her goal of setting off on a gap year in a reasonable amount of time and use this planning time to learn something about the self. And even enjoy the planning process!
How Do You Deal with Your Concerns?
At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, you deal with your gap-year concerns one at a time. Let's go over the list we created above.
Concerns about your family - The first thing to consider when thinking about your family is whether or not to take them along. Even with children an extended summer trip can work as a gap year for you and a potentially rewarding vacation for them. If for some reason you believe it best to head off alone then consider meeting up regularly during your gap year. If you'd like to take six months or a year but the burden on the family will be too great then shorten the time away. There are many rewarding programs that take as little as a week. If you'd like to share a gap year with your partner but have different visions of what a great gap year is, try taking turns individually. Consider, too, that many locations offer more than one type of program so that you might still share the gap-year experience.
Concerns about your finances - Examine how you think about money and realize that a gap year doesn't have to cost a lot. Start saving (more than you think you can afford to put away is best!) or temporarily making more money. You can plan a gap year that "pays" by taking paid leave from your job. If you're a professional, try to find a freelance opportunity that you can do while traveling. You might do what many non-profits do and seek sponsors. (Find ones who benefit in some way from your trip.) For costs you can't put off or cancel (e.g., life insurance, scheduled payments, etc.) calculate the total costs for the time you'll be gone and prepay them, or put the money aside, or make that part of your savings plan. You might also use your gap year to take a job in a desirable locale, e.g., teach English or other subject in a compelling location. Allow Interim to find you a gap year that fits your budget!
Concerns about your home and belongings - To help you to cut home expenses think about renting out your home or getting a house sitter to care for your home. You might also try to swap it for the time you're gone. Finally, if costs, timing, and economics allow you might consider the serious decision of selling your home. Store the belongings about which you are most concerned.
Concerns about your career or business - If you're employed by a corporation or organization then checking up on company policy is a good first step. Of course, if the current job is part of your motivation for taking a gap year, then planning your graceful exit might not include negotiating a return to your job, but only offering fair notice that you're leaving and a willingness to train your replacement. If you're facing a layoff, then looking ahead is your primary career concern.
Corporations are not obligated to allow a sabbatical, yet some forward-thinking organizations are beginning to recognize the potential value in offering extended time off to employees. Moreover, in harsh economic times, when your employer may be interested in ways to cut costs, offering a career break or sabbatical is a win for both you and your employer.
If your employer has invested in training you and recognizes your value, granting you the time off to expand your horizons may actually appeal to your employer. Potential benefits that your employer might recognize are that you are likely to return reinvigorated, with new skills, a broader outlook, a new appreciation for our culture and values, a greater appreciation for what you have, and a better understanding of what you truly want and need.
If the lure of a career break gap year is sufficiently strong and your employer is resistant to the idea, you might ask yourself how confident you are in your skills and how easy it might be for you to find another job. Whether you're returning to your current employer or finding a new position, decide what you want when you return.
If you own a business and you haven't planned for being away (illness, family emergency, expansion, etc.) this could be the perfect time to hire someone to run it profitably. Train them in decision making, growing, and tending the business. Put systems in place, set up reporting and communications channels, and implement contingency plans. Practice by taking "vacations" to see how the business functions and be able to recognize and accept that it may do well without you!
For those of you who are self-employed, while having the most freedom to say "Yes" to a gap year, you also have to recognize the need to arrange your obligations to your clients. But, as many consultants do, you might be able to arrange a block of "down time" that your clients agree to, or have an associate perform maintenance and answer emergency calls while you're away. Then again, global communications systems might allow you to handle some serious emergencies from anywhere in the world.
Concerns about fitting in, your age and where to go - Once you've worked through issues of family, personal finances, home, and career or business you've really done all you need to do. That's because concerns about fitting in, your age, and where to go are where you can rely on The Center for Interim Programs. Interim's in-depth research into programs and our many years of experience in making program placements offer you the assurance that the gap year we work with you to set up will fit you in every way.
A special note for post career gappers - A big fear for older grown-ups considering a gap year is often the fear of change, that is, a reluctance to explore the new and untried. Here again is a place where Interim will work with you to find a program on which you'll feel comfortable. Health and safety also seem more immediate concerns of more mature travelers. These need not be so. While programs volunteering in clinics in developing countries, for example, may seem risky for some, many placements both in the U.S. and abroad are safe and of no more risk to your health than cities and towns nearer to home.
How Will It Be When You return Home from Your Gap Year?
If this is a concern of yours we believe that it is another positive concern. Of course, what will happen upon your return is hard to say, but we'll bet that you'll return from your gap-year experiences with a new and expanded view of yourself and your life even if you return to your previous lifestyle and career. If you immerse yourself fully in your gap year and the programs you've attended do what they are designed to do, as we expect, you'll start reaping some of the many Mid and Post Career Benefits we know are possible.