The following are some of the most common concerns that we hear from mid- and post-career adults considering a gap year:
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.
Finances - Examine how you think about money and realize that a gap year doesn't have to cost a lot. Start saving and/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.
Home and Belongings - To help you 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.
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 and a broader outlook.
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 that person 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 or all of your work from anywhere in the world.
What to Do 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 the question of what to do and where to go is where you can rely on the Center for Interim Programs. We work very closely with you to both understand and address your concerns, your desires, your budget, and more. 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 develop with you will fit you in every way.
Returning Home - What will happen upon your return is hard to say, but we'll bet that you'll return from your gap time 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 placements, you'll start reaping some of the many Mid and Post Career Benefits we know are possible.
Return to the Mid and Post Career landing page for other useful links.