Two years ago a young woman came into my office for an interview.
I was a manager of a large team at the time and I was looking to fill an open spot.
This woman had a great resume and impressive skill set. Her people skills and polish were on point.
She had one unusual thing though – she had just spent the last year skiing at 100 ski resorts around the world.
Yep, she had that big, strange, scary gap on her resume.
I was instantly fascinated.
As a strong supporter of lifestyle design and someone who secretly wants to escape the cubicle, I was super impressed.
My more traditional and older boss on the other hand, he wasn’t as fascinated, let’s just say that.
I had to run all candidates by him before I hired them.
Luckily, he was on board to hire her but I wouldn’t say he was impressed by the gap year. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Why Are Employers So Afraid of Gap Years?
Employers are afraid that persons who take gap years won’t be “as committed” to the company and won’t put in the time to get stuff done.
(You know, because this is America and the time your butt is glued to your cubicle chair is what is really valued – not the work you do).
Unfortunately, this belief is common and women are impacted more by it, because they are more likely to take time off for kids.
Check out this post that got me all riled up today: Questions You’re Probably Not Asking On A Career Gap Resume.
In the post, the author says that you should really dig into candidates who have taken career gaps – to make sure they actually got something “positive” out of the gap.
Here are some of my “favorite” nuggets from the article:
- “For instance, if they have been at home and not collaborated regularly with anyone, they will probably take a while to integrate, and may require further training at extra expense.”
- “There are laws to prevent not hiring a person due to concerns over taking time off due to pregnancy in the future. That’s not to say you can’t indirectly ask. Instead, focus on a candidate’s potential career goals, their ability to stay motivated, and interest in future overtime.”
The author ends the article by saying that the interviewer should just rely on their gut to determine if the person will be truly committed to the company.
Cool. Great guy.
Taking A Gap Year During College
I’m a huge proponent of the gap year even though I’ve never
had the guts taken one myself.
I was first introduced to the concept in college when an acquaintance announced he was taking a year off between his sophomore and junior years.
We were all like, “WHAATTT is he doing?! He must be having some sort of breakdown.”
No one understood it because no one knew that was even an option.
Meanwhile, I was changing my major left and right and wasting $40,000+ per year in tuition as I figured my life out.
Wouldn’t it have been great to just hit pause and figure out what I actually wanted to study before I wasted any more money?
I didn’t think like that at the time. Actually, no one did.
Gap years were for Australian students and rich, hippie 18-year-olds.
The student I knew ended up working in D.C. for a year and came back with a little more direction and a great experience to add to his resume.
It was the first time I realized that taking a gap year could be something positive.
Taking A Gap Semester During College
Enter the second student I knew who took time off. This situation is a lot less glamorous.
He was a football player and got really drunk one night, got in a fight, and injured someone very, very badly.
He was forced to “take a semester off” and spent that semester interning for one of the most prestigious financial services firms in the world.
Instead of a punishment, he had a fantastic experience on his resume – an experience that would not be available to other students in our college (or at least only available in the summers).
The whole situation was super messed up but what was the most messed up is that he greatly benefited from that time off, whereas the other student almost died.
I had trouble processing that situation when it happened and I still do now. Why are colleges so messed up?
I can’t deny though that the time off helped him get ahead in his career.
Why Are We All Afraid Of Taking Time Off?
I’m afraid of taking time off for the following reasons:
- I’m afraid that my future employer will react like my boss reacted when I hired the woman who took a ski-year.
- I don’t want to give up the money.
Those are pretty normal fears given:
- 70% of women are afraid of taking a career break
- 40% of managers avoid hiring younger woman to get around maternity leave
Although, I’m not afraid anymore.
I’ve actually been contemplating taking some time off lately.
As you can tell in this article, Did I Waste My Twenties Or Did I Beast Them?, I’m at a cross-roads here.
I can continue to push up the corporate ladder (I had two interviews recently with another tech-giant) or I can do something completely different.
I’m trying to save boat-loads of money though, so a gap year could potentially hold me back from my long-term goals.
My husband and I are trying to retire in our thirties and we need these years to help grow our savings.
In Defense Of The Gap Year
I’m reading Tim Ferriss’s new book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, and early into the book, Tim says this:
Think of your 10-year plan. Now pretend someone put a gun to your head. You now have 6-months to achieve this plan. What would you do?
Here Tim is again, flipping my view on things.
Tim has been a super influential figure in my life, just as Mr. Money Mustache has been a super influential figure.
Mr. Money Mustache is more of the slow and steady plodder (if retiring in 7 years is slow ha) and his philosophy is to save as much money as possible in your day job.
Tim, on the other hand, would want you to quit your day job now and figure out something entrepreneurial. He made his money originally by selling supplements online.
I’m trying to do a little bit of both.
I’m saving a crap-ton of money from my day job and I’m about to launch a business selling physical products and information products online. (My first physical product ships Thursday! Can’t wait to check the shipment out!)
I’ve also launched a brand new coaching business where I’m coaching people to do the things I’ve learned how to do, like:
- How to Get A Job in Tech
- How to Make Money Blogging
- How to Pay Off Debt
If you’re interested in working with me, check out my coaching services page to sign up.
I guess that’s diversification right there, although lately I’m leaning towards taking more risk and walking a little on the Tim side.
(By the way, I can’t wait for the Tim Ferriss and Mr. Money Mustache podcast episode to come out. I really hope they fight out their different philosophies. I’m hoping for a Ronda Rousey UFC style battle!)
Update: So I just listened to the Mr. Money Mustache interview on Radical Personal Finance and realized that MMM is all about the online income now too. Check out the advice he would give his son (half-way through the episode).
Update 2: The Mr. Money Mustache episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast came out and it’s great (although a lot less debate than I had hoped for). I recommend skipping the first ten minutes if you’re an avid MMM reader. Overall, great episode.
Would You Take Time Off?
Have you ever taken a gap year? Are you contemplating taking a gap year?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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