Two years ago I met a woman on the train who just spent a year skiing abroad and was returning to work.
Yep, she had that big, strange, scary gap on her resume.
As a strong supporter of lifestyle design, I was super impressed.
She told me that it was actually difficult for her to find a comparable job when she returned though.
Note: Since writing this post my friends Noah & Becky took a gap year from their corporate jobs and loved it and had zero repercussions professionally. I interviewed them for my podcast here: Noah & Becky’s Gap Year
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.
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 mental breakdown.”
No one understood it because no one knew that it 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 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.
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 negatively to the time off.
- I’m afraid of losing financial stability and health insurance.
I’m also concerned about taking time off to have children.
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 slowly getting over the fear.
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 and did not take a gap year. He saved his money and worked hard in a corporate job, until he amassed enough savings to retire. He accidentally runs his own online business now.
Tim, on the other hand, figured out something entrepreneurial from the beginning. He made his money originally by selling supplements online and now he runs an online business.
I’m trying to do a little bit of both.
I’m saving a crap-ton of money from my day job in a field I find rewarding and I’m also creating passive income streams.
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 creating the passive income streams.
(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. He mentioned that he would advise his son to check out online work.
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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NZ Muse says
Gap years are really common here in NZ. I originally thought I’d take one between high school and uni but I went straight to uni. I wound up taking a six month gap about 3 years into working, during my 2nd job. Nobody here would bat an eye.
Jealous – I bet that was a great experience! Funny how things can be perceived so differently in NZ versus US.
I am a huge proponent of the school or career gap year! When I read Tim Ferriss’ stuff on mini-retirements – my mind was blown. Suffice it to say, nobody had ever just told me that that could be a thing.
I don’t know if I’ve ever taken a “proper” gap year myself – I have lived overseas but always for work, school, or research. Even this has elicited some pretty intensive questioning from potential employers because my resume is a little unconventional.
I think the exciting thing is that there are so many ways you can marry the two things you’re after (the conventional and the unconventional) – though I have to say, I’m a bit excited you’re leaning toward the Time side of things! Can’t wait to read more about which direction you head!
Thanks! Yeah, the first time I read 4-Hour Work Week I was like AHHH!H!! *MIND BLOWN*!! Cool that you’ve led an unconventional career path. I’ve sold a disconnected resume before, I’m thinking I could do it again!
Financial Panther says
The gap year is something I’d love to do, but I also don’t have the guts. In theory, if I’m saving 50% or so of my income, I “should” be able to work one year, take the next year off, and so on. In the legal world, I feel like it’s so traditional that anyone who has a gap year is seen as having something wrong with them, which probably makes it harder to get a new gig.
Very true – many people in the legal professional probably can’t take the year off due to loans maybe. Perhaps you can do some consulting? I definitely feel the same way as you in that it would be hard to continue to move up the ladder if you step off. I probably wouldn’t be able to get a job that is as well-paying and desirable as the one I have now.
Matt @ The Resume Gap says
Ha, the career advice about having a gap in employment is so amusing (and frustrating) to me that I named my blog after it! Traditional employers treat it as a huge red flag. Some of those reasons are valid. I probably *am* less likely to become a loyal 20-year-tenure employee drone than someone without a break in their work history. I’m also more likely to be refreshed and highly engaged, to choose work about which I’m most passionate, and to openly dissent and lend constructive criticism when I disagree — but those are easy-to-ignore benefits for a risk-averse hiring manager.
I decided to refuse to sacrifice what’s important to me — the things I value most — just for the sake of having the most polished, “hireable” resume. If I do find myself going back to work, perhaps the big gap in my resume will be a burden, but I suspect an employer I would really want to work for would be much more likely to take your point of view on someone like the skier (awesome!) rather than your boss’s less positive outlook.
Great point about wanting to work for someone who is supportive of resume gaps. It’s so hard to find that understanding boss from a job description but maybe there are more of us out there! FIRE job board, anyone?
Maybe it’s because I’m down to a few weeks away from adiosing my career for a while, but I’m so much more interested in enjoying the gap than hustling and hoarding for eventual early retirement under 4% SWR. My suspicion is that there will come a point during my travels where I am ready to go back to work and start saving again. But who knows.
Thanks to the market, my portfolio is a lot higher than I really expected it to be at this time a few years ago and I am saving up cash in order to not tap the portfolio while I’m traveling or to re-establish myself after.
If there’s a huge downturn, I’m sure I’ll be disappointed that I don’t have the firehose of a salary to snap up shares at artificially low prices, but that’s such a first world problem and I would imagine travel costs would go down too as those industries would have less people willing to pay full price.
Like Matt, I’m probably not interested in the employer who is going to hold the gap against me.
I guess my biggest variable is not knowing if or when I’ll pair off, but until then, I might as well pursue a career that sounds fun and pays enough. That’s what financial security buys you.
Knowing that I only need to make X instead of 2X – 4X because of my investments opens up so many potential job options that you wouldn’t have if you spent everything you make.
Very true! Excited for you and this road trip! Enjoy!
Ariel @ The Frugal Mermaid says
I am currently 2 months away from the end of my gap year (sob) and I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I’m unable to find a job when I get back.
It’s been such an incredible experience living somewhere so different and learning a new language and culture.
Sure, sometimes it’s super frustrating knowing that I’m not contributing to my savings. But the good that has come out of this is so much more important than money, or even financial independence. Gap years can be so renewing and eye-opening. I highly recommend, even if it means a few run-ins with people like your boss! It’s well worth it to do it at least once.
Congrats on taking that leap! Can’t wait to read more about your travels!
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials says
I suspect if I take a gap year, it will be entirely by accident. As in, I quit working and someone just cannot resist hiring me for the coolest job on the face of the planet (I’m looking at you, YNAB!). I’m unlikely to take a gap year now though, while I’m happy with my job.
Very true. I’m very jealous about your enthusiasm regarding your job! I wish some of that would rub off on me!
[email protected] and the Beach says
I’m a hiring manager now and I have to fully admit I’d be suspicious of someone taking a year off to ski. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I would have some red flags. The ironic, or perhaps hypocritical thing about it though is I wouldn’t mind doing it myself. I know, I know. I think in the end I’d go on everything else this person had to offer and if I sensed a commitment. For me though, if I took a year off, I might have a really hard time coming back to the 9-5.
Haha My philosophy with hiring the ski-year person is that they’ve already had their time off and they’re ready to come back. The true risk is the person who feels trapped and just wants to escape ASAP but can’t!
Freedom 40 Plan says
I took a gap year between high school and college and it was easily one of the best decisions of my life.
As someone who also has hiring responsibilities I too am always interested in the people who have taken some time off from work to try something new or pursue a dream. I think that’s the key though – if you decide to take a gap year and then re-enter the working world, you’ve got to own that time off and even brag about all the awesome things you did. I think most employers will respect that and it will show you as being a strong, motivated, and confident person.
Very jealous of your gap year! I agree about owning that time, except when it comes to taking time off for family reasons, such as having kids. I don’t think people would be comfortable bragging in that situation.
The Grounded Engineer says
Like you stated, Julie, taking a gap year now delays early retirement! Which is why I haven’t taken a gap year, but it is something I would love to do. Especially because I just had my first child (a little girl!).
My story is similar to yours – I’ve been blessed by the tech industry to reach a very solid income in the six years I’ve been out of college. Not quite to your level, but the cost of living in the Midwest likely offsets the difference ?
I’m trying to save as much as I can to reach financial independence as quickly as possible!!
Congrats on your little girl!! Yup, a gap year would be so nice right about now 😉
Colin @ rebelwithaplan says
Okay, so I (and I’m sure many others) have always heard about how the U.S. culture doesn’t really view gap years as important compared to many other parts of the world (U.K, Australia, New Zealand, etc). I just didn’t realize the extent of it until I started meeting several people along my travels who were taking gap years. Many of them were taking time off from university to do it.
Gap years are good but if a person is going to take one, it’s good to think about ways to show your experience of a gap year. It’s always cool to see someone who builds an interactive website about their gap year, designs a magazine layout, puts together videos, and so on to document their gap year.
haha you’re not the first person to comment that and actually the guy in the article that I linked to said that showing the positive of the gap year was a requirement. I don’t know if I buy that though. What happened to people just needing a break? Society seems to require that everyone prove everything all the time. And in the case of a parent taking time off for kids – don’t think they need an interactive PowerPoint to justify that time.
AJ Money Matters says
This is a great debatable topic! When I was younger I knew a lot of people who took gap years, while I was still slaving away in uni and hoping to land a corporate career as soon as I graduated from my Bachelor’s degree (which didn’t happen). In all honesty, I thought at that time these people were silly, and were just wasting time.
Now however, I think completely differently. Employers love life skills and they like to know you’ve taken yourself out of your comfort zone (which taking a gap year would definitely do). They find people who have had a gap year more interesting, but I do understand the hesitancies they may have regarding the candidate’s commitment. The thing is, that person is applying to that job for a reason and I think it’s just gauging what they want for themselves in the next few years – which is probably why a lot of employers ask, where do you see yourself in 5 years.
Gap years in the UK are traditionally between secondary school and university so they wouldn’t have an impact necessarily on your CV (resume).
I’m from Ireland though and generally we go straight to university and then spend summers abroad.
The thing I find surprising from this article is the idea that someone is hired under the expectation that they would be a long term employee! The average is something like 3 years and I once read that people change careers 5 times in a lifetime.
Jaymee @ Smart Woman says
At this point in my career, I’m like you! I am afraid to take time off and the money I’ll miss out on will slow down my early retirement plans.
I will welcome shorter gaps like a couple weeks to a month however – just to reset or give myself a break. I left to go home to the Philippines for a whole month last year and it was amazing! I felt refreshed, got a good dose of reality check (cuz of the stark differences in lifestyle between Philippines & Canada) and enjoyed having a whole month to do absolutely nothing 🙂
Awesome! How did you negotiate that time off?