What are the benefits of taking a gap year? Kate Gallagher shares the personal insights and perspectives she gained during her gap year and how she leveraged those experiences with a deepened awareness of her skills and interests to land her current role at IBM. As a young adult in the early stages of her career life, Kate states “the future of work from my perspective looks promising”.
You decided to take a gap year after completing a BA. What was your perspective on post-secondary education, work and career at that stage in your life? How did you decide that taking a gap year was the right step for you?
I chose to take my gap year after graduating from post-secondary. When I left high school, I hadn’t heard of the term “gap year” so I simply did the next “logical” thing which was to continue my education. At that time, I had the mindset that “smart” people went to university and “not so smart” people went to college. I certainly don’t believe that today but that’s what led me to apply to very general programs at various universities. I ended up studying General Social Sciences because I wasn’t sure what I liked, who I was, and what I wanted to do. A BA with general in the title seemed like my best bet. I wasn’t interested in most of my classes and just drifted through those four years. My only real goal was to pass my classes and eventually graduate. After graduation I had no idea what my next step should be. Thankfully I was introduced to the Discover Year program and I immediately felt that a structured gap year was exactly what I needed.
You chose to participate in the Discover Year program which offers a structured gap year. What did that year mean to you? What new perspectives did you gain not only about your own interests and potential but also how you thought about career?
To be completely honest, going into my Discover Year I hadn’t yet grasped what a structured gap year was. I knew I would be working on career skills and personal growth but I didn’t understand to what extent. After completing the program, I can confidently say that I gained so much insight into myself, my values, passions, interest, skills and weaknesses and how I could proactively take steps to better myself. In terms of career, Discover Year provided me the opportunity to intern and eventually work at a marketing agency which opened my eyes to a completely different type of career path. I am also grateful for the technical skills I learned for CV writing, interviewing, and networking. Although, what I value the most from that year was the time I spent with mentors listening to their inspiring stories. I learned that I did not need to rush into a career. It’s o.k., and in my opinion necessary, to try out a few different fields, roles and companies to understand what you like and don’t like in order to make the best decisions for yourself.
I have come to understand that, while what you know is important when doing a job, who you know can be instrumental in helping secure a job. Being part of a community where sharing information and help is reciprocal is a good way to go through life. And while approaching people is not something that was innate to me, practice does make perfect and I continue to work on this skill to this day.
You are now living and working in Ireland. How have you integrated your gap year experiences into your current job? What does the future of work look like from your perspective as a young adult starting out?
Surprisingly, not many embraced my decision to uproot my life and move to Ireland without a “for sure” plan in place. I was told that if I moved without a job lined up I would most likely have to go back to working in the food or retail industry rather than in marketing, which I had been doing for about a year and a half. I feel I used the confidence, curiosity and optimistic outlook I gained through Discover Year when I started applying to many Fortune 500 companies. Luckily, I landed a job with a great international company. I took the knowledge I had gained from Discover Year to effectively express how my current skills and prior work experience related to the specific role I am currently in.
The future of work from my perspective looks promising. New technologies are constantly emerging and changing the workforce. For example, the automation of many roles is requiring employees to hone skills such as creative problem solving, emotional intelligence, and flexibility in order to adapt. Discover Year seems to be ahead of these trends, as I was taught this throughout my gap year. In my opinion Millennials, and people throughout the workforce for that matter, need to be prepared to re-skill ourselves constantly throughout our careers and I believe that companies are realizing this and are putting strategies in place to enable this. The new world of work will require more than ever that employees and organizations each do their part to ensure collective success.