Years out are not just a rite of passage for carefree college-leavers. The urge to take a sabbatical from daily trudge can hit at any time of life. Whether you're uninspired by 9-5 living, fancy a change in professional direction, crave fresh experiences or want to pep up your CV for prospective employers, a well-thought-out career break can have many advantages.
Learn a language
Both professionally and socially, foreign languages can be invaluable. Getting a good grasp of another language is a wise investment when looking to broaden career horizons, and there is no quicker way to learn than by living among native speakers. This can be a pricey expedition, especially when considering travel and accommodation costs. But course lengths do vary massively – anything from one week to several months – so whether you fancy beginners’ Spanish in Buenos Aires, or advanced French in Montreal, trips can be tailored to suit most budgets.
Language Course Abroad www.languagesabroad.co.uk or Cactus Language www.cactuslanguage.com.
Work experience and internships
Work experience is an ever-increasing part of hiking up the career ladder, and a common way of getting started in your chosen field. But who says it has to be done on home soil? While language barriers need to be taken into consideration, Canada, Australia, USA and New Zealand are packed with easily accessible work experience opportunities. For those looking for something a little different, companies like STA Travel can organise an eclectic mix of placements, including film production in India and football coaching in Africa.
STA Travel www.statravel.co.uk or Work and Volunteer Abroad www.workandvolunteer.com.
Sign up for voluntary work
Volunteer programmes not only provide direct routes to areas in desperate need, they can also help establish a career change. Thinking of becoming a teacher? Gain valuable skills and experience teaching pre-schoolers in Sri Lanka, or help build classrooms in Guatemala. Got a life-long love of animals but never gone further than owning a cat? Volunteer on a lion park in South Africa or help rehabilitate rescued animals in Brazil.
Talk to…Gap Year For Grown Ups www.gapyearforgrownups.co.uk or Volunteer Abroad www.volunteerabroad.com.
Become a ski or snowboard instructor
If you’re nippy on the slopes, why not use these skills to secure a season in the snow? There is a wealth of companies – both in the UK and abroad – that run courses offering ski and snowboard instructor’s qualifications; just make sure you end up with an International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) accredited qualification, so that all your hard work is recognised in 37 countries. Getting qualified is a relatively expensive procedure, and, if funds are limited and you’re only planning a one-season break, it could be worth considering a chalet or bar job at a resort, while enjoying easy access to all that lovely snow.
Talk to… British Association of Snowsport Instructors www.basi.org.uk or Base Camp Group www.basecampgroup.com.
For more information on taking a year out, see our Bitesized guide to gap years