5 Ways to Boost Your Employability on a Gap Year | Top Universities

5 Ways to Boost Your Employability on a Gap Year

By Chloe Lane

Updated April 27, 2021 Updated April 27, 2021
  • Taking a gap year before university can help you better prepare for your course and allow you to build transferrable skills. 

gap year is usually taken between finishing secondary education and starting university. Recent QS data found that 56 percent of international students are now delaying their application due to COVID-19  and gap years are becoming more popular than ever.  

There are plenty of options available to you if you’re looking to do a gap year. Some people decide to travel abroad, either living in a single country or travelling around the world; others get a job in their home country to earn some money or do some volunteer work. 

If you’d prefer to stay in your home country due to the global pandemic, discover COVID-19 safe gap-year options here

Whatever you decide to do, a gap year is an opportunity to gain transferrable skills that’ll enhance your CV and make you more employable. 

Here are five employer-approved ways a gap year can make you more hireable: 

Learn a new language 

 learn language

In an increasingly globalised world, employers are often looking for graduates who can speak more than one language. This is particularly true in international firms as you will likely deal with clients from all around the world.  

If you’re travelling abroad for your gap year, use this as a chance to get to know the locals, fully immerse yourself in the culture and pick up the language.  

If you need additional help learning a language or won’t be travelling abroad during your gap year, apps like Duolingo, Mondly and Memrise make learning languages enjoyable with flashcards, games and personalised learning.  

Develop transferrable skills 

transferrable skills

Whether you’re volunteering abroad, working in your local supermarket or travelling around Asia, you will pick up transferrable skills which will be applicable in any workplace. Emphasise these on your CV to boost your employability.  

“Voluntary work, work experience, internships, part-time jobs and travelling will give an interviewee the option to talk about skills that they’ve developed,” explained Gareth James, Director of Foundation. “For example, the organisation learnt from travelling for months, punctuality from a part-time job, and industry skills from work experience.” 

The ability to work well under pressure, time management, teamwork and organisation are just a few of the skills you will pick up from a job or volunteering work.  

Discover more about working abroad here  

Complete an online course 

online course 

Since COVID-19 began, there has been a surge in online courses available. These are sometimes called massive open online courses, or MOOCS. These courses are taught by academics at some of the world’s best universities, such as Harvard University and the University of Oxford  

From Shakespeare to data analytics to the science of climate change, online courses vary widely in topic. This makes it easier to find one that will both interest you and prepare you for your university course or chosen career. Some students use these courses to brush up on skills, such as Microsoft Excel, or to learn more about an interest. 

“As an employer, I feel that a productive pre-university gap year can support a graduate’s job search,” said Michelle Donlin, HR manager at Profile Pensions. “It can enhance a CV, especially if the gap year has been tailored to the subject they plan to study at university.” 

Online courses also make a fantastic addition to your CV and can help you stand out to graduate employers, showing that you're self-motivated and determined. 

Discover available online course here.  

Decide your next steps 

decide steps

You might be taking a gap year because you’re either not sure what you should study at university or whether you should even go to university. Many students use their gap year to explore their interests and reflect on what they should study at university. 

“Gap years can most definitely make a graduate more employable; especially if they’ve used this time to think about their longer-term career plans, allowing them to make the best decision for their degree choice.” said Krystal Jevons, Operations Director at Pure Structured Finance

Deciding what to study can be a tricky decision. Make your decision easier by using the QS Course Matching Tool, which will link you to programmes and universities that suit you.  

“I think taking a gap year is really important for those who are yet to discover what they want to do with their life,” said James. “Being 18 and being asked to make a life-changing decision like that can be tough so it’s better to be sure.” 

Volunteer or work in an industry that interests you 

 volunteer

If you know what you want to do once you graduate, then getting some work experience – either volunteering or working in a related role – will look great on your CV when it comes to applying for graduate roles.  

For example, if you’re interested in working in the food industry, spending your gap year working in hospitality will show that working in the industry is truly something that interests you and you will gain valuable experience working in the sector.  

“I always say that skills can be taught but work ethic often can't be, so we're more inclined to look at people that have had any sort of jobs before university as it shows they've had experience working for an employer,” said Ryan Walton, Founder of Aura Ads

If you don’t know what you want to do for a living – and let’s face it, many students don’t – then working or volunteering in an industry that interests you is a good way to learn more about it and to consider whether this is an industry you might want to work in in the future.  

“For those that don't want to rush into university straight after college or sixth form, any sort of part-time job would be good,” said Walton. “It's something to talk about when you do actually go to job interviews in the future, and a good way to find out your working strengths and weaknesses too.” 

This article was originally published in April 2021 .

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Written by

A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. She enjoys writing articles about a wide range of topics for a student audience. 

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