Posted by & filed under Child Development, Cultural Variation, Development of the Self, Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Motivation-Emotion, Social Cognition.

Description: When I started university (a looong time ago) I had decided I was going to go into physics. By the end of my first year I had failed physics and math and was beginning to realize I would need to rethink my direction of study. Being somewhat perseverant though, I took the non-honors versions of the physics and math courses the next year and passed them (more to prove to myself that I could do them). Then, I took a year off, worked, saved some money and went off on a 6-week wander through Europe with a couple of friends. Before starting my year off I was chatting with a neighbor whose gas station I had worked at while in high school and I mentioned that I was taking a year off to work, travel and figure out what I wanted to do at university. His reaction was quick and quite negative. He told me that if I “quit” university I would likely not go back and that was a very bad thing to be thinking about doing. Luckily, I was undeterred (and my parents were supportive) and I spent the academic year working and then the late spring and early summer poking around Europe from Greece up to my grandparent’s city of origin, Edinburgh. I had a good time, saw a lot of stuff, met quite a few people and got a sense of diversities of culture and I came home with a desire to study something focused on people and social interaction. I returned to university (much to my neighbor’s relief). My initial choice was anthropology, but I hedged by bets with courses in sociology and psychology and found that anthropology did not do much for me interest-wise, sociology was somewhat intriguing but psychology… that grabbed and held my interest and curiosity and here I am today a retired developmental psychologist still writing and teaching and researching in the part of psychology that drew me in the deepest. So, while we did not call it that back then I think my “gap year” really helped me. It broadened my experience and perspective, pushed me to do some serious self-reflection, and moved me towards figuring my things out for myself. I was more willing and better able to dive into the exploration and learning opportunities that were there in university and which started me down my career path. Now, my story, I would say, is a developmental one as in my year off and my travel find traction with my self-reflection and education and life planning. Gap years are now viewed much more positively than my old neighbor viewed them, for a lot of reasons, some anecdotal, some based on expert observation, and some based on research data. One of the important areas of expert reflection and organizational psychology research involves the business argument that might be made in favor of gap year travel. Think about what sorts of things organizations and employers might by looking for in potential new employees ‘these days.” What sorts of things do you think are high on their ‘looking for’ lists of potential new hire skills, experiences and attributes? Of those which might be positively linked to gap year travel experiences? Once you have generated and ordered your list have a read through the article linked below written by and expert in organizational hiring practices (and with a little bit of data as well) and see what they have to suggest.

Source: There’s wider economic sense in helping young people get overseas experience, Zabeen Hirji, The Globe and Mail.

Date: February 3, 2023

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, how did the author’ list line up with yours? Did you list include critical thinking, adaptability, self-reflection, emotional intelligence (soft skills), cultural awareness, developing a sense of purpose and resilience? The author indicates that many of the things on their list cannot be taught (as part of a university curriculum) but, I would suggest, that this is not because they have simply been left off the curriculum but rather, they are things that you have to learn by figuring them out for yourself by focusing and working on your development on purpose. And you can do that just by travelling, good deal huh?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are gap years and are they good or not so good from a developmental life planning perspective?
  2. What sorts of things are employers looking for these days aside from education credentials?
  3. What sorts of things that employers and organization are looking for would also be good for you to have just in terms of life quality?

References (Read Further):

Global Skills Opportunity (Canada) Link

Al Asefer, M., & Abidin, N. S. Z. (2021). Soft skills and graduates’ employability in the 21st century from employers’ perspectives: A review of literature. International Journal of Infrastructure Research and Management, 9(2), 44-59. Link

Warrner, J. (2021). Integrating Soft Skills into an Academic Curriculum. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education. Link

Hahn, S. E., & Pedersen, J. (2020). Employers needs versus student skillsets. Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 10(1), 38-53. Link

Kóré, K. (2021). The effect of gap years on sense of purpose and career development (Doctoral dissertation). Link

Snee, H. (2014). Doing something ‘worthwhile’: Intersubjectivity and morality in gap year narratives. The Sociological Review, 62(4), 843-861. Link

Tian, G., & Ran, W. (2017, November). Review on the impact of gap years on career development. In 2nd International Conference on Education Technology and Economic Management (ICETEM 2017) (pp. 280-284). Atlantis Press. Link