Taking a “Gap Year” will make you perform better

Clear your head of the old to pursue the new

Larry Cornett, Ph.D.
Oct 3, 2017 · 12 min read
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Why fear the gap year?

My experiences in Silicon Valley confirm that the majority of employers hate giving people time to think between jobs. Even the most generous ones won’t give you much flexibility. What are they afraid of?

  1. Open reqs are always at risk. You fill them as quickly as you can, before budget cuts reduce your headcount. Many of us have experienced losing heads because we didn’t hire quickly enough to put butts in those seats.
  2. Finally, we can’t ignore the fear that new employees will reconsider, or even get a better offer if they delay their start date. We want to lock them down and get them into the office ASAP.

My first experience seeking a gap

I remember wanting to take a vacation between jobs a number of years ago. I had been through an intense, stressful period of work without time off for years. So, I wanted to take a breather, spend some time with my family, and decompress before starting my new job.

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During this vacation, we spent some time in Bodega Bay before heading over to a cabin on the Russian River

Finally embracing the gap

I took a “gap summer” after Yahoo to reconnect with my family and think about what I wanted to do next. Plus, I was excited about the possibility of having a real summer vacation for the first time in over 20 years.

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I finally had time to play at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with my kids!

You can truly rest and recover

The first week is full of thoughts of work. You wake up in a panic, thinking you’re late for your commute, and finally remember that you’re on a break. Do you remember that first morning of summer vacation when you were a child? Yeah, it feels like that.

You can invest in yourself

Use this longer period of time to invest in something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself. Create a regular fitness routine. Take interesting classes. Start journaling. Experiment with meditation. Read some books.

“The best investment you can make is in yourself”
— Warren Buffett

Create some goals and make plans for utilizing your time. You already took a real vacation at the beginning of your break, right? Now you can get to work. But, this time you are working for yourself, instead of someone else.

You can ask yourself tough questions

After you make it through a couple of months of this newfound freedom, you’ll start to ask yourself “Why” questions. Once you’ve finally cleared your head from the cobwebs of work, you can start thinking about things that matter to you (instead of pondering how to squeeze more efficiency out of your daily standup meetings).

  • Why do I have to go back to doing what I’ve always done?
  • Is this career path really want I want to do for the rest of my life?
  • Is this all there is to life?
  • What if I didn’t go back?
  • What if I stayed here and opened a banana stand on the beach (There’s always money in the banana stand)?

You can reconnect with friends and family

If you’re a driven and ambitious person focused on rapid career growth, it’s not uncommon that you’ve spent less time with friends and family than you would like. I know that it was true for me.

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My little ones are quite a bit older now

However, manage your burn rate

If you're not familiar with the phrase “burn rate,” it refers to the rate at which you are spending money in excess of your income. It’s usually applied to companies, especially startups. But, it can also be applied to your gap since you may not be generating any income.

But, but, but…

I hear you. The dreaded “gap in your resumé.” Is that still a thing? I know that it used to be a huge issue with employers in the past.

First, have a story to tell

  • It’s hard to tell a compelling story if you haven’t made use of this precious time. If you’re already in the middle of a gap, tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to rewrite your story.
  • As mentioned above, set some goals, make a plan, and start acquiring accomplishments. Is there some new skill or knowledge you’ve always wanted to learn? Now is the time. If you have an internet connection, it’s never been easier to educate yourself. If you don’t, get thee to your public library.
  • Leverage your talent, skills, experience, and network to start doing some consulting or advisory work. Paid gigs would be great (I did this)! But, unpaid advisory work is a better story than sitting on your couch watching Friends reruns. I’ve advised a number of startups and received nothing in return, other than meeting great people, expanding my network, and always learning something new.
  • Offer your amazing skills, experience, and knowledge as a mentor. Many high schools, colleges, and universities have programs that could use someone who has valuable real world experience. One of my clients is doing this and loves it.
  • Volunteer your time and talent to a worthy institution or cause. Not sure where to begin? Charity Navigator provides a list of “exceptional charities that execute their missions in a fiscally responsible way while adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities.” It doesn’t have to always be about donating money. Share your time and talent, and you’ll learn something new along the way as well.

Second, own your story!

  • I don’t care how your gap came about. Even if you got fired and have been struggling to find your next job, today is the day you reclaim your story. Flip this around and own it. You are using this gap to grow and become more.
  • Be confident when you talk about your gap. No matter how it happened, you’re in the driver’s seat now. You took control of how that valuable time was spent.
  • Be honest about how nice it was to actually have some real time off. Who wouldn’t want a longer vacation, break from work, and time to spend with friends and family? Admit it and smile, because the person across the interviewing table is secretly wishing that he or she could take so much time off from work.
  • Be proud of how you value yourself enough to make an investment in your future. A few people never do. Some people rarely take the time. Most of us do it in the margins of our lives. Dedicating significant time to learning, growing, and improving is a rare thing indeed.

Third, let them know how special they are

  • Now that you own your gap story, and have shown how you’ve leveraged your precious time, it should become clear that it would take something quite special to make you leave your gap.
  • You’ve spent this time gaining a deeper understanding of who you are and what you really want next in your career (and life). Create a clear profile of the job and employer that maps to this new vision.
  • If you’re interviewing with a prospective employer, you can let them know that you have taken this time to explore opportunities and make the best choice for your next career move, not just any old job. You didn’t rush into something, and now you are intrigued by their opportunity.
  • If you already had a job lined up, and this gap period was used to recharge yourself and refresh your perspective on your life and career, you can enter your new job full of hope and energy. Your motivation and performance will be above and beyond anything you would have been capable of before, if you had simply jumped straight from your old job to your new job.

Let me know

Have you taken a gap year (or months) between jobs in the past and how did that work out for you?

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Larry Cornett, Ph.D.

Written by

I’m a career advisor who helps you become an opportunity magnet for the best things in life! https://www.brilliantforge.com | https://invincible.substack.com


A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Larry Cornett, Ph.D.

Written by

I’m a career advisor who helps you become an opportunity magnet for the best things in life! https://www.brilliantforge.com | https://invincible.substack.com


A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

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