Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Midlife Gap Year

Guest Post by Mid Life Opportunity member James Cave
There used to be this really strong feeling that gap years were only for school leavers and youngsters, luckily for us, this feeling is on the way out. Our culture is changing, and that means all of us travel-hungry folks who are well past our twenties don't have to just sit back all dewy eyed thinking about all the opportunities we missed out on, we can go and make some new ones for ourselves.

I think the biggest road block people faced when they thought about travelling as an older person is the idea that it might have some lasting ramifications on their career. And don't get me wrong, this is a really valid concern, but there's a definite change in perception these days.

The times when we chose a career in our teens and stuck with it right through until retirement are long gone, now we're expected to move around and hop from company to company every few years. In fact, our culture has now changed so much, that changing job or moving organisation is often seen as the only way to gain a promotion or pay rise for a lot of sectors.

What does this mean for adults hoping for a gap year? That the gap on your CV isn't going to be looked at in the kind of negative light you've been worried about. In fact, employers may even look at it as a positive. As the popularity for gap years has grown, so has an opinion that by going on one, people are not only broadening their horizons, but showing a willingness to learn and a flexibility that’s really very desirable in the working world.

On the other hand, if you’d love to go travelling but are actually happy in the job you’re in just now, sit down and have a chat with your boss or HR department. You could find they already have a set of rules for circumstances like that, and many businesses will offer an unpaid sabbatical, often for something more like three to six months, but occasionally for a whole year. This makes sense for a business that values their employees, as not only does it mean they are likely to come back more enthusiastic and with new skills, but there’s evidence that finding replacements for skilled workers isn’t cheap.

Another thing to think about is the fact that your gap year could leave you with some real, long-lasting benefits if you decide to learn a language or take part in some overseas learning while you’re away. Whether you choose to travel to France to learn French, or fly to French-speaking Canada (Quebec) to do the same, or even just decide to spend a few months in Australia, working in a bar, you’ll be adding new experiences and skills to your portfolio, something you should never put off doing.


  1. Very well written piece! I really like the way you have composed and presented it so well.