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One of the deterrents of a gap year is the fear of what employers might think. Many parents and students alike worry about the impact taking a year off can have on a future career. But what if we told you that in many instances employers value the life experiences a young person has gained during a gap year?

Your child can learn crucial soft skills and the attributes necessary to succeed in both the professional environment and, ultimately, adulthood, in a year off from study. Employers aren’t just looking for technical know-how anymore – interpersonal abilities and emotional intelligence are highly regarded in the modern workplace.

Of course, employers have their concerns, too, but don’t let this discourage you. Here's what employers really think about gap years, and how your child can use this year off to get ahead before they enter the workplace.

They value independence

Depending on the kind of work your child plans on doing, independence is paramount – it's the difference between having to hold an employee’s hand, and implicitly trusting them to do their job well without constant observation. Employers love self-motivated and driven workers who take initiative, so if their gap year experience helps to develop these skills, then your child will be in good standing for future jobs.

Problem-solving is key

Problem-solving skills will give your child an edge in the modern, competitive workplace. As project management becomes one of the most in-demand skills for employees, everyone is looking for people who can make decisions, analyse potential outcomes and come up with unique solutions on the spot.

If your child plans on working or volunteering during their gap year, they’re likely to develop these problem-solving skills naturally. For instance, doing traditional ‘gappy’ work at a school, summer camp or bar might mean juggling a variety of personalities and being in charge of a team. This will surely present opportunities to solve problems and learn on the job, creating a good understanding of how to think on their feet that they’ll take with them throughout life.

They suggest using your time wisely

A tip from many employers is to make the most of your gap year. Instead of staying in their familiar home environment, encourage your child to shake things up where possible, and take on new challenges that will help them to build character and life experience.

Travelling, volunteering and interning are all valuable ways to spend a gap year that will stand out on a resume – and as a result, impress future employers. If they can reflect on their experience in a thoughtful way, even better. Showing that this year off has given them an opportunity to grow and learn will likely be at the crux of what an employer thinks. Encourage your child to reflect on how they’ve gained important skills or developed positive traits.

Career drive is crucial

While some parents might think that a gap year is a waste of time, we encourage you to look at it differently. This ‘breather’ from the pressures of school and teenage life is a chance for them to reassess, work out exactly what they want to do, and focus their efforts ahead of tertiary study.

If your child has an opportunity to undertake work experience or an internship, encourage them to say yes and run with it. Getting a foot in the door in their industry of choice will lead to, if the fit is right, a heightened sense of drive and excitement for their future career, as well as some relevant experience, both of which employers will regard very highly.

They want you to be emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) is growing in importance, both in life and as it applies to the modern workplace. So, if your child is looking to stand out to employers, developing this skill is the way to get ahead – and it can be done during a gap year. We’ve already touched on some components of EQ, such as independence, motivation and compassion, but another huge factor is self-awareness. Having the time to reflect on goals, strengths and weaknesses will help your teen to build this highly relevant trait ahead of tackling their first job and beyond.

Gap years don’t have to be timewasters. In fact, this experience will be quite the opposite if your child plays their cards right. Employers are placing more and more value on soft skills and the emotional, relational side of work, which means that any opportunity to grow personally is worthwhile.