Gap Year After High School to Figure out Your Career

Troy Buckholdt
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Finding a career during gap year after high school

Are you considering whether you should take a gap year after high school? If you’re reading this, then you are probably thinking about skipping out on enrolling in college right after graduating.

If you don’t know exactly what you would be studying in college or have a very good reason for going, then it’s smart of you to look at alternatives. After all, we know that you shouldn’t go to college to try to figure out what to do as a career.

In almost all of the cases where people use college to figure out what to do, they either get trapped with debt in a job they never wanted or waste four years of time and money starting a career they never even needed to go to college for in the first place.

So, what is a gap year? Most people think of it as a time to travel and explore the world. For many students, this is exactly what they want. A break from learning and to just travel around without a single worry in the world.

The only problem with this type of gap year is that it costs money to travel and once their gap year is over, they are likely no closer to knowing what they want to do for a career than before they left.

What if you don’t want to waste your time and money traveling? What if this gap year could be used to very methodically find the career for you and know for good if you should enroll in college after it’s over?

You have 1 year to figure out what you want to do for a career and if college is the best path for that career. Here is your 4 step process for using this gap year to do exactly that.

Step 1: Identify

identifying career for your gap year after high school

Identify is the first step in this process of searching for a career. In this step, you will align your goals, skills, and interests by using a bullseye model to find a career you hypothesis is a great fit for you.

Goals are your starting point since they are the overarching reason you even want a career in the first place. These goals should be the things that are most important you to. Things where you derive most of your happiness from such as family, accomplishments, travel, etc.

Skills are the things you seem to be naturally better at or more inclined to do than other people. These skills often relate to your personality and if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Are you good better with your hands or on a computer?

Interests are what most people refer to as passions. These are the things you enjoy spending your time doing. Things such as working on cars, singing, or playing video games.

gap year after high school

You use this bullseye model to identify the most promising career by listing out as many entry-level careers you can think of that aligns with your goals. Try to add careers you’ve never even considered before and get at least 20 in this ring

The next step is to look at all of the careers that are in this goals ring and find 6 of them that also align with your skillset. These should be the careers you think you would be able to do a good job at if you were properly trained.

The third step is to look at the 6 careers in your skills ring and find 3 of them that interest you the most. Research all of these careers and find the ones that you seem drawn to learn more about.

Now you should have 3 careers in your inner ring. The last step is to choose the one you hypothesize is the best fit for you.

Step 2: Learn

Now that you have identified a career you hypothesis would be a great career for yourself, the next step is to learn the minimum viable knowledge required to test the career out in the real world.

This minimum viable knowledge is the least amount of knowledge required to get some type of real-world job weather that’s an entry-level position, internship, or apprenticeship. You should also know enough to be able to do the job effectively once you get hired.

To figure out this minimum viable knowledge required for the career, you can search job boards to see what companies commonly require. You can also search websites like CourseCareers to see if they support your role and already have the minimum viable knowledge listed out.

Once you know what you have to learn, then you need to put your head down and start learning. Use can use online courses, books, research, etc. If your role is supported by CourseCareers, then you can take their course which is already compiled to make your life much easier.

This learning process can take anywhere from 1 week to an entire year depending on the complexity of the career. You should take this duration into account depending on the length of your gap year after high school.

Step 3: Test

After you went through the learning process and have the minimum viable knowledge under your belt, then you need to find a way to apply it in the real world.

Every industry is different for the way you would be able to apply this knowledge to get your foot in the door. It could be an entry-level position, internship, or apprenticeship.

If your specialization was in a white-collar business type job, then your test will likely be in the form of an internship. You’re probably wondering how you would get an internship for one of these jobs when internships are traditionally only for college students during the summer.

The easiest way to get one of these internships is by applying to a company on CourseCareers that is looking to hire year-round interns in your specialization. If CourseCareers doesn’t support your specialization, then you will need to use a sales process to convince employers of the benefits of hiring you as an intern.

Step 4: Expand

After you’ve tested the career, then you will need to decide if you want to expand on it or test a different career. This decision is really based on how your hypothesis of what the position would be like aligned with the reality of it during your test.

You might have learned that your assumptions of it aligning with your goals, skills, or interests just weren’t there. In this case, you would go back to step 1 by identifying another career you hypothesis would be a good fit based on what you just learned from your previous test.

If you decide that this career is exactly what you’re looking for, then you must decide what the best way to transition into a successful full-time employee is.

You might already be capable of doing the position full-time after the internship and all you need is a company willing to hire you. You might also still need to learn some more things before a company would hire you on as a permanent employee.

In this case, you will have to make the very important decision about if you can learn the necessary things online or if you need to go to college. Here are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to help make this decision.

  1. Is this career regulated by the government to require a degree? (If it is, then not going to college probably isn’t even an option.)
  2. Can I learn the necessary things online in substantially less than 4 years and $100,000?

Gap Year After High School

Now you have a process to make your gap year after high school a very effective way to figure out what career is right for you and if college is the right move after your gap year is over.

If you want to learn more about using this model for finding and starting the career of your dreams, then we actually wrote an entire book on it called The Lean Career that you can download for free here.

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