Should I Take a Gap Year? A Former Recruiter's Perspective

By Nancy Soni

As the world reels from COVID-19, millions of potential incoming and existing college parents and students are having conversations about what they’re planning to do in the fall if their school is going to be virtual: defer, take a gap year, go forward with virtual learning. Many are calculating the costs of college and determining the worth of spending thousands of dollars for online learning. But, I have a slightly different perspective.

I’ve spent 20 years viewing millions of resumes, deciding which candidates were worthy, which were not, and which ones I would call and submit to my clients. I’ve spent 20 years getting to know how companies hire from entry-level/campus recruiting all the way up to executive levels: what they look for, what they like, what they don’t, their systems, their processes, and everything in between. This experience has afforded me insight into one big gaping hole that we’ve neglected to fill over the past 20 years. Entry-level positions today require recent grads to have 1-3 years experience, as well as know and understand the skills and knowledge required for the position. But the tools and industry knowledge recent grads need to know, just aren’t being taught at college.

I’ve now spent the past few years working with hundreds of students, and what’s dawned on me is most high school students spend all four years of high school focused on one thing: getting into college. But once they get to college, the slate gets wiped clean because, let’s be honest, what employer cares about your SAT score or that you were captain of the lacrosse team and in Model UN? Despite this, students don’t often view their 4-6 years in college as the time and opportunity to be building their resume and skills. This is apparent as I view resumes of students filled with nannying, babysitting, lifeguarding, and camp counseling experience. While these jobs may build soft skills, they are very tough to leverage in the workplace as the skills it takes to wrangle toddlers and keep kids from drowning don’t transfer over to the skills needed in the digitally-enabled businesses of today. Students and graduates adept at analyzing data using softwares such as Tableau or Looker, building reports using D3.js, analyzing paid advertising campaigns on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, and helping companies build out a product roadmap are what employers are looking for, but these are skills not developed purely in the classroom or through these odd jobs.

As parents and students make the decision to take a gap year/defer school for a year, I think it’s important to think about the inevitable increase in classroom sizes and internship/job competition. Think about it. The entering Class of 2024 will certainly be smaller than the Class of 2023 and 2025. If students decide to defer for the year, they’ll be graduating with the Class of 2025, making the graduating Class of 2024 a smaller class nationwide, thus shrinking the talent pool for employers to choose from. That means if students choose to defer for a year, they will not only face larger classes, but even worse, face tougher competition for internships and jobs. But what if instead, students decide to be strategic and proceed with a combination of virtual/in-class learning for the fall semester and possibly year, taking the time to figure out what they want to do and learning skills beyond just what’s taught in classrooms? If students spend this coming year learning things like how companies leverage social media to drive revenue or how companies analyze social media data to make massive decisions, could the Class of 2024 actually be better off?

Wether or not you decide to take a gap year, you should be thinking about what your next steps are! Download the PathMatch app today to get a jumpstart on your perfectly matched career.