It’s graduation season, so we thought we’d take a look at how graduates in recent years are bridging the gap between college and entering the work force. Economic uncertainty, greater numbers of graduates and an ever-growing job shortage don’t make jumping directly into a professional career a reality for everyone. Instead, greater numbers of grads are embarking on life-changing journeys, volunteering, and getting creative before jumping at the first job that comes their way. Here, we look at how modern grads are making delicious lemonade out of lemons from the fallout of the recession.
An established tradition in the UK and other parts of the world, the “gap year” is a year-long sabbatical taken for travel. The gap year is often taken between graduation from college and professional life, but many professionals who have already established a career opt for a year-long sabbatical in the same spirit. “Gappers” have been known to immerse in language course programs, work on organic farms for food and lodging, and take paid or unpaid internships. Although these gaps are meant to be stops along the career path, they often become forks in the road, taking graduates down a different, better path than any they had imagined while in school.
With needs so great across the globe, many recent grads find meaning in taking time out to support a good cause before leaping into the rat race. Programs like Global Work & Travel Co. set volunteers up with projects in countries like Africa, India, Nepal, Thailand, Morocco and Vanuatu for anywhere from two to twelve months. Projects range from rescuing wild animals to caring for orphans, wildlife photography and teaching preschool. Other volunteering projects include working with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing for those at home and abroad. Habitat projects like Global Village involve raising funds for building initiatives across the world, while the RV Care-A-Vanner program rallies people of all ages who travel in recreational vehicles to join affordable house-building projects across the United States, wherever they may roam. The best part? No previous construction experience is required.
Sometimes the only chance to pursue a passion occurs after college, when the ink is still fresh on the diploma and the first loan payment bill hasn’t yet arrived. Plenty of recent grads pick up a hobby like candle-making or letter-pressing, or (ha!) winemaking…and then the “side job” becomes the job-job. Stranger things have happened! Examples: Randall Grahm, Mark Zuckerberg, and a whole lot of other very successful-slash-crazy entrepreneurs.