Day 16: Something You Always Think “What if…” About

I think I keep gaining new what if questions monthly, but that could just be a mark of the stage of life I’m in.

However, one of the what if questions I come back to sometimes is what if I didn’t take a gap year after high school?

I know I would have never travelled to Nicaragua and moved to Banff had I not taken that gap year. I probably would’ve chosen a different university, and I would have had to choose it during my last year of high school. I would’ve missed out on so many life experiences that I cherish had I not taken a gap year.

I also know I wouldn’t have met a lot of people that are my close friends currently. And it wouldn’t just be the people I met during my gap year, I wouldn’t have met my close friends at university as well. I’m sure I would’ve met amazing people had I not taken a gap year as well, but I truly am grateful for the friends I made that year and shortly thereafter at university.

I think my gap year has become such a big what if moment in my life since I’ve changed a lot since I took it. I would’ve never pictured myself where I am today back in grade 12 when I decided to take a gap year. But I’m eternally grateful for that choice, and a few people who nudged me in that direction in the first place.

What are some of your what if moments? Leave them in the comments below!


Day 7-What if…

I had gone straight to university after high school instead of taking a gap year?

This has got to be my biggest what if question.

If I hadn’t taken a gap year, I wouldn’t have worked in Banff and taken the plunge on living on my own. I wouldn’t have gone to Nicaragua and had my eyes opened. I might not have broken up with my first boyfriend. I might not have chosen my university because I wouldn’t have known I like the small school atmosphere.

I always think what if about this time in my life, but I don’t think I would go back and change my mind if I knew the future. I’ve come so far, learned so much about myself, and changed so much for the better that I think the year was worth it.

And, without the gap year, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post today. So thank goodness I did!


How To Survive A Gap Year: Finding A Job You Like Part 3

So you’ve done the interviews, and now you have a few job offers on the table. How do you decide which one to choose, and what do you do after you get the job?

How To Decide Which Job To Take

Consider the following:

  1. Salary and Benefits: What’s the wage? Is it competitive? Are there benefits?
  2. Commute or Moving: How far do you have to commute? Do you have to move? How far?
  3. The Company Itself: Do you like them? Are they trustworthy? How big is the company? Will they continue being successful?
  4. The specifics of the position: It is all you wanted? Is there something you don’t like or want to do?
  5. Start and end date: Are you going to be there a while? Can they accommodate your schedule? (important for students)
  6. Promotions: Is there a chance to move to a higher position? How long would it take?

I usually make a giant pros/cons list with all my offers in order to choose, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut too. Also, if it’s your dream job, go for it!

Accepting the Job, and the Aftermath

Some things you’ll probably have to do for the new job:

  1. Get a new uniform, whether provided or purchased my you.
  2. Fill out t4s in Canada and lots of paperwork including things like requiring identification, banking information, and your SIN number.
  3. Get some training done, and have your first day at work. Good luck!!

Remember to inform all the other companies that had given you offers that you’ve accepted another job just as a courtesy, so they’re not waiting for an answer from you. Plus, it’s very polite to do so after they’ve spent a lot of time on you.

Some things to consider after moving forward with your new job, maybe after a month and then three months:

  1. Check in and see if this is the job you want, and that you’re enjoying it.
  2. If it is, identify a goal you want to accomplish such as a promotion or more of a leadership role.
  3. If it’s not, or if you were let go, get ready to go through the process all over again. Make sure your resume is updated.
  4. Ask your manager or supervisor how you’re doing. Most companies will do an evaluation within the first 90 days, so chances are they’ll have feedback for you that can help you in considering sticking with the job.

That’s the end of the job section of How To Survive A Gap Year. Hope all of you enjoyed it, I really enjoyed writing it, and leave any suggestions for what you want to see next!

How To Survive A Gap Year: Finding A Job You Like Part 2

So now you’ve put out your resume, and you have a few interviews lined up, how are you supposed to deal with interviews? Keep reading, and you’ll do fine.

General Advice

  1. Dress the part for the job, what does the company expect? Appearances are key for a good first impression.
  2. Research! Have some prior knowledge about the company that you’re applying to and use it in the interview to your advantage.
  3. Practice answering common interview questions and scenarios. This will help you develop good answers and reduce your nerves going into the interview.
  4. Have questions, they go both ways in an interview. These can help you decide if you the job or not depending on the interviewer’s answers.
  5. Follow up afterwards with the person that interviewed you, ask for their contact information at the end of the interview.
  6. Arrive at least 10 minutes early, and please don’t be late at any cost.
  7. Bring a copy of everything you need: resume, cover letter, references, copy of identification if you get hired on the spot,
  8. Communicate clearly and use formal language.
  9. When in doubt, take a deep breath, relax, and be yourself.

The Phone Interview 

  1. Make sure they have the right contact information for you, and you’ll be nearby a phone with a signal when they call.
  2. Since the interviewer can’t see you, make sure your words and tone convey the message you want to get across.
  3. Make sure you’re somewhere quiet and avoid making excessive other noises (ex. shuffling papers, etc.) while on the phone.

Personally I find this one of the easiest types of interview because there’s a lot less pressure to make a good physical appearance impression. Instead, you can focus on what you want to say.

The Group Interview

  1. Make sure you interact in a friendly manner with everybody, including your competition. Practice good sportsmanship.
  2. Don’t take up all the talking space, but don’t avoid answering completely. Find the healthy middle.
  3. Try not to repeat the same thing as everybody else. Answering something different will help you stand out in the group setting.
  4. Take a moment alone with the interviewer alone at the end if you can to thank them for their time.

Group interviews are always stressful because of the factor of having not only the interviewer listen to your answers, but other people as well. Make sure to try to stand out in the group, so the interviewers remember you, but make sure it’s in a good way!

Solo Interview

In my opinion, this is the hardest interview to ace, because it’s all you with only an interviewer. But if you combine all the tips from the other categories and the general tips, you should be set for success!

How to Survive A Gap Year: Finding a Job You Like Part 1

So a big part of my gap year was finding jobs and working, so I figured I should have a guide on jobs. This is part one of three or four. Enjoy!

Your Resume and Cover Letter

These are the first things your future employer will see, so it’s important they look their best.

My tips for resumes and cover letters:

  1. Tailor each resume and cover letter to the position, but have a general copy you can give out to things like job fairs.
  2. Pick a design that reflects who you are but it still professional. Search Google Drive for some nice templates to use or to get inspiration from.
  3. Include everything, from awards, languages, computer skills, and volunteering experience. If you’ve done it, it counts.
  4. Have someone look over your resume and cover letter. A second person is always useful for criticism and to double check things like grammar and spelling.
  5.  Check you resume for keywords that match some of the ones in the description of the position you’re applying for, the more they match, the better. There are also websites out there that will do it for you like Jobscan.
  6. Pretend you’re selling yourself to your future employer, and highlight all your strengths!
  7. Remember to keep updating your resume, especially to check to see if anything needs to be added or is out of date.
  8. Look at other people’s or sample resumes for pointers on your own.
  9. Always have a copy or two of your resume on you while you’re job hunting to hand out to anybody that has a possible job for you!

Finding Employers and Job Opportunities

This is simply a list of potential places to look for a job, and to find a potential employer:

  1. Word of Mouth: ask your family or friends if they know of anyone or anywhere hiring.
  2. Websites of companies or malls, often they have a career section or job section.
  3. Websites like CalgaryJobShop, which have all the local job listings for an area.
  4. Government websites, provincial or federal.
  5. Go to job fairs, especially ones geared towards your field of interest or age group.
  6. Walk around a mall, or a place with lots of businesses and hand out your resumes!
  7. Kijiji or Craigslist, but be careful with these sites as there are a lot more questionable jobs on these sites.

In general, just put out the word that you’re looking for a job to as many places as possible, and usually you’ll have a few answers back! Personally, I always try to apply to two jobs a day while job hunting.

How To Survive a Gap Year: Learning a New Language

So these are my ways I’ve tried/used to learn or improve my language skills the last year, as the kickoff to the series of posts of How To Survive a Gap Year.

1) Take a class or course.

Find a local place or company that teaches classes for the language you want to learn. You can also look for tutors, or take a university course, but compared to local places those two options tend to be more expensive. In order to learn a language well through a course or class, you need to be willing to put in the effort to getting to the class and (most likely) doing assignments or tests. However, an upside to doing a class from a business or university is it’s more likely to get recognized by future employers or for future credit at a university.

2) Immersion

To use this method, it usually involves travelling or living in a place where the language you want to learn is spoken. You have to learn by interacting with people and learning the language as you go. It can be really hard at first to get the hang of not only new vocabulary, but also strange localized accents. However, once you catch on to language in the immersion method, you’ll have rather smooth sailing. Benefits to this method include being able to see new places, learn about new cultures and traditions, and getting very good at using more than verbal communication. The downside is, to travel or go through an organization that offers immersion is usually on the pricier side because you might be travelling halfway across the world.

3) Friends

Learning a language with a friend that a) already know it or b) wants to learn with you it always a great experience. Not only will it solidify your relationship from many hours learning verbs or rolling R’s, but will also allow you to pool time and knowledge to learn faster. However, that being said, learning with a friend can be dangerous because it’s not hard to end up distracted or doing silly things instead of learning.

4) Websites/Online Learning/Software

There are definitely many programs and websites (FREE and paid) that are excellent for learning a new language. The upsides to learning online are that you can learn whenever you conveniently have time, and in a technologically advancing world, be able to access it anywhere. Personally, I have a harder time learning online because of all the other distractions on my laptop, but if you have the motivation or learning online is easier than this could be the method for you.

Some sites/programs I recommend to help learn a language:

  • Duolingo: Free, has lots of languages, multiple platforms, lots of different types of exercises
  • Rosetta Stone: The classic, lots of different exercises, kinda pricey, you’ll need to install software
  • Google Translate: It’s not the best, but gets the job done (useful for chatting with foreign friends)
  • Reverso: Like google translate, but also has a dictionary. And if you need spellcheck/grammar check for english or french texts (they’re very thorough)

5) Advice, in General

Remember, learning a language is like learning anything else. You have to have the motivation and dedication to learn a whole new set of sounds for naming the exact same object (and sometimes even another alphabet!). Practice is really the key to cement vocabulary and verbs in your mind. Also, NEVER be afraid to test out language skills with somebody, even a stranger, who knows the language better than you. I’ve learnt way more by talking to people who know more about a language than sitting in a classroom.

In any case, I hope these methods (and some advice) help you out on your next language learning adventure. Good luck, bonne chance, and buena suerte in your learning.


New Project-Help?

I’ve been considering (started) writing about everything I’ve learned over my gap year as it comes to a close. Just as a way to reflect on my year so far, and figure out what I’ve learned.

The thing is, would anybody out there be interested in hearing tips/lessons about topics ranging from relationships to taxes? Because if there was a significant interest, I might start posting a lesson a week sort of thing on this blog.

Suggestions? I might just write them anyway, but I’m wondering if anybody would like to see my writing on here.