how to survive a gap year

Living With a Roommate

If you’re off to university or have ventured off on your own for the first time, chances are, you have a roommate.

Lucky for you, I’ve been there, so here are my top tricks for dealing with roommates.

  1. Talk to them before you meet. That way you can figure out some things about them and they won’t be a total stranger.
  2. Respect their personal space. Ask if you’re borrowing things, or if it’s okay to invite over other people, etc. Especially in a small living space, both of you will probably need your own bubble to retreat to.
  3. Know who’s going to take care of what essential household stuff. Whether it’s cleaning or paying rent, be responsible for taking care of your share of household tasks.
  4. If there are any issues, make sure to try and talk to them first before involving anyone else. Communication is key to solving anything, and in a worst-cast scenario, you can move or transfer residences.
  5. Try to find someone who shares your interests. That way, you have enough common ground to get along most of the time. Keep in mind, living with friends can still end badly, and strangers can become your best friends.
  6. Get their number just in case. If there’s an emergency, you lock yourself out, or you need to tell them something important, you can always reach them.
  7. Know whose stuff is whose, and which items are communal. It also goes for areas of the place you’re living in. Trust me, people who hog the bathroom or steal your food are annoying, so it’s best to have some ground rules.

I hope some of this point help you guys with dealing with future roommates (or current ones)! Remember, so long as you have basic trust and respect for the person you’re living with, things should turn out well.

If you have any questions or other roommate advice, please leave them below!

-Mel.

When Home Just Isn’t Home Anymore

So…you’ve lived apart from your family for a few months, even an entire school year. And now, you’re back to their house or your hometown for a little bit. You’re happy, but coming “home” has somehow become different.

I’ve already experienced this feeling before moving away to university, after having done some traveling without my family. But it wasn’t until I lived in residence in university and visited my home for the holidays that I noticed how out of place I felt at home.

When you first see your family and friends, it seems like everything is the same. Same house, same car, same dog, same city. But they’ve really changed. See, the funny thing is, other people aren’t static. They grow up, get new hobbies or jobs, new friends or partners, and even if you know about all of that before you reunite, you’ll still have to get used to how those things affect your loved one’s daily lives.

But, the hardest part of coming home is being faced with how you’ve changed. After all, you’ve been away and learned some valuable lessons on your own. From friendships to things you learned in university courses, you’re not the same person you left home as. I know I came back from my first semester of university with new friends, a realization of how hard university can be, and with more independence. I’d even become a bit more extroverted, which is no small feat for me.

So, is there anything you can do about coming home and facing change or being changed?

To be honest, you can’t do much but to accept the changes and adapt to your new life. You’ll never be able to change the paths of others in your life, so you’ll either have to accept them as they are or set them loose. Sometimes the best thing you can do is let go of a friend in your life. It might be tough, but you’ll survive.

As for personal change, you’ll have to assess whether it’s good or bad, and then embrace what will allow you to become the best version of yourself. Take some time to have a heart to heart with yourself, and it’ll help you grow as a person. I hope that what you discover allows you to reach your goals and contribute to the world around you.

Just remember, change is a healthy part of life. You won’t be able to avoid it, but you can change how you react to it. So, when you feel out of sorts going home the next school break, go out and embrace the weirdness of change!

-Mel.

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.