Professional Gap Years: How You Can Benefit From Pre-Master's Experience

  • Lea Mikus
Life & Careers

Lea joined the London office in 2014 following her Bachelor's degree in Germany and focuses on recruiting in the DACH region.

As a 23-year-old, you might wonder (and so did I) what advice I could possibly give other twenty-somethings. When I graduated in 2011 from high school, my academic future was very clear to me: I would study a Bachelor's programme, then a Master's and start working afterwards. Having studied in Australia and travelled quite a bit, I knew I wanted an international career. At that time, I saw my personal strengths in strategic thinking, people and organisational skills as well as business acumen. So I decided to go with a broad degree, Business Administration, which would leave most career options open. What was also very clear to me was the fact that I would immediately move on to a Master's programme to stand me in good stead for my chosen career path.

You can probably already guess from the above what the outcome was. It didn't go to plan. During my final year at university I started to realise that actual experience would benefit me far more than memorising theoretical models for another two years. I had done a few internships but still didn't know what was right for me. What are the options when you graduate for the first time? In Germany, a few people go abroad to find themselves. Most move on to a Master's degree and the rest enter the working world. As I had already experienced time abroad and didn't want to continue my studies straight away, the obvious choice was to start work.

"Most of all, I have gained conviction that pursuing a Master's in Europe is the right thing for me to do."

Can a professional gap year (or two) change your life? Yes. When I graduated I didn’t have a clear view on what working life was like, what to expect or what role would best match my skill set. And how can you know? Internships often only give you a brief insight into the environment and the job itself. University gives you the theoretical background but not an insight into different sectors or career opportunities. Work experience sets you up with many benefits, giving you skills and experience that will allow you to stand out against other candidates as well as helping you choose the right path for your personal career.

To end up in a position, company and industry you personally thrive in, you need to simply get exposure - you need to take the initiative. With the experience, you will gain confidence and conviction of the attributes that make you special and are worth pursuing in a professional career. Sometimes you realise after a certain period of time that what you are currently doing is not working out for you in the long run, but that’s something worth realising in order to move forward.

I can only speak for myself but after almost 12 months in the job, I’ve developed incredibly both personally and professionally. I’ve seen the business grow and have had remarkable exposure and opportunity as a result. I’ve gained invaluable skills in business communication, sales and negotiation, project and time management. Most of all, I have gained conviction that pursuing a Master's in Europe is the right thing for me to do. With clarity on my skill set and career direction, moving on to a further study now feels straightforward!


Lea joined AlphaSights in September 2014 and serves as an Associate on our People Operations team.