5 Things I've Learned from a Career "Gap Year"

A year ago, I left my startup without a plan. 

I'd been my own boss for 3 years, straight out of university, and found myself in a mini-identity crisis when that startup fully became my life. So I left. Then, I packed my bags and moved to a new city where I knew almost no one. And for once in my life, I had no vision of my future self.

Now, as I'm packing my bags once again - 1 year after moving here - I realize that 2017-2018 has been a gap year for my career. After graduating high school, I went straight to university, and took 7 courses a semester + summer internships to fast track my philosophy degree. 

From university, I went straight into a business accelerator that launched my startup, and as we all know, there's no such thing as vacation time when you're in the early years of being an entrepreneur.  So my life was pretty non-stop until last October, when I arrived in Montreal with a very meagre plan. 

I realized very quickly, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I would spend a year figuring it out.

I've spent the past 365 days:

  • working in sales for a tech startup
  • coaching creative entrepreneurs on how to grow their business  
  • managing and implementing social media strategies for ecommerce brands  
  • launching a podcast!! 
  • coming up with 3 new business plans - and pressing pause before I start a new venture  
  • becoming an expert in influencer marketing
  • writing 2 novels (well, starting them at least...) 

Here's what I've learned from my "Gap Year": 

  1. Your network is everything. The saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know" has never rang more true. I knew a lot about digital marketing and ecommerce - and taught myself a lot about influencer marketing when I realized it was a niche I wanted to pursue - but the skills I knew weren't as valuable as the people I'd connected with along the way. My first freelance clients were 3 Instagram followers! There's a million other freelancers out there, doing some variation of the same thing. What makes you unique is your connection to the people that need those services. 
  2.  The only way people can support you in your journey, is for you to let them in on the ride. One of my biggest mistakes in the first 3-6 months of freelancing was that I didn't tell my friends or followers what I was doing... I guess I was embarrassed in some way, that I didn't have things figured out. But the moment I opened up, started talking about my new path on social media (rather than just scouring job boards) things really started to take off. I know it sounds obvious, but tell your network what you're up to! They can't support (or hire, or refer you...) otherwise. 
  3.  Freelancing & being an entrepreneur are 2 different things. No team to manage. No products to sell. No making money while you sleep. Just trading your time for $$$. It's not as freeing as some may think. It's lonely a lot of times. You don't always feel ownership over your client work or projects because they're not *yours*. It's not for everyone.
  4. If you're unsure about where you want to go, say yes to it all. It's a good way to figure out what you don't want to do. And once you've figured that out, start saying "no". 
  5. Just because you love doing something, doesn't mean you should make it your job. Passion projects can be passion projects - they don't all have to turn into work. In fact, it's probably better for your sanity and self-care if you don't try to turn every hobby into a side hustle. Do things you love just because you love them, avoid adding the pressure of making money and losing your lust for it. 

Now that I've spent the past year testing the waters, it's time to dive in. This next month is all about goal-setting for me, and I'm excited to take the plunge this year into the projects and niches I've learned that I love: influencer marketing (to pay the bills), podcasting (for self-care), and writing a book (long-term goal).

Big thanks to all of my clients, podcast guests, followers & supporters for sticking with me this year through lots of changes!  On we go.

 - K

Kayley ReedComment