The most important question every business owner considers before hiring a job applicant is simple: Can this person do the job? More important than where he or she attended school or his grade point average, can he be counted on to get the work done?

What’s more, employers want to know that the candidate is proactive, can communicate and network, can adjust to change, and pick up new skills easily.

Students and workers who take a gap year during their academic or career pursuits develop these attributes in the process of the experience, and that’s why the gap year is good for the individual and the business community, says Holly Bull, president of Princeton’s Center for Interim Programs.

Bull will explore the benefits of this experience in her presentation, “Why Gap Year is Good for Business” on Wednesday, March 16, at the Nassau Club of Princeton, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Price: $40; $25 for members. Register from the events page at princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.

A gap year, as defined on Interim’s website, is an opportunity to gain life experience, travel new parts of the world, and consider how certain pursuits may fit into a longer-term plan of school, profession, or personal enrichment.

“The ‘gap year’ should really be retitled as ‘gap time’,” Bull says. A gap period can take place between high school and college, between one year of college and the next, between one job and the next, or any time of transition in one’s life. And the period of time could be one year, one month, or less.

Once a client has expressed his or her interests and goals, the interim gap counselors research, locate, and vet programs on his behalf and strategize with him on placement, budget, and goals. They recommend programs that are “tried and true,” says Bull. During the gap time, they mentor and support him throughout the challenges, changes and successes of the gap period.

Gap year programs are available in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, China, Thailand, Africa, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and several cities and provinces throughout Europe.

The types of programs are wide ranging. An academic program could include language, architecture, global issues, or sailing. For those interested in the arts, programs could include sculpture, painting, art history, film-making, theater, or music. A program focused on conservation could include marine biology, conservation travel, scuba, or volunteering at a nature reserve.

Popular internships include journalism, media, web design, medicine, and education. Those interested in spirituality could choose among faith-based service projects, volunteering at a spiritual community, meditation retreats, Jewish studies, or yoga.

Interim’s projects give students the opportunity to handle new responsibilities. “Our culture infantilizes students. We don’t give them credit for what they can handle,” says Bull.

The Center for Interim Programs was founded in 1980 by Holly Bull’s father, Cornelius Bull. He started his career as a history teacher, housemaster, and wrestling coach at the Lawrenceville School. In 1960, he moved to Turkey to serve as headmaster of Robert Academy for six years. In his daily work with students, Bull saw the need for a complementary path of learning through hands-on, in-the-world experience. He compiled a database of unique program options for students based on his experience, research and contacts. This database would become the main source for the Center for Interim Programs, the first independent gap year counseling organization in the U.S.

Holly Bull was born in Turkey while her father was working at Robert Academy. Moving with her family, she lived in several cities and countries while growing up. Her mother cared for the family while serving as a headmaster’s wife, and, as time allowed, was active in the arts community. During Holly’s last two years of high school, she lived in Princeton.

One of the original interim students, Bull took a gap year before college, spending part of her year volunteering at an aquaculture research institute in Hawaii and later attending an academic cultural study program in Greece.

After two years of college, she took a second gap year to travel in India and Nepal, attend a semester program in Athens, and engage in service work in Appalachia. After receiving a degree in anthropology from the University of Virginia, she joined her father at the Center for Interim Programs and counseled students through their own gap-year experience.

Bull’s children are also advocates of the gap year. Her stepdaughter, a junior at Georgetown, completed an internship in Ireland at an art co-op. Her 13-year-old daughter is already envisioning her gap year which could include working with animals, visiting Greece, and boning up on her Spanish.

Bull says she feels a connection between her gap time experiences and her outlook on life. She believes this opportunity should be a possibility offered to all students and adults at any point in their lives. A big benefit, she says, is that you come away from the adventure feeling inspired about the next phase of your life.

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