In 2014, I was in the final year of my engineering. I had got a campus placement in one of the coveted companies, my engineering college was the top private college in the state of Andhra Pradesh (Now Telangana), and I was just 21, the future looked bright, and for the first time in my life I stepped out of my home and went to Mumbai the land of dreams.
I had one of the most rewarding experiences, but after a year, I felt I wanted some time for myself. I had plans of doing either an MBA or MS from USA, but I was not sure, I wanted to travel and write and so one day in February 9 months after I joined work, I called my dad. I told him about my decision, my father is very pragmatic, he asked the right questions to check my reason for the decision, once he was sure that I was not being impulsive he gave me the go ahead. My mother on the other hand thought both me and my dad were giving up the tangible for a pipe dream. But my mind was set and so I packed my bags and came home.
Reality was very different from what I had imagined. In one year, all my friends had left Hyderabad, most of them for the U.S, from having 6 days x 12 Hours Work Life, I now had too much time on my hands, it scared me a little, and I had doubts about my decision. I enrolled in T.I.M.E for CAT preparation, I also started preparing for G.R.E and G.M.A.T.
I tried maintaining a schedule to involve sports/physical work-out, but I missed the company of people my age. True to what I had planned earlier I travelled, and joined a friend’s start-up as a content writer. My travels gave me content for writing, at other times I would do some research and write, writing helped me cope-up with the pressure at that time. No job and no tangible offer/career path at that time, I would go into bouts of over-analysing and criticising myself for my decision, in hind-sight I would say, such a waste of time and energy.
Three months had passed quickly and it was time for me to give CAT, I was under a lot of pressure, I kept thinking of what would happen if things went wrong, a year’s gap and nothing to show. If people remember the CAT of 2015, the D.I section was tough (for at least the mere mortals like me) and I couldn’t give my best, thinking of D.I I screwed up Quant which followed or so I thought, until the results came out.
I was devastated, I locked myself up and wouldn’t speak to anyone for days, and my parents were very supportive and shielded me from prying relatives (several of my relatives and neighbours deserve to be in the press), I did the mistake of going to a wedding a week after CAT results and I could hear the whispers (What will she do now?, they shouldn’t have let her quit?), after all the dust settled I analysed what went wrong
The D.I section was tough for everyone, the trick was lesser attempts but to get them right, I had done the opposite. After some initial sobbing and mopping I pulled myself together and starting preparing for XAT , at that time I had no expectations, on the day of XAT I went with a calm mind, after my exam I didn’t evaluate my performance and waited for my results.
I cleared the cut-offs, but I kept my calm until I got the call, I was happy once I got the call. Luckily I converted it and here I am typing from XLRI.
A gap year does create a difference, some companies do notice it, but whenever I was asked the question during my interview, I told them the truth. It’s tougher to defend as the GAP increases, but we all have our reasons for making that choice, travel and writing was a major part of my reason and I did that, I don’t regret what I did, in hind-sight I could have been more relaxed and less critical, when I spoke to my sister who studies in Singapore, she told me how several of her friends there take a gap for reasons as varied as travelling to serving at Doctors without Borders, and I was fascinated by their stories. Here I met several friends who took a gap for UPSC, they didn’t make it but I am sure it gave those valuable insights (and the ability to help us in economics assignments).
Taking time off to figure what you want is natural, but be sure that you give the true reason when you state it in an interview. I think it’s better to be open about it, it can also be a case in point to show how you made things turn around for you, and how you don’t shy away from following your dreams.